Introduction to the Introduction to the Introduction by André Alexis
For me, reading the Introduction was like being caught in a spring shower while waiting for the 41, and running into a library to get out of the rain and, because the rain lasts, wandering the aisles on the fifth floor, taking books from the shelves (Waley's translations from the Chinese, a work by Roland Barthes, an oversized book about eastern birds...), draping my winter coat on a chair and sitting down to read.
My coat smells of wet coconut matting, and the library is warm, and I fall asleep, my head on the desk, and dream about a strange library filled with impossibly rare and impossibly beautiful works: Waley on birds, Barthes' translations from the Chinese, an oversized book about rain...
And when I wake, moments later, after what seems like hours, I have the momentary and vivid conviction that, if I listened properly, I could translate water into any language at all.
Pain Not Bread is a collaborative writing group formed in 1990 by Roo Borson, Kim Maltman and Andy Patton. In Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei, they occupy the border created by translation, allusion and echo, and make it into habitable space, a place where the subtle sensitivities of poets from the troubled late Tang Dynasty (Wang Wei, Li Bai, Du Fu, ...) blend with our own millennial anxieties. What do poets do in a difficult time? It's as though Pain Not Bread were talking and drinking with their Tang contemporaries on some old rickety ferry making its way back and forth between English and Chinese, Chinese and English, in the process weaving together a music of supreme nuance and tonal registration, a mode of speaking and feeling which is "undisfigured by sentiment" and yet riddled with its own mortality.
About the authors
Roo Borson is the author of ten books of poetry, including Short Journey Upriver toward Oishida, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She has also been involved in a number of collaborative projects, including Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei, by Pain Not Bread (Roo Borson, Kim Maltman, and Andy Patton). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, such as Twentieth Century Poetry and Poetics, the Harbrace Anthology of Poetry, and the Norton Introduction to Literature. Roo Borson lives in Toronto with poet and collaborator Kim Maltman.
Baziju are currently at work on a new manuscript project called Short Moral Tales.
KIM MALTMAN is a poet, theoretical particle physicist, and occasional translator who has published five books of solo poetry, over two hundred papers in the scientific literature, and three books of collaborative poetry, most recently Box Kite, published in 2016. In addition to recent solo work which has appeared under a variety of heteronyms, he is involved, in collaboration with Roo Borson, in ongoing translations of the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai and Song Dynasty poet Su Shi. Past honours include the CBC Literary Prize, and, with collaborators Roo Borson and Andy Patton, the Malahat Poetry Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and two National Magazine Award finalist appearances. Perhaps his most unusual literary credit is having served as consulting dog poetry editor for André Alexis’s novel Fifteen Dogs. He lives in Toronto with poet and collaborator Roo Borson. Baziju are currently at work on a new manuscript project called Short Moral Tales.
Andy Patton is a painter whose works are included in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, and various private collections. He represented Canada in the Biennale of Sydney in 1984. A lover of poetry, he is fascinated by the work of Montale and Mandelstam. Since 1991, he has done many paintings in abandoned buildings, often illegally, throughout Southwest Ontario.
"[Roo Borson, Kim Maltman and Andy Patton]'s decade-long project of scholarship and improvisation, aimed at recreating the spirit of Chinese poetry of the late Tang dynasty in new, original poems, has resulted in as rich a collection as you'll find in this, or any, year."--Devin Crawley, Quill and Quire
"Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei is replete with humour and wisdom and pleasure ... Reading this book, one gains a sense of participating in a tradition while absorbing new possibilities."--Sheila E. Murphy, Jacket Magazine