NEA Brings Contemporary Chinese Poetry to U.S. Audiences through Release of Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China

Two of the contributors to participate in a reading and discussion at the Library of Congress on October 12, 2011

Washington, DC -- In an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), literary translator Charlotte Mandell said, "Imagine our literary canon without Proust or Flaubert or Balzac in English -- how much poorer we would be culturally and intellectually." Expanding the availability of foreign literature to English-speaking audiences is a priority of the NEA and in 2006, the Arts Endowment introduced a new program, International Literary Exchanges. Five years later, the NEA, in partnership with the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) in the People's Republic of China, is launching the publication Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China, the last in a series of six anthologies of literature from countries including Mexico, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, and Russia.

With a focus on contemporary literature, International Literary Exchanges not only bring foreign literature to U.S. audiences, but also bring the work of U.S. writers to foreign readers. NEA International Literary Exchanges require partnerships with foreign governments -- the NEA funds the publication of an anthology of work by writers of the foreign country and the partner country publishes a corresponding anthology of translated contemporary U.S. writing for their citizens.

Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China is published by Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, Washington) and edited by Qingping Wang. The bilingual anthology includes poetry by 49 of China's finest poets born after 1945, with many of the poems never before translated into English. In the introduction to the anthology, Wang writes, "Regrettably, most people have little or no appreciation of the best of today's Chinese poets and their work. Much of the poetry collected in this volume will, at the very least, reveal to the readers of poetry in two countries...the true features of China's fine contemporary verse." The project was coordinated in the United States by noted translators Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin. The companion publication, Contemporary American Poems, edited by David Mason, will be published in China by the end of 2011.

Each anthology supported by the NEA includes substantial public outreach to bring writers and audiences together for a deeper understanding of the literary work and its culture. Two of the poets included in Push Open the Window, Xi Chuan and Zhou Zan, have traveled to six U.S. cities in September and October for readings and outreach activities. Their tour will conclude tomorrow, October 12 at 7 p.m., for a reading and discussion in Washington, DC, at the Library of Congress's Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue SE. Co-sponsored by the Library of Congress's Poetry and Literary Center and its Asian Division and presented in partnership with Copper Canyon Press and the NEA, the event is free and open to the public. Tickets and reservations are not needed and a book signing will follow the event.

Martin Riker, associate director of Dalkey Archive Press, the publisher of three of the anthologies, said, "One of the most successful aspects of this project was that it addressed the crisis in translation on many fronts at once. It was an exchange between countries -- and in the U.S. allowed for programs that brought attention both to the authors and to the issues of cultural openness and exchange that the project was meant to address." For more information on the NEA's International Activities, click here.

The NEA's support of translation also includes NEA Literature Translation Fellowships for the translation of works into English. Since the inception of the literary translation program in 1981, the NEA has awarded 339 Translation Fellowships in 62 languages from 72 countries. In addition, direct grants to not-for-profit organizations support projects that promote and develop audiences for international literature.

About International Activities at the NEA

Through cooperative initiatives with other funders, the National Endowment for the Arts brings the benefit of international exchange to arts organizations, artists, and audiences nationwide. NEA's international activities increase recognition of the excellence of U.S. arts around the world and broaden the scope of experience of American artists, thereby enriching the art they create. Through partnerships with other government agencies and the private sector, the NEA fosters international creative collaboration by strengthening residency programs of foreign artists in communities across the country. Local citizens as well as the arts community benefit from the lasting international ties that result.

About the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


Liz Stark