Farrell on Lee’s Hong Ying

Michael Farrell at Cordite Poetry Review reviews I Too Am Salammbo 我也叫萨朗波, by Hong Ying 虹影, translated by Mabel Lee.

The collection’s translator, Mabel Lee, uses spacing as caesurae to evoke the possibility of Chinese characters for phrases like ‘moss attracts moss’ (‘Ascending the Mountain’) and ‘painting otters’ (‘Otters’). These are just one kind of moment that happens: many of the poems are far from being as sweetly picturesque, pointing instead to family and sexual trouble, and sometimes both together:

Our lungs
Always wrap around men’s lies and sex organs
Turning   I
Confront Mother
And Mother walks away all alone
Before death we sisters will open our beautiful mouths
To spit out one man after another (‘Dreaming of Beijing’)

The use of spacing is effective in aiding line readability. While sometimes it provides merely a slowing down of the line, at others, where the shift in sense between the two phrases is more disjunctive, the effect is one of montage, referring to text, feeling, memory, metaphor.

Click on the image above for the full review.