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Poems of Hong Ying, Zhai Yongming & Yang Lian

Edited by Mabel Lee. Translated from the Chinese by Mabel Lee, Naikan Tao & Tony Prince.

This sixth volume in Vagabond’s Asia Pacific Poetry Series brings together a selection of poetry from three key contemporary Chinese poets Hong Ying, Zhai Yongming & Yang Lian edited and introduced by Mabel Lee, translated by Mabel Lee, Naikan Tao & Tony Prince and with cover art by Lin Chunyan. 


Hong Ying (b. 1962) was born in Chongqing. Her father worked on the cargo boats plying the Yangtze, and she grew up in the lower strata of society. Her career as a poet began with the publication of her Cycle of Poems in a workers’ literary magazine, and in 1988 she published her first collection, Bird of Paradise. After relocating to London, her poem “Poetry and Fleeing for One’s Life” won the UK Chinese Poetry Prize in 1991, and she went on to win a number of poetry prizes in Hong Kong and Taiwan. She then went on to establish herself as a prize-winning novelist for works that have been translated into many languages and turned into TV series. Her novels include Daughter of the River, Summer of Betrayal, K: The Art of Love, The Concubine of Shanghai and Peacock Cries: her novel K was awarded the Primo de Rome Prize in 2005. Her most recent collection of poetry spans thirty years of her poetic life, and has the title: I Too Am Salammbo (2013).

Zhai Yongming (b. 1955) was born in Chengdu. She was sent to the countryside to work as a peasant for two years during the Cultural Revolution, but afterwards graduated in laser technology in 1981, and in the same year began publishing poetry. Her two cycles of poems Woman (1984) and Jing’an Village (1985) stamped her credentials as one of the most significant poets of the 1980s. She became a role model for aspiring women poets who provided a powerful and distinctive voice in the world of Chinese poetry that had previously been dominated by male poets. She travelled to the United States in 1990, and returned in 1992 to Chengdu where she enjoys a celebrity presence as an installation artist and the owner of a literary and art salon called White Nights. Her other collections of poetry include Above All the Roses (1989), Collected Poems of Zhai Yongming (1994), as well as the English title, The Changing Room: Selected Poetry of Zhai Yongming (2012).

Yang Lian (b. 1955) was born in Bern, Switzerland, but grew up in Beijing. Amongst the first wave of new poets to emerge after the Cultural Revolution, his poetry exuberantly extols male sexuality. His cycle of poems titled Norlang (1983) was criticized during the Anti-Spiritual-Pollution campaign of 1983, and he was banned from publishing for a year. In 1985 Norlang was reprinted twice: in his Ritualization of the Soul as well as together with other of his poems in Lao Mu’s Anthology of New Wave Poetry. Since travelling to Australia in 1988 he has established a significant international presence. His poetry has been published in Chinese and also in many other languages. His English titles include Masks and Crocodile (1990), The Dead in Exile (1990), Non-Person Singular (1994), Where the Sea Stands Still (1995), Yi (2002), Notes of a Blissful Ghost (2002), Concentric Circles (2005), Unreal City (2006), and Riding Pisces (2008). He has been awarded two important literary prizes in Italy: the Flaiano International Poetry Prize (1999) and the Nonino International Literary Prize (2012).

Mabel Lee PhD FAHA is Adjunct Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney following a 34-year teaching and research career in 20th century Chinese intellectual history and literature. Since 1990 she has translated 3 volumes of poetry by Yang Lian and 5 volumes of fiction and criticism by Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, as well as publishing research papers on both authors. She is currently translating a volume of poetry by award-winning novelist Hong Ying.

Naikan Tao PhD is interested in poetry and poetics and translates Chinese literature. He is the translator with Tony Prince of Eight Contemporary Chinese Poets (Wild Peony, 2006), and with Simon Patton of Starve the Poets!: Selected Poems by Yi Sha (Bloodaxe, 2008). His recent publications include his translation of Lu Xun’s Ren zhi lishi (History of humanity; Renditions, 80, 2013) and his essay “Subjectivity and Innovation in Contemporary Chinese Poetry, II” (The Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, 44, 2012). He lives with his family in Sydney.

Tony Prince graduated with a BA and PhD in Chinese Studies from the University of Sydney, and subsequently spent 6 years teaching and studying in Taiwan and Japan. He afterwards returned to the University of Sydney to take up a lectureship there, teaching Chinese language, literature and thought for the next 28 years. He has published articles and co-authored books on Buddhism and Chinese poetry. He retired from teaching in 2000 and now lives on the south coast of NSW, Australia.


Cover image © Lin Chunyan, 2007. Flying in the Sky–2. Oil on canvas, 200 X 300 cm.

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