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.
"[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