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Price: $50.00

Claire Huot

Claire Huot is a scholar specializing in Chinese studies. She has written two books on contemporary Chinese culture, La Petite révolution culturelle (Éditions Philippe Picquier), and China’s New Cultural Scene: A Handbook of Changes (Duke...

Robert Majzels

Robert Majzels’s books include Hellman’s Scrapbook, City of Forgetting, Apikoros Sleuth, and The Humbugs Diet. In 2007, he was awarded the Alcuin Society Prize for Excellence in Book Design for the limited edition of

Xue Tao (85)

Claire Huot

Robert Majzels

1 of 5 book set, 85
Binding: Hardcover, Anstey Bookbinding
Paper: Lynx Opaque
Size: 8.75 x 3.25
Edition Size: 200 |  Pages: 22 [accordion]
Visual Poetry | $50.00
ISBN 987-1-934254-46-2

Original page designs by Robert Majzels
85 set box designed and manufactured by Nathan Tremblay

Published simultaneously in Canada by Moveable Inc.

View the full 85 set here.

Although a selection of work by Xue Tao (768-831 CE) is included in the definitive Repository of all Tang poems, her poetry remains relatively unknown, both in China and in the West. In 2010, the contemporary Sichuan poet Zhai Yongming introduced Robert Majzels and Claire Huot to the work of this under-appreciated figure, also a woman and also a native of Chengdu, albeit one who lived 12 centuries earlier. Xue Tao began as courtesan and then served as a government official until she was banished to the borderlands, ending her days as a student of Daoism and, according to some sources, a maker of artisanal paper used for writing poems. Xue Tao eschews the canonical images and icons of her time, speaking in concrete images (a dog, for example) and in a highly individual voice of banishment and exclusion. Her poems are on the edge of language.

In Xue Tao, Majzels and Huot translate seventeen of Xue Tao’s approximately 100 surviving poems, whittling their already sparse, minimalistic imagery down to 85-letter blocks of text. Printed alongside the original works in Chinese, these geometric columns of black letters—presented without word breaks or punctuation—float against a yellow-green background that recalls the variegated texture of bamboo. This presentation of Xue Tao’s poetry forces the reader to engage actively with her language, confronting it simultaneously as material and as work with ever-shifting, ever-proliferating possibilities of meaning.

As with the four other limited edition volumes of 85, Xue Tao is printed on Lynx Opaque, an acid-free paper with superior longevity. Hardcover, with accordion fold binding and exquisitely embossed titles, it is a work of visual text-art in its own right, the minimalism and beauty of its material form complementing and illuminating the radical act of poetic exploration that the volume contains.

About the 85 set

What happens when we come face to face with the Other? Do we consume the other culture and come away unchanged, or do we allow our language, culture, and selves to be transformed, stretched to include new forms and meanings? The answer depends on our willingness to do the hard work of reading. 85 is a poetic exploration into the way one language and culture—in this case English—perceives and receives another—in this case Chinese. The work is grounded in a radical translational approach based on contemporary philosophical theories that return to the Judaic roots of Western civilization. This approach to the world, the self, and the Other is open-ended, nonlinear, and materialist—a practice evoked by the visual layout of the texts, which enacts the difficult negotiation of the reception in English of Chinese poetic works.