Lost Wax: Translation Through the Void

Jonathan Stalling is the author of Poetics of Emptiness (Fordham UP), Grotto Heaven (Chax), Yingelishi (Counterpath), is the translator of Winter Sun: The Poetry of Shi Zhi 1966-2007 (University of Oklahoma Press), and an editor of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: A Critical Edition (Fordham). Stalling is the founder and Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma, where he is also an Associate Professor of English and the editor of Chinese Literature Today magazine and book series (www.ou.edu/clt). His new work on Chinese-English interlanguage and transgraphic poetics and learning systems can be found online at TEDx Talk (www.
youtube.com/watch?v=7de8ENdf1yU). Stalling lives in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife Amy, and their three children: Isaac, Eliana, and Rowen and their many, many pets.

About the Book Design: "Keeping the visuality of the process consistent and clear was my focus. This book needed a rhythm that was simple and easy to follow. I did so through the use of spacing, used as rests, not breaks. The colors of The Foundry are deep tones, intended to be distinguishable from one another, but not to the point of screaming.

Amy Stalling's photographs of her sculpture were the obvious choice for the covers. I wanted to focus purely on texture and fluidity as they are marks of the creative process and representative of the continuous motion throughout the production of both the sculpture and the book. " Allison Hanabusa

Lost Wax: Translation Through the Void
By Jonathan Stalling • 2015 • $20
Design by Allison Hanabusa


Poetry in translation is a trust exercise; reader must rely on translator to turn words into other words, while preserving the larger meaning of the original. Jonathan Stalling’s book is for those readers less inclined to trust, and/or for those more fascinated by the playfulness of language(s). In Lost Wax, Stalling presents a sequence of poems about his wife’s work as a sculptor. Those poems are translated into Chinese and back into English by members of a “workshop” of eight fellow translators. Each poem is then presented in a) the original; b) the Chinese; c) the new English version. An additional workshop page illustrates choices made by translators on both sides of the English/Chinese divide. Lost Wax is a marvelous book of poems that also presents an argument for translation as process, as variation. This book, as well as Stalling’s fine introduction, will prove of interest to readers of contemporary American poetry, poetry in Chinese, as well as readers and practitioners of translation.

Lost Wax at once captures and enacts the process of creating a sculpture through translation as constrained innovative transformation of the elusive, yet tangible, figuration in the mold set in motion by the open possibilities of language and imagination. With eight stellar translators participating in “The Foundry,” Lost Wax brings to life the animated experience of rendering the “original” anew in unexpected ways.

—Zhou Xiaojing, translator of The Winged Seed: A Memoir and The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee

In these startling poems, Stalling takes us to edge of how we think reality emerges from language to where assumptions we make about logocentric positioning exist alongside the impossibilities of those assumptions. He brings us back to creativity itself, the divine flux contained in Zhuangzi’s dream of the butterfly. As readers, we can experience the way form emerges from positioning, moving across the great divide of the two very different languages. Stalling also shows us that there is no opposition between them. Language governs what we see, and it teases us with the implausibility of its being seen by human eyes. Stalling gives us the gift of a view into the depths of what language is and what it cannot possibly be.

—Afaa Michael Weaver, author of The Plum Flower Trilogy 


from Lost Wax:


The clay is the past

The wax inherits

As its own

The conditions, but not the only source

Of her arising


出现 的唯一来源。


Clay becomes the past

Paraffin has its own


This condition is not her only

Source of coming into being