By Zhang Zao
By the translator Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Zhang Zao is the first non-living Chinese contemporary poet whose work I translate in an entirety of sorts. Ironically, it is also Zhang's work that has taught me the accountability toward the foreign: to translate by interacting with his poems in different time spaces. I brought myself to read Zhang Zao the way I would read Victor Hugo or Theodectes. There is an epic voice in his verses: its lyricism contains the ambition of a narration that embeds speculative allegory and historical references within the experience of a contemporary exile. As a philosopher and critic, the poet practises reflective judgement in his aesthetics. Dark humour vivifies his later work as he eroticises the harrowing and the imminent: doubt, finality, and nothingness. 'Mirror', one of Zhang Zao's earliest writings, is his best known work; 'Lantern Town' - written less than two months before his death - is his last. These translations will be published in Mirror: Selected Poetry of Zhang Zao, a bilingual collection forthcoming from Zephyr Press.
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