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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, China, Chinese, Irish, Taoism, Translation, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (360 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2022)
9781800172128
£19.99 £17.99
  • Description
  • Editor
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • 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 Commended, 2022 The Poetry Book Society Spring Translation Choice (In the Same Light)
    '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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The Carcanet Blog In the Same Light: Wong May read more Some Interpretation: Padraig Regan read more PN Review 262: Editorial read more Rowan Williams: Collected Poems read more John F. Deane: Naming of the Bones read more Vahni Capildeo: Places of Writing read more
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