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In the Same Light

200 Tang Poems for Our Century

Edited by Wong May

Translated by Wong May

Cover of In the Same Light
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Categories: 21st Century, Ancient, Anthologies, BAME, Bestsellers, China, Chinese, Irish, Taoism, Translation, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (360 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2022)
£19.99 £17.99
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(Pub. Jan 2022)
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  • Description
  • Editor
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Winner of the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize 2023
    Shortlisted for the National Translation Award in Poetry 2023 by the American Literary Translators Association
    The Poetry Book Society Spring 2022 Translation Choice

    Chinese poetry is unique in world literature in that it was written for the best part of 3,000 years by exiles, and Chinese history can be read as a matter of course in the words of poets.

    In this collection from the Tang Dynasty are poems of war and peace, flight and refuge but above all they are plain-spoken, everyday poems; classics that are everyday timeless, a poetry conceived "to teach the least and the most, the literacy of the heart in a barbarous world," says the translator.

    C.D. Wright has written of Wong May's work that it is "quirky, unaffectedly well-informed, capacious, and unpredictable in [its] concerns and procedures," qualities which are evident too in every page of her new book, a translation of Du Fu and Li Bai and Wang Wei, and many others whose work is less well known in English.

    In a vividly picaresque afterword, Wong May dwells on the defining characteristics of these poets, and how they lived and wrote in dark times. This translator's journal is accompanied and prompted by a further marginal voice, who is figured as the rhino: "The Rhino 通天犀 in Tang China held a special place," she writes, "much like the unicorn in medieval Europe — not as conventional as the phoenix or the dragon but a magical being; an original spirit", a fitting guide to China's murky, tumultuous Middle Ages, that were also its Golden Age of Poetry, and to this truly original book of encounters, whose every turn is illuminating and revelatory.
    Wong May
    Wong May was born in the war capital, Chongqing in 1944 China. She was brought up in Singapore by her mother, a classical Chinese poet. She studied English Literature at the University of Singapore with the poet D.J. Enright; she was at the Iowa Writers Workshop 1966–68. Soon after, she left ... read more
    Awards won by Wong May Winner, 2023 The Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize (In the Same Light) Short-listed, 2023 The National Translation Award in Poetry by the American Literary Translators Association (In the Same Light) Joint winner, 2022 A Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry Commended, 2022 The Poetry Book Society Spring Translation Choice (In the Same Light)
    'Wong May's translations from Chinese illuminate war, flight and friendship by the kitchen stove. Here, across 1,500 years, meet Du Fu, bruised, apologising to you, 'After I Fell off My Horse Drunk.'
    Alison Brackenbury, The Poetry Society

    'I adored Wong May's In the Same Light: 200 Tang Poems for Our Century. Classic Chinese poetry has not lacked outstanding translators into English, but this volume is a game changer. Her sprawling afterword about the poets - accompanied, unforgettably, by commentary from a talking rhino - is itself worth the price of admission.'

    Daniel Medin, The White Review
    'Sadness, exile, homesickness, grief, rhinos - whatever you might presume you know of these subjects, this collection offers new ways of seeing them... the afterword would be worthy of publication as an independent essay. Such an innovative and expansive work deserves latitude.'

    Sabina Knight, Mekong Review

    'Wong's quirky, individual voice, her own original spirit in translation and commentary, accompanies us on an unmissable journey through her Tang poetry; we can only be grateful for that queasy moment in a Beijing hotel room when the project began slowly but inexorably to announce itself and gradually take hold.'

    Peter Sirr, Dublin Review of Books

     '[An] extraordinary Afterword, titled 'The Numbered Passages of a Rhinoceros in the China Shop', is a magnificent, peculiar tour de force that spans nearly a hundred pages, and the book is transformed by its existence [...] entrancing, and entirely sincere.'

    Daryl Lim Wei Jie, Asian Books Blog

    'A book very contemporary in its human closeness.... Wong May offers an extensive Afterword on the poetry and its interpreters. No mere translator's note, this capacious essay is historical, critical, comical, personal, structural and mystical by turns, exploring the Tang context of the original poets and the poetry's echoes over the last millennium or so, up through Pound and Mao and Dharma Bums. Wong May hopes "to return the text to the body of world literature" through her investigations as a translator and critic. Her work deserves this hope, which is better than any reparative aim for poetry, always complicit in and resistant to the politics of its times.'

    Harry Josephine Giles, Poetry Book Society Translation Selector

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