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August 2019: Yu Yoyo 余幼幼

Born in 1990, Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo had already begun to earn critical attention before she turned sixteen, publishing dozens of poems in PoetryPoetry Monthly and other prestigious publications in China. She studied business management and accounting in university, but never gave up on her long-standing passion for poetry and finally embraced her life’s calling upon graduation. She is now seen as a representative voice among the post-90’s generation, especially known for her mature voice and subtle treatment of modern femininity. She has two collections published in China Seven Years (2012) and Me as Bait (2018). In 2019 the PTC published her first English collection My Tenantless Body with translations by Dave Haysom and the award-winning UK poet A K Blakemore. She currently lives in Chengdu.

Bio from the Poetry Translation Centre


i write write write
nib the heart
faced with so many words
i rob and loot
seduce and occupy
toss my underwear in a tree
write write so that when spring comes
my poems can be garlanded

white mist white tide white skirt
shroud the boy beside me
he could be beautiful
or i could ruin him

i write write write but can’t outwrite the entombed
can’t outwrite the horizon’s in-caving
i write write write to purge sex
purge men’s selfishness and dicks
write my nipples into bud
haul back to the twenty-fourth floor
the one who jumped

i write write write myself into trash
write but can’t outwrite banal viciousness
the clock hands turning on the brow
reverting to reptile state
into the weapons broke people use
to end their lives

the days smooth as a river’s surface
i want to go to the other side
the ferry carrying some little pity

i write write write
until even my relatives
stop forgiving me

Translated by Dave Haysom and A K Blakemore

We're delighted to feature Yu Yoyo as our author of the month this August, especially as we were lucky enough to hear her read and discuss her poems at an event last month on new Chinese fiction and poetry in translation, also attended by one of her translators, Dave Haysom. This was part of a tour, organised by the Poetry Translation Centre, to mark the publication of her collection.

Yu Yoyo’s poetry has a lithe, darting brilliance, her language does not waste time bedding itself in, or explaining itself to you; but simply jumps from arresting idea to arresting idea with electrifying intent. It is in this caustic, sharp movement that Yu forms her poetics, one which is crucially and importantly a poetics of youth. Yu, thoroughly a ‘millennial’, has created a poetic language which has seemingly never not known the internet – its caustic, flat wit; its complete lack of punctuation; its blunt delivery and its incredible linguistic speed. - The Poetry Translation Centre

This month, there are three poems on this page, translated by Dave Haysom and A K Blakemore, and reprinted with the kind permission of The Poetry Translation Centre.  We also feature five of her poems translated by Emily Goedde, and first published in the Winter 2015 issue of Pathlight magazine.  You can read the poems here, alongside the original Chinese.

Emily has a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Michigan and an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. She has been translating and editing since 2007. Her translations have appeared in The Iowa Review and the anthology Jade Mirror: Women Poets of China, among other publications. (Bio from Paper Republic).

If you want to look more closely at Yoyo's poems and their use of language, there's a very interesting article by Xiao Yue Shan on the Asymptote blog, On Yu Yoyo, Language, and the Unsayable.

the book of absurdity

all the good people can smell gasoline
and the bad people feel the

lighter’s spark and heat
good people and bad people rolling tobacco
in a beam of light
brightening the faces
of the morally indifferent individuals
between them

their faces are clearly illuminated
dots and smoke rings
molt from the corners of their mouths
reaches the ceiling

good people soar over the roof
bad people go down below
while the morally indifferent
having neither toes
nor wings

sit in silence
beneath that ring of light

then pinch it out

translated by Dave Haysom and A K Blakemore

There are also two podcasts from the Poetry Translation Centre where you can listen to Yoyo's poems, in Chinese and in the English translation by Dave Haysom and A K Blakemore: Sleepwalking, and Dad.

happy birthday

before your birthday
i should cover my uterus in frosting

it’s so dusty right now -
does it make you cry?

i should have stopped
your Green Train
as it ran over
the ruin of my body

too fast
three hundred and seventy seven
days and nights
i can’t give you my blessing
in the last two hours of breath

i remember the train
on that roaring night
carrying off one of my buttons

on the heart

- translated by Dave Haysom and A K Blakemore