The Lantern and the Night Moths, selected and translated by Yilin Wang

I first came across Yilin Wang as I think many others in writing and reading circles did: the poet-translator was wandering the internet as you do, and stumbled across pictures on the British Museum’s Facebook page featuring pictures of her translations being used in an exhibit in the museum. They had not contacted Wang to use her translations. She addresses this incident in the first section of this book, showcasing the poems of Qiu Jin. But when this was making waves on social media, I noted that Wang was going to have a book of translated Sinophone poetry out in the future. I made a note. And made good on my promise to myself.

The Lantern and the Night Moths is a collection of the work of five Chinese poets, translated by Wang, and accompanied by her notes in response to their writing, as well as the challenges of translating their poems to English and the displacement of being a diaspora poet-translator. Wang includes the original text of each poem in Simplified Chinese, so that you can look at the shape of each poem in Mandarin and how it looks in English. I can’t read Simplified Chinese, but it was still incredibly valuable to be able to look at the poems in a form that was closer to how the poets intended it to be read. Wang included multiple works from five poets: Qiu Jin, a female poet living in the dying days on the Qing Dynasty; Zhang Qiaohui, a modern poet in present-day China; Fei Ming, a poet from the early twentieth century who is known for his ambiguity; Xiao Xi, another modern Chinese poet; and Dai Wangshu, a prolific poet in the early twentieth century who also translated literature from French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian into Mandarin. Even with overlapping lifespans and experiences, each of these poets is singular, with a wide array of work selected to be in this collection.

While I loved getting to know five amazing Chinese poets, The Lantern and the Night Moths made more of an impression on me as an ode to the complexity and beauty of translation.

While I loved getting to know five amazing Chinese poets, The Lantern and the Night Moths made more of an impression on me as an ode to the complexity and beauty of translation. Wang shares the thoughts and struggles she had while translating each poem, places where she could have made different choices and what spurred her to use the final one she chose, and meditates on the beauty of each poem. This is a carefully written and considered labour of love for Sinophone poetry. The poems are lovely, and it is a treat to read these works that were previously inaccessible to anglophones who couldn’t read Chinese. This is a gift Wang is sharing with us: the work of these poets, their stories and context in which they wrote, and her relationship with these works as she translated them.

This is a gift Wang is sharing with us: the work of these poets, their stories and context in which they wrote, and her relationship with these works as she translated them.

I highly recommend The Lantern and the Night Moths. Wang’s translation is generous and thoughtful, and I really loved her essays on the art of translating and sharing her interpretations and thought processes as she worked through each poem. This collection is valuable and beautiful.

Yilin Wang 王艺霖 (she/they) is a writer, a poet, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in ClarkesworldFantasy MagazineThe Malahat ReviewGrainCV2The Ex-PuritanThe Toronto StarThe TyeeWords 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 POETRYGuernicaRoomAsymptote, 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.

Publisher: ‎Invisible Publishing (April 2, 2024)
Paperback 8.8″ X 6″ | 120 pages
ISBN:  9781778430381

 -- Website

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.