Anna Yin

1. In Mirrors and Windows, you translated more than 50 poets works? What was your process for selecting the poets and the works?

Yes. In Mirrors and Windows, I translated 59 poets works (some from Chinese to English, others from English to Chinese). Originally most of the translations were requested by poets or editors. Yet the part from USA in the book were initiated mostly by myself. In 2016, I applied for and won a scholarship to attend the West Chester University Poetry Conference. I met many great American poets there and had a great time. The conference invited me back with another scholarship in 2017. During those times, I selected and translated some works by my newly met fellow poets (Andrew Motion, Dana Gioia, A.E. Stallings, Rebecca Foust , R.S. Gwynn etc), then published them on online Chinese poetry magazine. Three years ago, I began to compile my translations in book form. I decided to add Part 2 (From Chinese to English) to include 20 modern Chinese poets and Part 3 (my own poems inspired by translations). The book grew thicker into 280 pages. Thus, Mirrors and Windows contains various poems with the wide range of style and subject matter. I hope I can translate more in the future.

2. Translating literary pieces particularly poetry is considered more difficult than translating other texts. What was your process when dealing with aesthetic elements (metaphors) and expressive elements (though process) that are culturally unique?

Yes. Translating poetry is very challenging, especially involving two very different languages (Chinese and English). I was lucky that I could directly communicate with most of the poets in Mirrors and Windows. I also researched the culture, history, and politics behind the poems. You see, I have written poems in both Chinese and English for years and have further practiced translating by working on my 5th poetry collection, Love’s Lighthouse. In general, my translation process is an open, engaging, and learning process, a journey of collaboration of words mapping, discoursing, exploring, and restoring. I usually read the poem a few times, try to feel it, then I start translating it with the words, images, metaphors in the other language that I think match. Then I read both and compare them. I will revise my translation till I feel the messages and merits in the original are retained. Sometimes, I will keep special words untranslated, then add a note. As in the poem Salve because the word Salve has different important meanings in Italian and in English that expand the meaning of the poem and I don’t want to lose any of them.

3. Is there a central inquiry in the five poetry collections that you authored? Or were you searching different thing? If you were to draw up an aesthetic map how do these works relate to each other? Or do they?

This is a very interesting question. It invites me to trace back my roots of poetry writing motivation. Yes. I am always searching for something. For the first collection: Wings Toward Sunlight, I think I was searching for myself. At that time, I was still lost and longed for love and hope. I wrote many love poems with fish images that extended to my second collection: Inhaling the Silence, and I began to grow wings and see things differently with confidence, thus my writing became more realistic and opened to a broader world with poems concerned about global issues and social problems. My third collection and later have all had mixed complex themes: love, dreams and reality.  If you ask me to draw up an aesthetic map, I will draw a shape of a heart enclosing another heart… newer ones become greater, as I rise and soar with poetry.

4. How did you come to write your first book?

“Wings Toward Sunlight” was my first book. Originally it was my final project for a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Toronto. I combined 40 new and old poems and revised them with suggestions from mentors and peers. It was shortlisted for the Marina Nemat Award. It did not win but I sent it to publishers and luckily Mosaic Press accepted it. I added another 30 poems as requested. Mosaic Press published it in 2011, then reprinted it in 2014.

5. What was the most satisfying aspect of your recently completed work?

My most recently published book is “Mirrors and Windows” which includes 39 accomplished English-language poets’ work with my Chinese translation and 20 skilled Chinese-language poets’ work with my English translation. It is my 6th book, the most challenging one yet with great rewards. It was recently mentioned in the CBC list of Canadian poetry books to watch for in Fall 2021. It has received good reviews from both the West and East.  I hope it will open doors for my future projects as both translator and poet.

6. In pushing your work beyond your first title what were you most conscious of? What were/are you trying to achieve?

After “Wings Toward Sunlight”, my publisher Mosaic Press suggested me to apply to join the League of Canadian Poets. I did so and got approval soon after. I attended the league’s annual general meeting and met many fine poets. Soon after I began to organize poetry events. I started to see myself as not only a poet but also a poetry promoter and educator, so I designed poetry alive workshops to share and promote poetry as well. I was glad to be appointed as  Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate in 2015 which further helped to promote poetry and literary arts within my city and beyond.

7. Is your writing practice influenced or in any way informed by a sense of writing to or for others? Do you have an audience in mind when you write?

Yes. Most times I do have an audience in mind when I write. I wrote many love poems; the audience could be a real lover or an imagined one.  Some poems I might write for myself, but after reading them, I would edit them for wider audience. When I served as Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, I aimed to write for the public with themes of global issues and social justice etc.

8. Can you recall an experience where you might have worked with another writer or maybe you collaborated with a visual artist, or a performing artist (say a musician/actor/dancer) – how was that experience different or similar? Or seminal or generative?

Yes. I have collaborated with musicians and painters. For example, Mark Harry is a Spanish guitar player.  He read my poems and composed music for them, then we met to try them out. For me to collaborate with others, it is important to listen to others and trust one another. Let the rhythm find its own pattern. Mark and I are in sync usually. We have performed Poetry and Music in several communities in the Greater Toronto Area. It was fun and well received.

9. What stories do you have (perhaps generative, perhaps constraining) about yourself as a writer? (i.e., What you’re good at or bad at, where you are in your writing journey, etc.)? How have these stories changed or remained the same over time/across different experiences?

I was asked many times how I became a poet from a software engineer. I was also invited to share my stories at universities in Canada, China and Bangladesh. In short, poetry saved me from depression and my poems also helped others, these were not just interesting stories and but real-life experiences.

Anna Yin, an IT professional, immigrated to Canada in 1999, authored five poetry collections and “Mirrors and Windows” (Guernica Editions) in 2021. Anna won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, two MARTYs, two scholarships from USA and three grants from Ontario Arts Council. Anna was appointed to be Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate in 2015. Her poems/translations have appeared at Queen’s Quarterly, ARC Poetry, New York Times, China Daily, CBC Radio, World Journal. She performed on Parliament Hill, at Austin International Poetry Festival, Edmonton Poetry Festival and universities in China, USA and Bangladesh. She also teaches Poetry Alive. Her website: annapoetry.com

Listen to Anna Yin Read Two Poems from Mirrors

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