David Hinton, through his many translations of classical Chinese poetry, has earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary poems that convey the actual texture and density of the originals. He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the four seminal masterworks of Chinese philosophy: the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, the Analects, and Mencius.
He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, numerous fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the PEN Translation Award from the PEN American Center.
Hinton’s anthologies and essays shine light on the wonders of translation work while ushering readers into the spacious worldview of ancient writers, helping us to see through their eyes and recognize our own inner and outer landscapes. With Hunger Mountain (2012) and Existence: A Story (2016), he illuminates the practice of translation, and subsequently that of poetics, calligraphy and brush painting as metaphysical endeavors each working to expose the groundlessness of their own form. In The Wilds of Poetry (2017), Hinton brings such insights to bare on the American tradition, anthologizing a dozen writers since Thoreau who were directly or inadvertently influenced by Ch’an, Zen, and Daoist literary forms.
His latest work is No-Gate Gateway (2018), a new translation of the classic koan collection Wu-men Kuan (Mumonkan in Japanese). In it, Hinton places this 13th century text for the first time in the philosophical framework of its native China, arguing persuasively that the subtleties of its cultural context are as rich and instructive as its core dialogues.
Of David Hinton’s work, others have said:
“. . . superior to anything I’ve ever seen in Chinese, and about the same for English.”
“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.”
(Thornton Wilder Lifetime Achievement Prize Citation: American Academy of Arts and Letters)
“Hinton’s achievement is a gift to our language.”