The poetics of translation and the synesthesia of appreciation

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Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-forty-seventh issue:

"Metric Montage in Chinese Poetry," by Conal Boyce.

Keywords: Chinese poetry; metric montage; Shěn Zhōu; Lǐ Bái; Lǐ Hè; Frodsham


It is said that the most obvious thing is the hardest to notice. For classic Chinese poetry, the most “obvious” thing is its metric montage, which is not just one of its features, but its life‑blood. Defined in a 1929 essay on Soviet film theory, the concept of metric montage can help us understand how Chinese poetry works as well: namely, with a steady pulse, each the notional analog of a cinematic “shot,” but timed so that two such shots — i.e., two hànzì — pass per second. That is to say, we read two characters of Chinese poetry for each heartbeat, assuming a nominal resting rate of 60 beats per minute (BPM). But that is only the basic rhythmic aspect, with its several variants excluded from this summary. Once the visual aspect is added to the mix, it changes the way one judges whether a supposed translation of a Chinese poem should be accepted as English literature or downgraded to an attractively packaged species of commentary, with caesuras.—–

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