Not written words

Words that make satisfying shapes in your mouth and on the page, rolling around your tongue and exploding like popping candy. Penned by a woman whose name looks like a girl playing hopscotch, whose work has been described as ‘urchin literature’, who drew her own cover art. Translated like the best dancing – it looks effortless, but must have been fiendishly difficult for Jennifer Feely to pull off.

Xi Xi’s poetry is often playful and fun, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. This beloved Hong Kong poet has just had a selection of her work published in English for the first time by Zephyr Press. It wasn’t easy to choose a few favourites, but this is definitely one:



Xi Xi’s work always has an element of surprise – and turning things on their head, calling their original position into question:


In characters, as with her own name, it may be easier to sketch on the page, but this is all the harder to reproduce in English:


She is also able to paint a broad canvas with very few words:

It’s no surprise that Xi Xi has been compared to the Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska. As she moves to writing on a computer, Xi Xi’s poems get longer, and her political focus changes. To read them, I urge you to find the book – and sincerely hope that this translation will be the first of many.

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Posted in books, poetry, translation
One comment on “Not written words
  1. janeishly says:

    I’m always so in awe of people who can translate poetry – what a prospect! Looks like Jennifer Feeley has done a really good job of it, though. Another to add to my wish list.

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