Hong Kong Review of Books has published May Huang’s review of Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box, poems by Lok Fung 洛楓 translated by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press).
Here’s a striking–and, I think, apt–line:
The pressures placed on women to appear young and stay beautiful are closely tied to systems of oppression inflicted upon the city itself.
Huang also pays attention to the translation–as all reviews of translated literature must, if they are to be worthwhile at all–and the multilingualism of the book and of life in Hong Kong:
While the visual effect of seeing English words amid a Chinese text disappears in the English translation, Goodman deftly captures the multilingual qualities of Lok’s poetics nonetheless. In “Tracks of Emotion,” Lok cites the English lyrics to Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” in an otherwise Cantonese poem set in the train station. In Goodman’s translation, her use of the word “tracks” becomes an instance of clever wordplay, as it refers to both song tracks and train tracks. In other poems, rhymes in the English beautifully echo or complement the original Chinese: “I am low as a cello” and “I am slayed, I rot / powerless whether I love or not” are two instances. The book itself, which is printed in parallel texts, speaks to the multivalences that translation can expose—as does the Hong Kong Atlas series, the first to exclusively spotlight Hong Kong poetry in translation.
Word on the street is that Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box 自我紙盒藏屍的日子, the selected poems of Lok Fung 洛楓 (Natalia Chan), translated by Eleanor Goodman, is back from the printers.
In honor of the book, then, here is a recent article about Goodman on Lok Fung from the Seattle Review of Books, where Lok Fung was June poet-in-residence. Goodman says of Lok Fung,
“She is not just a poet but also a serious thinker about cultural studies, cultural issues, pop culture, the influence of high literature and also popular literature and music on a population.”
“She’s also very feminist in a very interesting way,” Goodman says. “A lot of her poems are love poems about failed love. She writes about makeup, about getting her hair done, about fashion.” Fung [sic.], she argues, focuses on these “quintessentially girly or feminine or seemingly frivolous sort of things” and uses them to discuss “how women function in society and how women think and feel and reflect on their own lives.”
I would, however, like to register a serious disagreement with Goodman on one point. She says, “the translation of contemporary Chinese poetry really is a field of about seven people who are working very seriously.” I find this very disappointing. The number of people working seriously on the translation of contemporary Chinese poetry certainly reaches into the double digits!
The SRB also includes a handful of Lok Fung’s poems, in Goodman’s translation, here.
The new issue of Asymptote is out, with translations of Ya Shi 哑石 by Nick Admussen, plus a special feature on Hong Kong poetry: Tang Siu Wa 鄧小樺, translated by Canaan Morse; Lok Fung 洛楓, translated by Eleanor Goodman; Yau Ching 游靜, with translations by Steve Bradbury and Chenxin Jiang; Eric Lui 呂永佳, translated by Nicholas Wong; Lau Yee-ching 飲江, translated from the Chinese by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith; and Chung Kwok Keung 鍾國強, translated by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith.
From Chenxin Jiang’s translation of Yau Ching’s “Island Country” 島國:
There’s this island
that used to have many languages now they’ve become
one called English
another called Chinese
you’re not allowed to ever use
your own language
if your name is not an English name
the island will give you one