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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In his 2009 poetry collection Qing/man (Light/Slow), Taiwanese poet Chen Li returns to a traditional Chinese form of anagrammatic poetry, the genre of the hidden-character poem (yinzi shi), a rebus-like poetic riddle that focuses on the graphic form the sinograph, by providing clues to its riddle in the form of descriptions of, references to, and graphic components of a given Chinese character. This chapter uses the genre and theory of anagrams as its starting point for a reflection on language, literary creation, and translation, from Ernest Fenollosa’s reflections on the ideographic method to Ferdinand de Saussure’s work on a phonetically understood anagrammar of Indo-European poetry and Haroldo de Campos’s reflections on the poetic resonances in logographic and alphabetic scripts. Rather than essentializing the graphic nature of the Chinese script, Chen Li’s poetic revitalization of the genre of the hidden-character poem challenges preconceived notions of linguistic difference (between sound and script) with an interest in words under words, in the components of (and below) language that constitute language as a concrete practice and allows for a thought of language as duplicitous and multilayered phenomenon.

Keywords: Chen Li, anagram, hidden-character poem, Chinese writing

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