The Lantern and the Night Moths

Five Modern and Contemporary Chinese Poets in Translation

Invisible Publishing
Translated by Yilin Wang
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'the lantern light seems to have written a poem;
they feel lonesome since i won’t read them.'

— 'lantern' by Fei Ming

The work of Tang Dynasty Classical Chinese poets such as Li Bai, Du Fu, and Wang Wei has long been celebrated in both China and internationally, and various English translations and mistranslations of their work played a pivotal yet often unacknowledged role in shaping the emergence and evolution of modern Anglophone poetry.

In The Lantern and the Night Moths, Chinese diaspora poet-translator Yilin Wang has selected and translated poems by five of China’s most innovative modern and contemporary poets: Qiu Jin, Fei Ming, Dai Wangshu, Zhang Qiaohui, and Xiao Xi. Expanding on and subverting the long lineage of Classical Chinese poetry that precedes them, their work can be read collectively as a series of ars poeticas for modern Sinophone poetry.

Wang’s translations are featured alongside the original Chinese texts, and accompanied by Wang’s  personal essays reflecting on the art, craft, and labour of poetry translation. Together, these poems and essays chart the development of a myriad of modernist poetry traditions in China that parallel, diverge from, and sometimes intersect with their Anglophone and Western counterparts.

Contributor Bio

Yilin Wang 王艺霖 (she/they) is a writer, a poet, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, The Ex-Puritan, the Toronto Star, The Tyee, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. She is the editor and translator of The Lantern and Night Moths (Invisible Publishing, 2024). Her translations have also appeared in POETRY, Guernica, Room, Asymptote, Samovar, The Common, LA Review of Books’ “China Channel,” and the anthology The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories (TorDotCom 2022). She has won the Foster Poetry Prize, received an Honorable Mention in the poetry category of Canada’s National Magazine Award, has been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, and has been a finalist for an Aurora Award. Yilin has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a graduate of the 2021 Clarion West Writers Workshop.

Qiu Jin 秋瑾 (1875–1907) was a Chinese writer, poet, essayist, revolutionary, and the founder of the feminist publication China Women’s News 中国女报.  Defying the gender expectations of her time, she practiced crossdressing, learned sword-fighting and horseback riding, and acquired a traditional scholarly education. Later, she connected with other activists of China’s feminist movement, studied abroad in Japan, and returned home to join a revolution against the oppressive imperial Qing dynasty government and for women’s rights. When the uprising she took part in failed, she chose to die as a martyr rather than escape, which has led her to become known as a feminist revolutionary icon in China and internationally. In the brief thirty-two years of life before her execution, Qiu Jin wrote over two-hundred poems, which have been compiled into various collections posthumously.

Fei Ming 废名 (1901-1967) was an influential modern Chinese poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist, and a member of the Yǔ Sī Sè 语丝社, a literary group founded by Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren. He was the author of various poetry books, short story collections, and novels, including Mirror, The Stories of the Bamboo Grove, and Bridge. Fei Ming’s work was deeply influenced by Buddhism, Daoism, and different schools of Chinese philosophy.

Dai Wangshu 戴望舒 (1905–1950) was a poet, editor, translator, and leading figure in the Chinese modernist literature movement. With an interest and education in French literature, he was influenced by the work of French Neo-symbolist poets such as Paul Fort and Francis Jammes, as well as ancient Daoist texts and Tang dynasty verse. His writing blends archaic allusions and diction with modern poetics to explore themes such as love, death, and nostalgia.

Zhang Qiaohui 张巧慧 (1978–) is a Chinese writer, poet, essayist, a member of the Chinese Writers Association, and the curator of Chenzhifo Art Gallery. She has published five poetry collections and an essay collection in Chinese. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, including People’s Literature, Poetry Journal, and October, and been selected for “year’s best” anthologies. She has received honors such as the Sanmao Literary Essay Prize. In 2018, the Chinese journal Poetry named her one of China’s “top 20 most innovative women poets.”

Xiao Xi 小西 (1974–) is a poet based in Qingdao in Shandong, China. She is the author of two poetry books in Chinese, Blue Salt 蓝色的盐and The Wind Would Not Cease 风不止. Her poetry has appeared in dozens of Chinese literary journals such as People’s Literature, Poetry Journal, and October, and has been published in English translation in POETRY and Guernica.