In February the South China Morning Post ran a review I called “horribly written” and said made me feel “embarrassed to say I like the translations in a book that could inspire such homely homilies.”
Here’s another stupid review of contemporary Chinese poetry in the SCMP, of I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust 我几乎看到滚滚尘埃 by Yu Xiang 宇向, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. It starts badly:
I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust differs from other poetry anthologies due to its simplicity. However, that doesn’t mean this collection is easy to understand.
(The book is not an “anthology,” it’s a collection; the interest of the poetry is not whether it’s easily understandable; simplicity is not a rare feature of poetry collections…). It continues with ignorant and sexist remarks:
This doesn’t follow traditional poetic rhythms or even the cadences of normal conversations; it’s like reading a woman’s tangled thoughts.
And concludes with platitudes, clichés, and mixed metaphors all at once!
This anthology is a refreshing breeze that highlights the little details of our daily lives.
It can be helpful to address a non-poetry-reading audience in a poetry review–especially in a newspaper in a place such as Hongkong. But I hope this is the last time the SCMP runs a poetry review by someone who hasn’t read a poem since middle school.