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Wong May Shortlisted for National Translation Award

Thursday, 12 Oct 2023

In the Same Light In the Same Light: 200 Tang Poems for Our Century, translated and edited by Wong May, has been shortlisted for a 2023 National Translation Award in Poetry by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)!

2023 marks the 25th year of the National Translation Awards, which seeks to recognise excellence in literary translation and celebrate diversity in both poetry and prose. The award selection criteria include a vis-à-vis evaluation of the quality of the original language book and the quality of the English language translation.

The winners will be announced on 11th November at a ceremony as part of ALTA's annual conference, ALTA46: The Place of Translation. You can read the full shortlist here.


Wong May 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.




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