MRI Forum 44

"Reading pleasures: on translating poetry"

by Bonnie S McDougall, Yao Jingming and Ng Mei Kwan

Summary of the Presentation

The two Hong Kong poets 梁秉钧Leung Ping-kwan and 吳美筠Ng Mei-kwan are different in age, in gender and, as we might expect, in the way they write. Readers, it again follows, derive different kinds of pleasure from their poems. After a quick look at the range of pleasures people derive from reading poetry, we shall examine the devices available to translators for transferring or creating reading pleasure for people who read poetry in translation. Illustrations of how these devices may (or may not) work will be drawn from recent examples of these poets’ work in translations from Chinese into English. Looking at it from the perspective of Macau, this could be examined in a different sense, that is, when a Chinese poet translates Portuguese poetry into his own Chinese mother tongue.  Is that a double pleasure, a double effort or/and a challenging dialogue the translator establishes with himself, his identity and his cultural background?  Is there a conflict or rather a discovery of a universal poetic language?

Profile of the Speaker

Bonnie S. McDougall 杜愽妮 is Advisory Editor of Renditions at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She has held academic appointments at Sydney, SOAS, Harvard, Oslo and Edinburgh universities, and her translations include Chinese poetry, fiction, drama and essays. For details see her home page at

姚京明 Yao Jingming completed his undergraduate studies in Portuguese Language from the Beijing Foreign Studies University and is currently assistant professor at the Portuguese Department, University of Macao. He has published many poems and essays under the penname of Yao Feng, and his poems are included in over 20 collections of selected poems. His poetry collections include Nas Asas do Vento Cego, 1991 [Written on the Wings of Blind Wind]; Confluência, 1997 [One Horizon, Two Scenes];《瞬間的旅行》, 2001 [Instant Travel]; A Noite Deita-se Comigo, 2002 [Night Lying Down with Me]; 《遠方之歌》, 2006 [Distant Songs] and《當魚閉上眼睛》, 2007 [When the Fish Closes Its Eyes]. He has published more than 10 poetry collections, including Selecta de Poetas Portugueses, 1992 [Selected Modern Portuguese Poets]; Antologia de Poetas de Macau, 1999 [Selected Macao Poems in Chinese and Portuguese Languages]; 《安德拉德詩選》, 2005 [Selected Poems by Eugénio de Andrade] and 《中國當代十詩人選》, 2007 [Selected Poems by 10 Contemporary Chinese Poets]. Yao Jingming was awarded the 14th Rou Gang Poetry Prize and distinguished with the Portuguese honorific medal of Sant´Iago da Espada.

吳美筠 Ng Mei Kwan received her first degree in Chinese literature, languages and philosophy from Hong Kong University and doctor degree in Chinese classical literature from The University of Sydney.  She taught in Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Baptist College (now HKBU) and the Open University of HK and now she is teaching in the Community College of Kong Kong University.  She is a well-established Hong Kong writer with substantial Chinese writing experience in both creative and media writing and her first poetry collection won the Outstanding Entry in the First “Hong Kong Biennial Award for Chinese Literature”.  Her writings were selected and published in both Taiwan and Mainland China besides HK and were also translated in English and published overseas.  Her major Publications are《愛情卡拉OK》 Love Karaoke [short stories],Hong Kong: 滙智出版社Infolink Publishing Ltd, 2006, 《第四個上午》 The fourth Morning [poetry collection],Hong Kong:時代論壇 Chinese Christian Literature Council, 1998,《我們是那麼接近》 We Are So Close [poetry collection], Hong Kong:詩雙月刊出版社Shih Bi-monthly Association, 1990 etc.