The Gunnery welcomes David Hinton, poet, essayist and translator of Chinese poetry
In his introduction of David Hinton, the internationally recognized poet, essayist and award-winning translator of classical Chinese poetry and philosophy, Dr. Nick Benson cited the statistic that, of the 600,000 books published annually in the U.S. less than three percent are translated and, of those, less than one percent are literary. And yet, when asked to cite favorite reads, folk, more often than not, offer translated titles.
Hinton then spoke about the weaving together of cultural traditions as in the similarities between modern American poetry and classical Chinese poetry in translation. To the mix he added the practice of importing cultural components from elsewhere enriching both those traditions.
Saying that the poetic tradition seeks to draw the distinction between place and the soul, Hinton explained that the question of “who you are” drives both traditions and to get at it, one has to remove all the memories, beliefs, and ideas imposed by life experience and language so that the immediate persona has as pure an experience as possible of the life that is. As an example, Hinton described an exhausting hike on an untamed Mount Katahdin in Maine, which left the essayist, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau prepared for such a raw experience. Drawing on Ezra Pound and Japanese Haiku in the same sentence, Hinton spoke of modern poetry, which started as embellished language and abstract thinking, separate from intellect, and became body and not mind.
A frequent visitor to The Gunnery since 2009, Hinton received a master’s degree in poetry from Cornell University and has been a recipient of multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as a Guggenheim fellowship and a fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
He has been honored for his Chinese poetry translations with the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. In awarding him the Thornton Wilder Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the American Academy of Arts and Letters said: “David Hinton is the best English language translator of classic Chinese poetry we have, and have had for decades. The translations read in English as though they were written in it originally. A magician’s grace glows through all of the poems, a grace and ease uncommonly found, uncommonly masterful.”
His latest books include, “The Wilds of Poetry: Adventures in Mind and Landscape,” published in July by Shambhala, and “Existence: A Story,” in which Hinton “stands before a single landscape painting—discovering there the wondrous story of existence, and as part of that story, the magical nature of consciousness.” His translation, “No-way Gateway, the Original Wu-men Kuan,” is due in February 2018, followed by a new volume of poems in June 2018 titled, “Desert.”
Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.