Featured in Electric Literature’s and Toronto Star’s Most Anticipated Books, 2024, and Quill & Quire’s Spring Preview
“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.
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, been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, and 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. Find out more at www.yilinwang.com.
“Yilin Wang’s translation is an intensely loving conversation with the poets she considers her zhīyīn—soul friends who know her sound, her song. In her careful, poignant selection and translation, these poets write the music of misty longing. Some search for wisdom. Some yearn for the lost home. Some listen to the way pages rustle, cicadas sing. Some watch crimson dust drift. Some sip dew when parched, dine on petals when hungry. Some marvel under a bright net of suns endless in number. Wang’s earnest, heart-rousing translation shows us how the most ephemeral streak of brightness or sound, like the frail light of a lantern, or the swift flicker of butterflies, is writing and translating the poetry of our lives.”—Quyên Nguyễn-Hoàng, poet and translator of Chronicles of a Village by Nguyễn Thanh Hiện
“The Lantern and the Night Moths is a spectacular communion of languages, poetry, and time. Yilin Wang’s translations of Fei Ming, Qiu Jin, Zhang Qiaohui, Xiao Xi, and Dai Wangshu are extraordinary as she courageously traverses the unsayable spaces between Chinese and English with the gentleness and rigour of only the most skilled and loving translator. Erudite and attentive to the granularity of words and things, Wang shows us—with exceptional generosity—the many ways that poetry can reveal, remake, unsettle, seek, survive, and call us back home.”—Gillian Sze, author of Quiet Night Think
“The Lantern and the Night Moths, translated by Yilin Wang, is an evocative anthology of modern and contemporary Chinese poetry. This collection reflects the translator’s deep connection to her roots and the universal themes of longing and identity. Through these translations, Wang resurrects overlooked voices, particularly of women poets, and celebrates the enduring power of language and poetry. This work is not just a book of poems; it’s a journey across linguistic and cultural landscapes, offering a poignant look at the human spirit through the lens of the Chinese diaspora.”—Jack Saebyok Jung, co-translator of Yi Sang: Selected Works, winner of 2021 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work
“This is the collection of Chinese poetry in translation that I have been waiting for. The translations are exquisite and moving, and more than that, they have been carefully selected by the poet–translator Yilin Wang to speak to the concerns, observations, and shared emotional experiences of Chinese poets and a wide-ranging Chinese diaspora. This is not a well-meaning Orientalist project, but rather one that gets at kinships over time and space among Chinese and Chinese diasporic poets, as well as their allies and cousins. In addition to her translations, Yilin Wang offers important short essays on the work of her chosen poets, the reasons for her selection and the practice of translation. These essays foreground the living, creative and relational nature of translation work itself. Heart in hand, the poet–translator brings Chinese poets to my doorstep in ways that I have been longing for but never experienced until now.”—Larissa Lai, author of The Lost Century and Iron Goddess of Mercy
“Poetry is what survives translation. Here, in the pages of Yilin Wang’s The Lantern and the Night Moths, it not only survives, it thrives, shining all the more brilliantly, persistently, and heroically. Vivid and moving, Wang’s beautiful translations and reflective essays grant us entry into the poems of Qiu Jin, Zhang Qiaohui, Fei Ming, Xiao Xi, and Dai Wangshu, while also helping us understand the difficult choices and challenges that lie at the human heart of the translator’s work.”—Neil Aitken, author of Babbage’s Dream