Size / / /

We're delighted to be joined by Yilin Wang, to talk about her translation of a poem by Dai Wangshu 戴望舒, 'Night Moths' (夜蛾), from our April 2020 issue, and to tell us more about her work. Yilin is a writer, translator, and editor, whose translations, short fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry, have appeared in a number of magazines. She is an assistant editor at Room magazine and a member of the Clarion West class of 2020.

Can you tell us how you got started in translation?

As someone who thinks of myself primarily as a writer, I first became interested in translation three years ago when I started working on a novel inspired by the tropes of wuxia (martial arts fantasy) fiction in English. This led me down a deep research rabbit hole about past translations of wuxia stories and classical Chinese poetry. I soon became fascinated with the idea of translators as folks who bridge different languages, literary traditions, and cultures. As a writer who is bilingual but only writes in English, I often find myself navigating code-switching in similar ways, on the page or in daily life, so I find translating often informs my writing, and vice versa.

Dai Wangshu (1905-1950), is often discussed in terms of the modernism and innovation of his poetry - what drew you to his work, and what are some of the challenges and pleasures in translating it?


I first encountered with Dai Wangshu's poetry when I read his poem "Alley in the Rain" (雨巷). But as I delved deeper into his work, I realized he wrote many other beautiful poems that haven't been translated before, at least to my knowledge. I find translating the cultural allusions and his use of ambiguity to be the most challenging, yet at the same time, I really enjoy embracing these challenges. These issues inspire me to think more deeply about the formal and linguistic elements of poetry in English.

Are there any other Chinese-language authors or poets whose work you'd like to see in translation? And can you recommend any recent works, for readers wanting to explore more?

I would especially love to see more work by women writers, queer writers, and writers from my home province of Sichuan being translated. As for recently published works of translation, I'm a huge fan of Broken Stars, an anthology of stories translated by Ken Liu. I'm currently reading through the recently released book A Summer Beyond Your Reach, which consists of translations of Xia Jia's short stories by various translators.

Finally, can you tell us anything about what you're working on at the moment?


I'm currently actively working on two main projects--a collection of speculative fiction short stories inspired in part by Chinese folklore and a book-length collection of poetry, which may include some of my translations alongside my own poems. I have also been hard at work as a bilingual editor and English to Chinese co-translator of a poetry collection by a Chinese Canadian poet. The poetry collection is bilingual and I'm really excited about the project because it's very rare in Canada for poetry books to appear in this form. Folks who are interested in following what I'm working on can find me on Twitter (@yilinwriter) or check out my website (

Thank you, Yilin!

Samovar is a quarterly magazine of and about translated speculative fiction. We publish fiction and poetry in their original language and in English translation. We showcase the work both of writers and also translators, who we have to thank for opening doors to new worlds. Find out more about us here.
No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.