Singapore arcade

On November 2, Marco Polo Project ran a fringe event to Singapore Writers Week. In partnership with Books Actually, we brought together young Singaporean poets writing in English and Mandarin for an afternoon of collaborative translation, and a discussion on the pleasures and challenges of living across languages as a writer.



Below is a selection of the poems translated into Chinese during this event.


New Eyes (by Alvin Pang, English original) 

When you look at the world through new eyes,

like a mother on her newborn, or a man

in the pride of his first work,

nothing comes to you without promise;

everything asks: what would you make of me?


The heart learns to speak itself aloud.

Your voice unlearns its meekness,

because the world is waiting for you

to give it a name.


Answer it boldly. Let your eyes

rest on this, the fetal incompleteness

of thins, the deep pull of a world

unfinished. Where you stand, grounded,

is how everything will fall into place.


一双崭新的眼瞳 (冯启明)

















Translation by Ang Lai Sheng


所有的等待 (孤星子)





All our waiting


for lovers, for tests

for the doctor, for the bus

for taxes, for weddings

for success, for banalities
for glory, for vanities

for children, for some to come out

for the microwave’s ding, for the beer in the fridge to chill

for life, for work, for the unforced waking

for the garden of the spirit, for the mortal (un)coil

for such and such and so on

for the vacancy of patience, every chance we get

besides the shuffle towards death,

stalling for incarcerated sunflowers

to smile: please hold.

– lonestar (andy ang)
march 26, 2014

(translation by Alvin Pang)


左边 (贺尔)





















The Left Way (Seow Joo Chuan)
— After Szymborska’s “Possibilities”


I prefer the sound of grinding coffee beans in the morning

I prefer the melody of gentle rain on leaves

I prefer the surprise of meeting friends around the corner

I prefer the expression of people when they open a lunchbox


I prefer looking back

I prefer a window with a view

I prefer back profiles, but I don’t like shadows

I prefer to chat with people older than me, except children

I prefer people’s complexity, but not their deceit

I prefer majority rule, but not when minorities are bullied


I prefer to be in balance

I prefer the left way to the right way

I prefer when people are not sure of answers

I don’t like an answer to be the only answer.


(Translation Jin Yong, Ian Chung and Julien Leyre)


停诗间 (张国强)


































Poet Mortem (Teo Kok Keong) 


The policeman was delivered





The young man’s Ferrari

too fast too fierce

for a poem’s body to dodge


The middle-aged man was delivered





The middle-aged man’s store-room

too small too narrow

to contain

father’s collection


The child was delivered



to breakthrough


The child’s heart

too pragmatic

to accomodate

the body of a poem divorced from exams


Those anxious to get in

tomorrow please note

we’re closing early


(Translation Jin Yong, Ian Chung and Julien Leyre)

Melbourne social media poet Katie Keys and Chinese poet Yisha will discuss the future of Digital Literature at the Beijing Bookworm on September 10, 2014.
To prepare for this encounter, we asked each of them a series of questions – and are now sharing their answers as part of the Marco Polo Festival

Can you introduce yourself, particularly your practice of online literature
Hi, I’m Katie Keys (also known as @tinylittlepoems on Twitter, or as Kate Larsen in my day-job as Director of Writers Victoria in Melbourne).I’m a writer and poet who mostly works in the area of short-form digital poetry (I have posted a poem a day on Twitter for the last five years). With more than 2,000 of my tiny little poems now online, I like to joke that this project has given me a very large body of very small work.I recently shared some of my thoughts about digital writing through the form of tiny little poems themselves on the Writers Victoria blog.So, what does poetry mean to me?

The homes we make for words,

the niche we find,

the gaps we fill.

The wish we make,

the sum of all our parts. 

你好,我叫凯蒂•基斯(我在推特上的名字叫:@tinylittlepoems,由于我还担任墨尔本的维多利亚作家协会主席的职务,我的日常用名为凯特•拉森)。我是作家兼诗人,主要写短形式数码诗(过去五年中,我每天都在推特上贴出一首诗)。截至目前为止,我在网上已有2000多首精短小诗。我喜欢开玩笑说,这个项目使我的小作品取得了很大的体积。最近,我通过Writers Victoria blog这个博客上我的精短小诗的形式,跟人们分享了我关于数码诗的一些想法。那么,诗歌对我来说意味着什么呢?它意味着






伊沙,中国当代著名诗人、作家。 1966年生于四川成都。1989年毕业于北京师范大学中文系。现于西安外国语大学中文学院任教。出版著、译、编60余部作品。获美国亨利·鲁斯基金会中文诗歌奖金及中国国内数十项诗歌奖项。曾应邀出席瑞典第16届奈舍国际诗歌节、荷兰第38届鹿特丹国际诗歌节、英国第20届奥尔德堡国际诗歌节、马其顿第50届斯特鲁加国际诗歌节、中国第二、三、四届青海湖国际诗歌节、第二届澳门文学节等国际交流活动。2011年4月,我应中国四大网站之一——网易读书频道的邀请,开设了《新世纪诗典》微专栏,每天向读者推荐一首优秀的中文现代诗,三年零五个月来,一日无空,迄今已经推荐了1234首,出自545位当代中文诗人之手,每天有少则几万多则数十万的读者围观,是目前中文世界中最有公众影响力与专业权威性的诗歌平台,由此结集出版的纸质诗集《新世纪诗典(第一季)》、《新世纪诗典(第二季)》发行数万册,成为新世纪以来最为畅销的中文诗集。 Yi Sha, well-known contemporary Chinese poet and writer, was born in Chengdu, Sichuan, in 1966, and graduated from the Chinese Department, Beijing Normal University in 1989. He is now teaching in the School of Chinese Literature, Xi’an Foreign Languages University. To date, he has published over 60 books, written, translated or edited and won a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in the USA and more than a dozen poetry awards in China. He was invited participate in a number of international exchange activities, such as the 16th International Poetry Festival in Sweden, the 38th Rotterdam International Poetry Festival in the Netherlands, the 20th Aldeburgh International Poetry Festival, the 50th Struga International Poetry Festival in Macedonia, the Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival in China (the 2nd, the 3rd and the 4th), and the 2nd Macau Literary Festival.In April, 2011, Yi Sha, at the invitation of the dushu pindao (Reading Channel) at Wangyi, one of the four large internet sites in China, started running a micro-column, known as ‘Poetry Classics in the New Century’, recommending a good modern Chinese poem to the readers on a daily basis. For five months and three years, not a day goes by without one poem being recommended and, at the time of writing, 1234 poems, by 545 Chinese-language poets, have been recommended, with daily readers numbering in the tens of thousands at the minimum and in the hundreds of thousands at the maximum, it having now become a platform of professional authority for poetry with a major influence on the public in the Chinese-speaking world. Two books have resulted from this, Poetry Classics in the New Century (Vol., I) and Poetry Classics in the New Century (Vol., II), with tens of thousands of copies published, becoming the best-selling Chinese-language poetry collections since the beginning of the new century.
What do you think is the difference between online poetry and traditional poetry?
New technologies have taken poetry off the page and into people’s Facebook feeds. Whether surfing blogs or websites, or scrolling through social media, non-traditional poetry audiences can stumble across a poem almost by accident. Someone who may never have dreamed of picking up a poetry book can now find and enjoy a bite-sized poem that could change the way they think about words or the world.The number of ways they find and read that poem have changed too. From tankas to TXT SPK, to visual poetry and quoted memes, or videos, audio files and more. Poetry is everywhere (and is now much more easy to find).Twitter may not have the best reputation. But if you take the time to look past the boring and banal, you can find beauty, creativity and an amazingly active online community.Twitter’s 140 character limit makes it perfect home for short-form poetry. But it’s not only about the word-count that brings Twitter its thriving #poetry community. Some people use it to publish full poems, while others link to longer poems on their websites or share quotes from poems they like. Some write in specific forms (like #haiku), some write very short stories (#vss), and some use Twitter to send out a daily #poetryprompt for other people to respond to. There are thousands of poets writing from all sorts of places in all sorts of styles. And thousands more on Facebook, or Pinterest, or Weibo. 新技术把诗歌从纸页上移除,进入“脸书”,成为人们的“饲料”。无论是在博客或网站冲浪,还是滑动着穿过社交媒体,非传统的诗歌观众总是能够碰巧撞上一首诗。一个连做梦都想不会想到拿起一本诗集来看的人,却可能找到一首只占很小比特量的诗,改变他们对文字或世界的看法。他们寻找并阅读那首诗的方式也发生了改变。从短歌到TXT SPK(即聊天室语言—译者注),到视觉诗歌和引用视讯,或音频文档以及其他,诗歌到处都是(而且现在容易找得多)。推特的名声可能不是最佳。但是,如果你花点时间,略过无聊和平庸之作不看的话,你就能找到美、创意和一个极为活跃的网上社区。推特的140个字符限制,使之成为短形式诗歌完美无缺之家,但推特这个欣欣向荣的#诗歌社区的产生,并不是受限文字带来的。有些人用推特发表整首诗歌,而其他人则把它用作链接,通向他们的网站或分享他们喜欢的诗歌引文。有些人以特定的形式写作(如#haiku),有些人写作很短的故事(#vss),还有些人用推特每天发送诗歌(#poetryprompt),让别的人来回应。现有成千上万的诗人以各种各样的风格在各地写作。还有更多的人在Facebook、Pinterest或微博上写作。
新世纪初,当网络兴起的初期,我对“网络诗歌”的提法是比较抗拒的,我认为网络只是一个传播工具,是个载体而已,“网络诗歌”不该另有标准,它必须遵循诗歌的艺术原则。如今,十多年过去了,我们回头看,我必须承认,网络的存在还是多少改变了诗歌的发展走势及其特点,比如说,因为网上的交流是作者与读者“面对面”的,在网上发布的诗歌必须具有被阅读的可能性,于是晦涩之作便很难收到欢迎,诗歌变得更直接更易懂了,最好当场就有一个很明显的阅读效果……我编选并推荐《新诗典》时,也顺从了这个大势所趋。对于中国诗歌固步自封的传统而言,我认为这是一个很好的颠覆与改造。 In the beginning of this new century when the internet was on the rise, I was resistant to the so-called ‘internet poetry’ as I thought that the internet was only a tool for communications, a mere carrier, and that there shouldn’t be other standards for the ‘internet poetry’ than the fact that it ought to also follow the artistic principals of poetry. A decade on, when we look back, I must admit that the existence of the internet has somehow changed the trends and characteristics of poetry in its development. For example, because the exchange on the net between the writers and the readers are ‘face to face’, poetry as published on the net must have the possibility of being read, which means that it’ll be hard for the obscure writings to be welcomed and that poetry has become more direct and easier to understand, the best it would be when there is an obvious reading effect in-situ….When I edited and made recommendations for Poetry Classics in the New Century I followed this trend. I think this is an excellent subversion against and reform on the complacent tradition of Chinese poetry.
What do you think are the benefits of posting and reading a piece every day for writers and readers?
It’s made me a better writer, and a better reader too.Posting your work online is a great way to get feedback on your writing. When I started sending out my daily poems, I had an audience of about four people. But I joined in conversations, started using hashtags, built up a body of work and a reputation for not tweeting about my lunches. The number of people following me began to grow, and when they began to retweet and favourite my poems, I knew which ones were working well and which were not as strong.The practice of writing every day helped me push past my inner editor and hone my ability to write short-form poems at pace. Twitter forces its users to be brief. This works well for poetry because it means I have to think about every single word. Committing to churning out a poem every day also helped me get over my own excuses of being “too busy” or “too tired” to write. Now, nearly 5,000 people read my poems every day (and I often find it harder to write anything more than 140 characters long).Building up an online portfolio has led to other opportunities too – publications, performances and interviews, speaking gigs at festivals, and residencies in five different cities (with a trip to Beijing about to be added to that list). It’s led to me being included on a creative writing curriculum at a high-school in Oklahoma and an exhibition of digital poetry in Washington DC, to my poems being scrawled across the Arts Centre Melbourne and even towards me starting to get paid for being a poet from last year. 这使我成为一名更好的作家,也使我成为一名更好的读者。在网上贴出你的作品,是一种很棒的方式,能够得到人们对你作品的反馈。我开始把我每日的诗歌发送出去时,我的观众约为四人。但是,我参加到谈话中区,开始使用hashtags,打造了一批作品并获得了不爱把午餐琐事放在推特上的好名声。追随我的人数开始增加,他们开始转发并喜欢我的诗歌时,我就知道,哪些诗歌有力,那些还不够强大。每天从事写作实践,有助于我无视内心那个编辑,磨练我按一定速度写作短形式诗歌的能力。推特逼着用户用语精炼,这对诗歌来说很好,因为这意味着我用每个字都要好好想想。致力于每天都写诗,也有助于我克服自己“太忙”或“太累”而没法写的这类托词。现在,每天几乎有5000人看我的诗(而且,我经常发现,要写长度超过140个字符很困难。)在网上打造一个“投资组合”,也创造了很多商机—作品发表、出场演出、接受访谈、出席节庆活动,发表演讲、在五座城市当驻市作家(这张清单上就要加上北京了)。我还因此而进入了俄克拉荷马州一所中学的创意写作课程并在华盛顿特区做了一次数码诗歌展览,我的诗歌还写满了墨尔本艺术中心,我甚至还从去年起,能靠当诗人赚钱了。
美国大诗人埃兹拉·庞德曾经说起经常发表诗歌对于诗人的好处,这会令诗人处于一种正常的专业、行业状态,是一种积极的良性刺激(除非你自己异化了,把发表当做目的);对于读者而言——如果他们是经常阅读诗歌的读者,至少在我的国家里,他们几乎是品位最高的一类读者,他们一定是最有诗意、最有美感、最有智慧、最有追求的一类读者。 The great American poet Ezra Pound talked about the benefit for the poet of getting frequently published as it would keep the poet stay normally and professionally fit, an active stimulus (unless you have alienated yourself for the purpose of being published). For the readers, if they are frequent readers of poetry, at least in my country, they are ones at the highest level, the most poetic, the most aesthetic and the most intelligent readers, in hottest pursuit of poetry.
How do online readers influence online poets and writers?
As my online audience grew, some readers began to write to me directly – sometimes with feedback and sometimes with suggestions for a different word or rhyme. Thanks to the proliferation of digital writing, readers are less passive and more interested in using technologies to engage in different and creative ways. I will regularly receive a #replypoem to something I publish on Twitter – creative a real-time written collaboration between two writers who may have never met. It never fails to make me smile. 随着我网上观众的增加,有些读者直接给我写信了—有时候给我反馈,有时候对某个字或某个韵脚提出建议。由于数码写作的增殖,读者不再那么消极,而是更有兴趣使用技术,参与各种不同的创意活动。我只要在推特上发表什么,我就会经常在#replypoem收到回应—这是两个从未谋面的作家进行的创意而又实时的协作,总是让我一想起来脸上就浮起微笑。
我们必须正视这个现实——就是我在前面提及的网络时代作者与读者“面对面”的现实——这是传统作家从未遇到过的现实,读者的现场反映对作者毫无影响几乎是不可能的——你感觉没有,是因为它发生在潜意识里,你感觉不到。老实说,当我经历了第一部大长篇《迷乱》在中国的出版社50次以上以艺术与商业之外的原因遭到拒绝之后,我之后的长篇在某些地方就不敢写了,笔就变软了——可见作品的遭际会对你的写作产生影响,我们所能做的只是尽可能不接受负面的影响,或者将负面的影响降低到最低限度,把正面的好影响发扬光大。 We have to face this reality—the ‘face to face’ reality that I mentioned in which writers of an internet age have to meet with the readers—that traditional writers have never encountered. It is impossible that in-situ reader responses have no impact on the writers. You feel as if it didn’t happen because you don’t feel it as it happens in your sub-consciousness. To be honest, when my big novel, Possessed (mi luan) was rejected for over 50 times by publishers in China for artistic and commercial reasons, there are places in my subsequent novels that I dare not write as my pen, as it were, becomes softened. It can be seen from here that the experience of what a novel encounters in its submission and rejection does have an impact on your writing. All we can do is reject the negative impact as much as possible or minimize it to allow a full play to the positive impact.

Melbourne / Xi’an, 21/08/14. Translated by Ouyang Yu, 22/8/14, at Kingsbury, Victoria, Australia.

Who’s your favourite Beijing writer? Lao She, and his insightful observations of life among the Hutongs, from theatrical ambitions to family tensions? Wang Shuo. and his dystopian exploration of the Beijing underworld? Or Feng Tang and his chronicles of dispassionate Beijing youth?

Beijing concert

On Saturday 23, 2h30pm, come to ACMI – The Cube, and discover Beijing through the eyes of Melbourne writer and Marco Polo Festival director Julien Leyre, and 南方都市报 cultural analyst and senior Beijing correspondent Zhang Tianpan. This imaginary journey through the Chinese capital will be facilitated by writer Nic Low, as part of a Melbourne Writers Festival series called ‘City to City‘ – and as part of the Marco Polo Festival.

We wish to particularly thank Chin Communication for sponsoring this session!


Nervous cat‘ was developed in Nanjing over three days, and played over 10 million times. Prison guards developed an industry forcing prisoners to play World of Warcraft all day to ‘train up’ characters. One of China’s most popular Online Game, ‘Legend of Three Kingdoms‘, was inspired by a literary classic.


On Tuesday 26, 4pm, the Marco Polo Festival organises a session about ‘Gaming Culture’ in Australia and China, as part of an evening on ‘The Creative in Translation’ – come and explore the fascinating world of video games in Australia and china.

Signal Space, Northbank, Flinders Walk (between Flinders st station tracks and the Yarra river), Melbourne.

From August 23 to 27, Jiamin Zhao, co-founder of Yeeyan, will be visiting Melbourne as part of the Marco Polo Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival. Yeeyan started in 2006 as a simple community translation platform, bringing news articles from Western media to Chinese readers. Eight years down the track, it has developed a complex and robust crowd-sourcing model that involves a very large community – over 500,000 registered users now – in an organised process to bring diverse works in foreign language into Mandarin.

“Yes! I’m excited to come to Australia,” says Jiamin. “It’s completely new to me. I went to America, I went to Europe, but had never been in Australia before. And it’s not connected to any other continents. There must be something unique, something you can only find here, not only the species of animals, but also culture and traditions.”

On August 23, 4pm, at the Wheeler Centre Workshop space, Jiamin will talk about ‘The Third Culture‘. “The term is borrowed from John Brockman, and describes the intersection of humanity and science. It’s still a narrow field for readers, but the trend is already there. Technology is changing the culture, is changing how people write, read and think. That’s what I would suggest to talk more about.”

Following this session, he’s inviting Australian authors to meet him, and discuss the potential for translating their work into Chinese. Science fiction, children’s book, travel guides, maybe poems, would probably appeal to a Chinese readership – but Jiamin is mostly looking to discover our unique culture and perspective on the world: like many, he says he knows little for the moment about Australian writing. “I need to learn about it. That’s one of the reasons that I am coming.”

How can Yeeyan contribute to Australian literature? “Hah, this is something new, something valuable that we can bring to Australia. Let me use the example of Yeeyan’s Gutenberg Project. In two years, our community has translated and published – electronically – more than 200 books in public domain. With only two in-house editors, we have about 300 community editors and more than 15 thousand community translators involved in the project. We have developed a whole online collaboration process, starting from recommending titles, to recruiting editors and translators, to collaborative translation, to cross-proofreading and independent quality assurance. This is the so-called crowdsourcing model. With Internet technology and a new organizational structure, I hope Yeeyan can help Australian publishers and writers to quickly promote their works to Chinese readers.”

So – come share your stories with him!

The full program of the Marco Polo Festival is available at

With 1.3 billion people, over 600 million internet users, and a booming economy, China seems ripe for crowd-funding. Whether in the arts, innovation or development, new digital fund-raising models may represent a huge opportunity for Chinese social entrepreneurs and innovators. More generally, the growth of crowd-funding in China may be one facet of a fast-developing collaborative economy.

Did you know that Australia’s own crowd-funding platform Pozible is now entering the Chinese market, with great initial success ? Did you know that Tencent – China’s leading internet company – launched a crowd-funding platform to support social projects, with support from the British Council? Did you know that Yeeyan, China’s largest community translation platform, now counts over 500,000 users, actively translating a large catalogue of magazine article and public domain classics.

What is the present – and future – of these new digital initiatives and communities – and how do Chinese experiences differ from Australian ones? Join Rick Chen and Jiamin Zhao for a conversation about ‘writing online and shaping culture’ at the Pozible Office in Collingwood to find out.

Details and registration here.

Meanwhile – to practice your Mandarin – you can listen to Pozible Founder Rick Chen/陈钢 describe their China strategy here.

In China, poetry is not a marginal genre.

In 2011, Xi’an poet YiSha circulated one poem a day from various online poetry forums on his micro-blogging account. Under the name ‘poems for the new century’, the project attracted over four million readers. The collection was published in book format, and the project has now become ongoing.

On August 28, the Marco Polo Project will invite Yisha to join in conversation with Melbourne’s twitter poet Katie keys – with poet-translator Ouyang Yu acting as a mediator between them – and discuss online reading communities, serial reading through social media, and poetic possibilities of the internet. A rare opportunity to understand poetry from a Chinese and Australian perspective.

Below is a poem from the first year of ‘Poems for the New Century’, translated on the Marco Polo Project. You might also wish to read the foreword to ‘Poems for the New Century’.

Mary’s love

Mary is her English name, director at my friend’s firm,

An exquisite and enchanting face, faint smell of fragrance

Scent of allure but with good taste. Graduated from prestigious university, elegant.

4-inch-heels, upholds her career

Rise above the others. Working like hell, when wining and dining as well.

Downing glass after glass with no paling face, or force it all out in the toilet once drunk

On she drinks. Until the opponent

Shows sign of weakness. One deal after another, closed right from there.

I admit that I’m drawn to her a little.

Once after drinking, I said to her boss with twisted tongue.

My friend, you’re so blessed to have such a great employee.

Such a beauty, making money for you.

More than an employee of mine, my friend said laughing.

She has been my secret lover, behind her husband’s back.

I can fuck her anytime I want.

Just imagine, such a beauty, working her ass off.

fucks like a bunny, never demands a pay raise,

isn’t it too good to be true?

I was stunned and asked, “how did you make that happen?”

My friend smiled wryly, “no big deal. I just tell her time and again,

‘I love you,’ and she actually believes it.”

In June 2014, we ran a series of collaborative translation events in China and in the UK. Our events invite small bilingual groups to translate a text English to Chinese or Chinese to English, and are organised on a competitive basis, with two kinds of prizes – one for speed, and one for quality. We announce a winner for the most characters translated on the spot, but quality takes more time to judge.

In Leeds, we worked in partnership with the Leeds University centre for translation. This time, the winner was a group translating from English into Chinese, for their beautiful rendition of a text by Professor Sherman young on the electronic future of books, called ‘The Living Dead’. Here is what our judges have to say: “This is a very impressive translation starting from the title – ‘不朽之书’ ! It can be sensed from the translation that a good understanding of the original article and a skilled transfer are between English and Chinese – both in the word choosing and structure modification. The use of Chinese words is rich and appropriate, which is a perfect example of localization.”

Read the original first paragraph below, follow by its Mandarin translation. The full original text is accessible here.

Five years is an eternity in the digital age. The Book is Dead was published in 2007 (and written in 2006) so it’s no surprise that the book world is now dramatically different. Back then, suggesting that the future of books was electronic was pretty provocative. Luckily for me, things unfolded pretty much as I’d expected (or hoped!) While printed books are obviously still around, it’s clear that the momentum in publishing (whether it be books, magazines or newspapers) has shifted from paper to screens. Amazon now sells more electronic books than printed ones and almost all the things we used to read on dead trees — from The New York Times to Ulysses — have migrated to an electronic format. The entire book industry from publishers, through booksellers to readers and writers is in the midst of enormous upheaval – mostly to do with how they might survive in the brave new digital world. Yes, some doomsayers continue to cling grimly to old leather bound editions and scare young children with their gloom, but I think we’ve reached the tipping point, and ebooks are fast becoming normal.


Sina is China’s largest blogging platform, hosting the blogs of many Chinese celebrities and intellectuals – the same company runs the microblogging platform weibo. Some of the pieces we source from aggregators My1510 and Consensus Networks are originally published on Sina. We occasionally find pieces on individual Sina blogs – and more regularly republish the works of sociologist Li Yinhe, focusing on gender issues, and of Taiwanese writer Wu Danru, which focus on women’s issues.

Youqu Xinwen gathers odd news from around the world – including China – to entertain its readers in short snippets. Outrageous wedding proposals, over-the-top grand-parents, bizarre encounters on the metro: you’ll find them all at Youqu Xinwen. Most of the texts in ‘Mansi’s column’ come from this source. They are typically short, easy to read and translate, and entertaining. Have fun!