poetry, translation, china

recently I've started working for spittoon collective, a literary magazine based in beijing. spittoon publishes the work of contemporary chinese poets in english translation, and has released three phenomenal issues thus far. 

translation is an imperfect art form, and in its deficiencies we find something curative. in the gaps between languages there is a foreground of delicacy and a background of conflict, and through this navigation we are able to arrive at the thing we look for in text. we arrive at truth. truth various. truth contradictory. truth that evolves and alternates alongside us. poetry is essentially translating the internal language, and it’s pointless to ruminate over that something “lost” in the process of translation. the indistinctness of consciousness to the solid, graspable elemental language— is something lost there? of course, but we hold on to what we have. 

without the chinese language I would have never found poetry; it has always been the visual, sonic, and sensual qualities of my mother tongue that led me to search for the same in english. I've harboured a deep curiosity about language since I knew of its existence. pouring over the beijing newspapers that my mother used to line the dinner table, threading through the maze of handwritten notes, practicing stroke orders in rows of boxes, learning how to fit my tongue around the four accents-- stepping into my inheritance, my ownership. it is a journey that will never end; there will never be a final destination at the foot of this 6000 year old language. I continue to grow into words the same way I walk through the days; with an ever-widening sense of wonder. it is why I devote myself to poetry, because it continues to thrive in the same method of inquiry, trying to use the most powerful tool we have to truly understand everything we only merely know.

so it is with the greatest pleasure that I am now able to participate in the most valuable trade I know. between my origin and my present, the east and the west, I hope that you are able to find words that legitimize the world they are born in. the poetry of china is golden and ripe with harvest. I urge you to take what it has to give, to find the voices that burst out shining, to learn boldly from it, and to use it to fuel your own perpetual curiosity.

visit spittoon collective

shelly shan

hi, my name is shelly. I do a thing where I make words into unnecessarily emotional composites. I don't know why I'm allowed on the internet, but I like it here.