2018 has been a big year for Taiwan contemporary literature in the UK. Alongside Wu Ming-yi being nominated for the Man Booker International Prize and three authors taking part in the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Taiwanese PhD student Li Wen-chi and Scottish poet Colin Bramwell were awarded the prestigious John Dryden Translation Award by the British Comparative Literature Association for their translation of the works of Taiwanese poet Yang Mu on November 10.
To mark this occasion, with support from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, the event “Taiwan In Poetry, Poetry In Taiwan: Readings in Taiwanese Poetry“ was held on November 12 at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS). The event - which was very warmly received by a sold out audience - saw Wen-chi and Colin share the experience of translating Taiwanese modern poetry, and introduced the development of contemporary Taiwanese literature and modern poetry.
Wen-chi and Colin shared their award-winning Yang Mu translation Departure (出發), and further works by Yang Mu, alongside poems by Taiwanese poets including Chen Li (陳黎), Hsia Yu (夏宇), and Ching Hsiang Hai (鯨向海). They also explained the creative process of both the original poet and their translations, and how the internet has been used to promote appreciation of poetry in Taiwan to a new generation of readers.
The audience, which was a mixture of academics, translators and appreciators of Taiwan/Asian poetry and literature were engaged throughout, and following the presentation a lively Q&A and discussion ensued. In particular, one attendee was curious about how Wen-chi and Colin translated their poems. In response to the question, Wen-chi said that he particularly hopes to translate Taiwan's most well-known modern poetry for Western readers, and hopes to capture universal values and issues present in the poetry to improve understanding of Taiwan's politics, society and culture.
The event was moderated by Professor Wen-chin Ouyang. Professor Ouyang is a Professor of Arabic & Comparative Literature in the Department of Near and Middle East Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In July 2018, Professor Ouyang was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and social science. She is the first Taiwan-born academic to receive the honour.
After the London event, Li Wen-chi and Colin Brownwell will deliver a talk at the Trinity Centre for Literary & Cultural Translation, a department of the historic Trinity College Dublibn.
All photography courtesy of Nero Huang