Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 3, 2012

National Poetry Week in Australia

This is National Poetry Week in Australia, but I’m in Berlin today, so I don’t have much in the way of access to any Aussie poetry.  I had planned to review a verse novel kindly given to me by my good friend Sue from Whispering Gums but alas, I hadn’t finished the book when I left home.

But as it happens an interesting promo dropped into my inbox yesterday, and I reproduce it for your interest because it’s a good reminder that – as you’d expect in a multicultural country like Australia – not all Australian poetry is written in English!

Self Translation, a bilingual collection of Ouyang Yu’s Chinese poems in his own English self translation, is now available.

Priced at $25.95, it is a collection of poems originally written in Chinese, across a span of more than 20 years, that Ouyang translated into English himself, which were later published in such English-speaking countries as Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK and Canada.

It is also the first of its kind in a field, literary and critical, known as ‘self translation’, that has many of its practitioners, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov and Julien Green. There is a self introduction that Ouyang wrote for this book as well.

Timothy Yu wrote a blurb for the book, as follows:

Ouyang Yu is a triple threat.  Not only is he an accomplished poet in both Chinese and English, he is a master—like Beckett and Nabokov—of the exceedingly rare art of self-translation.  This volume draws on some four decades’  worth of poems
written originally in Chinese, then rendered into English by the poet himself. What results is a portrait of the pleasures and pains of a writer who—channeling Yeats—”has betrayed his own language” and is “now writing in the language of the enemy.”  Those already familiar with Ouyang’s acid English tongue will be moved by the surprising lyricism of his Chinese poems; those new to his work will find an ideal introduction to a long career lived between languages.

For a taste of Ouyang’s style, see here, and for more information about Ouyang and the awards he has won, or to buy his books, visit his website.  (I’ve reviewed his novels The English Class, and Loose and I profiled Ouyang in Meet an Aussie Author).



  1. I didn’t know it was National Poetry Week but, as it so happens, I am joyfully dipping into John Burnside’s ‘Black Cat Bone’ at the moment. It was an exquisite gift from a friend who has just returned from the Edinburgh Book Festival and has me itching to pen something new myself.


  2. […] when it was National Poetry Week and I confessed that I didn’t feel confident about reviewing poetry collections and wished I […]


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