Three Poems by Yu Xuanji in Ancient Exchanges

The new issue of Ancient Exchanges, “Threads,” is now live, and with it three translations of mine of poetry by Yu Xuanji 魚玄機 (840–868).

The shape of water conforms to its container: we know it is indeterminate.
Clouds drift with no intent. Will they ever come back?
Despondent spring winds over the Chu river tonight,
one mandarin duck flies away from its flock.


And a shot across the bow in my “Translator’s Note,” too:

In my eyes, contemporary English translations of classical Chinese poetry tend to fall between two extremes—with scholarly translators prizing philological accuracy and sometimes even taking a perverse pride in not letting their writing be informed by conventions of contemporary Anglophone poetry, while more creative attempts at experimentation often fall short of that goal … Scholarly and literary audiences do not have to be at odds: both are looking for precision of image together with compelling, and compellingly fresh, phrasing.

Follow the links to read the pieces.