A long interview that I did with Clare Harris has been published today by Cerise Press. Clare Harris is the author of “The Museum on the Roof of the World” and very generously gave her time to answer all my questions about her book, Tibet in museums, propaganda and Tibetan art. I’d like to thank Clare for her patience both when giving the interview as well as in the follow up process. I really encourage everyone to read her interview and buy the book! It’s also the kind of book that would make a great gift.
I’d also like to take the time to thank Cerise Press for giving Tibet a place in their journal several times, Cerise had also published my interview with Woeser last year. Cerise Press announced that this edition will be their last. Fortunately, all issues of Cerise will remain archived online at the current site.
Update on August 10, 2013: Very happy to report that the wonderful team at Karkhung.com have translated the entire interview into Tibetan! It is online in three parts, here are the links:
1) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(སྔ་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2537
2) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(བར་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2551
3) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(མཐའ་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2569
Following on from my first translation of a Woeser short story for MANOA, I’m pleased that a second piece titled “Garpon La’s Offerings” has now been published in Manoa, vol. 24, no. 2 (2012): “On Freedom: Spirit, Art, and State”, edited by Frank Stewart and Fiona Sze-Lorrain. The original title of the short story by Woeser la in Chinese is 《卡尔本啦的供养》.
The editor’s note says:
Woeser’s essay in On Freedom, “Garpon La’s Offerings”, tells the story of a Tibetan master’s loss and recovery of freedom. On one level, the narrator speaks in the voice of a slightly distracted reporter attempting to describe the “rehabilitation” of the political criminal Garpon La, the last acknowledged master of the Tibetan performance ritual known as Gar. On another level, Woeser uses irony to describe the government’s restrictions on physical, spiritual, and cultural freedoms.
I didn’t know much about Gar music and performance before translating this essay but I found Garpon La fascinating. When I told a few Tibetans about what I was translating, the older ones immediately recognised Garpon La and some even remembered him from Dharamsala!
One day last year I was on Facebook and came across a photo supposedly of Garpon La in Dharamsala in 1997, I am posting it below. I am sorry I don’t know who to credit for this photo.
The essay as published in MANOA is available on Project MUSE and for those without access, an excerpt is online: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/manoa/v024/24.2.woeser.html
Our little book stall at the festival during our event!
Last weekend at the Bjornson International Festival of Literature in Molde, Norway, was educational, interesting and also a lot of fun. I met the wonderful writers in exile, Philo Ikonya (Kenya) and Asieh Amini (Iran) and got to know about the important of work of organisations such as The International Cities of Refuge Network.
I think my presentation went well and the audience were very kind and attentive. Chungdak la and I already did a write-up on her blog so I won’t post it again here, just click on this long link: http://chungdak.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/tibet-and-tibetan-writers-highlighted-at-the-bjornson-international-festival-of-literature-norway/
My hope is that everyone went away with a renewed sense of energy to raise awareness about the plight of Tibetan cultural figures. Furthermore, I also hope that we got people interested in Tibetan cultural output in general, in writings, music and poetry.
Highlights were Philo’s reading of Tsundue’s poem “My Tibetanness” and the concert on the closing night which I really enjoyed. A huge thank you to the organisers of the festival, everything was perfect!
Even though I just got back from India, I’m excited to be heading off again, this time to Molde, Norway, to speak at the Bjørnson Festival of International Literature. I’ve been invited by the organisers to talk about the current situation for Tibetan writers in Tibet and PRC. It’s a great opportunity to speak at a literature festival and I’m very grateful to the organisers not only for inviting me but also for putting Tibetan writers in the spotlight.
I’m going to be taking a few copies of Bhuchung D. Sonam‘s new book “Yak Horns” with me as well! In Dharamsala, I moderated the book launch event and I’m enjoying reading it myself at the moment.
Chungdak Koren of the Norwegian Tibet Committee will also join me at the event and has published a press release on her blog. Follow the link below for more information:
I’m excited to announce that a short story by Woeser la that I translated into English has been published by the University of Hawai’i in their literary journal MANOA, edited by Frank Stewart and Fiona Sze-Lorrain.
The issue is called “Sky Lanterns: Poetry from China, Formosa, and Beyond” and it “brings together innovative work by authors—primarily poets—in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, and beyond who are engaged in truth-seeking, resistance, and renewal.”
The short story by Woeser la which I translated is one she wrote in April 2004 and is titled “Rinchen, the Sky-Burial Master”, the original title in Chinese is 《带我去天葬场的仁青》. Obviously I can’t give too much away as you have to get MANOA to read the story but it’s a good one!
My first encounter with MANOA was back in 2000 or 2001 when I saw their issue “Song of the Snow Lion: New Writing from Tibet”, a fantastic anthology. So I’m very grateful to Fiona Sze-Lorrain for giving me this opportunity to contribute in a small way, and of course to Woeser la for her writings!
Here is the full list of contributors to MANOA:
Chinese, Taiwanese, Tibetan, and Asian-American Poets
Bai Hua 柏桦
Bei Dao 北岛
Chen Yuhong 陳育虹
Duo Yu 朵渔
Hai Zi 海子
Lan Lan 蓝蓝
Karen An-hwei Lee
Li Shangyin 李商隐
Ling Yu 零雨
Pang Pei 庞培
Sun Lei 孙磊
Wei An 苇岸
Yang Lian 杨炼
Yang Zi 杨子
Yi Lu 伊路
Yu Xiang 宇向
Zhang Zao 张枣
Li Jun 李俊
Luo Dan 骆丹
Zeng Han 曾翰
Last November and December I carried out an interview with Woeser La that focused specifically on her poetry and development as a writer. I had been asked by the arts journal Cerise Press to conduct this interview and I was grateful for the chance to ask Woeser La about her poetry, of which I am a big fan! To refresh my memory I happily re-read my copy of “Tibet’s True Heart” and also re-visited a review I’d written of it back in 2008.
Woeser La and I corresponded over email in Chinese and I translated her responses into English. Her responses were just amazing, so interesting and eloquent and turned my rather standard questions into something I just wanted to read over and over. I really hope that this interview gets people who know Woeser La only as a “dissident blogger” more interested in her poetry and fiction. The best thing that anyone could do would be to purchase a copy of “Tibet’s True Heart” and pass it on to their friends
So here is the link to the full interview on Cerise Press: http://www.cerisepress.com/03/09/an-eye-from-history-and-reality-woeser-and-the-story-of-tibet
Woeser La has also posted the interview on her blog, along with the Chinese original: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2012/03/blog-post_3466.html
One of Woeser La's earliest poems "Print — For Certain Prejudices", 1984
Finally I wanted to embed this video that was put together by the Prince Claus Fund and features footage filmed by Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin in Beijing in 2008 for their documentary “The Sun Behind the Clouds”, seeing this also brought back a lot of memories about those busy few days we spent together!
Dr Aghu la revisiting his old haunts at Victoria School
Yesterday was the funeral of my late Uncle, Dr Pemba, in Darjeeling. Dr Pemba passed away last Saturday, November 26. On that day, several members of his immediate family and I went to a Tibetan temple here in New York and offered butterlamps.
I am drafting an obituary and will post it when it’s ready but for now I wanted to post a short video clip of him in November 2009 when he was Chief Guest at the Speech Day of Victoria School, Kurseong. Dr Aghu la (as my brother and I call him) took me along with him that day and I got to hear many stories about his school days. That was my last trip to Darjeeling and also the last time that I spent time with him. I shall miss our conversations about literature and I have decided I will finally attempt to read “Ulysses” by James Joyce, his favourite book, in his memory.
This is a great collection of poetry from our High Peaks Pure Earth “I Am Tibetan” series designed by a friend. We originally printed it out on tracing paper and it was stitched at the top using red and yellow thread. Easy DIY for anyone who wants to try… otherwise here is the pdf online:
On Wednesday I battled the elements and trekked over to the Voice of America studio in central London to talk about banned Tibetan literature.
Fortunately there was also another guest from Dharamsala who knew the authors and writings that were under discussion well whilst I could give a general overview and talk about the importance of such writings and also how important it is to translate these writings into other languages.
Apart from the information on High Peaks Pure Earth, my main sources of preparation for this interview were the two ICT reports, “Like Gold That Fears No Fire” and “A Raging Storm”.
Although I don’t hear that many people talk about it, I really think that Woeser’s essay, “US-Post 2008″ that she wrote for “Like Gold That Fears No Fire” is quite brilliant and full of insights. She writes:
Tibet is not mute. Even though many people have been arrested or harmed in the general silence, the Internet will wrest a new space for the existence of those whose voices have been lost. The Internet has already built a bridge of communication and exchange for a Tibet that has long been divided. In sum, the Internet is the most important field of activity in this era. The Internet will change China and it will also change Tibet.
To this day, records and critiques written in Tibetan, Chinese and many other languages keep flooding out, and in particular books, magazines, essays and lyrics written in the mother language are emerging. Tibetans living under the Chinese political system are breaking through the silence, and there are more and more instances of these voices being bravely raised, and this is encouraging ever more Tibetans.
I am embedding the whole programme in 4 videos from YouTube below!