On July 28, our Singapore lead Ting Wei Tai organised a first translation event with Raffles Institution.


Raffles is one of Singapore’s leading High Schools, and we convened eight students from section 3 and 4 of their ‘bicultural program’ to translate contemporary Singaporean and classical Chinese poetry. Discover new voices from the South East Asian metropolis with these four poems: Left, Medical history, Legacy, Waking up at night.


Singapore’s unique mix of languages and cultures – in particular, the strong presence of Mandarin and English – make it a particularly fitting place for our activities, and we look forward to more involvement with local writers, schools and bilinguals!

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)

The Other Tree (by Ian Chung)


Deep in the forest, a clearing.
At its centre, we find a tree.
As we approach this tree, it looks
no different from the others
surrounding the clearing, verdant
and almost obscenely teeming
with life. Most days, the sun beats down
on birds roosting on the branches,
on flowers blooming at the base
of the tree, drawing butterflies.
What an idyllic scene, we think
to ourselves, how picture-perfect.
It would be enough to rest here,
to bask in the sun and birdsong.

So we do that, and our pleasure
is pure and uncomplicated.
Until one day, no different
from the others that we spent here,
we think we hear a sourish note
from the birds. The more we listen,
the more dissonances we find.
Then we catch a glimpse of shadows,
the silhouettes of bare branches.
We circle the tree, attempting
to find proof of this other tree,
but it eludes us, hides behind
its impossibly perfect twin.
It haunts us, always out of reach.


evacuation instructions (by Joshua Ip)


when you decide to go for good
don’t write, don’t leave a note.
instead, open the fridge, take out the coke
and salt it all. add lemon. boil it, even,
until the fizz has quite gone out of it.

then put it back right where you took it from
so it is cold when i get home. i’ll shout a bit,
won’t find you, but instead, flat icy coke,
which will be how i know that you have left.

that first sharp sip of bittersweet surprise
of sour-steeped, flat, fizzles, salty coke
which is also an excellent remedy
for other sundry household illnesses –


Reunion Dinner (by Loh Guan Liang)


Peace sits on the front porch overlooking her garden. A breeze brushes her silver hair and sways the sunflowers. Her dog sits beside her.

“Did they call to say when they’re coming home?” she asks as Hope comes out the door. It still feels like yesterday when Strife and Wisdom each took a handful of sunflower seeds from their mother and went off into the world. Strife traded his seeds for arrowheads, while Wisdom planted half of his and gave the rest to the birds.

Hope rests his hands, calloused with waiting, on Peace’s shoulders. “Don’t worry,” he says. “They struck out on their own because of you, and it’s because of you they will return.”


In the End (by Alvin Pang)
(an epitaph)


the things we love give back
our names. One handed me a
plain stone to carve into something
better. Another returned the long
lost user guide to my left brain.
Someone passed a slip of paper,
my inscrutable handwriting
on one side, and on the other
in bright colours, the words
“I Want It All”. Others brought
flowers – irises, daffodils,
the soft unpeeled heart of a rose.
None of the clothes fit any longer.
I put aside the books I’d read,
and hadn’t read, they took flight
as endless stairs, circling
beyond my years. But I loved
most of all the quiet
Sundays, when fingers of rain
would write themselves
on the clear page of my window,
dying to tell me their stories.


#2 Lovers (by Tania De Rozario) 


It was over when she asked me
to change: not as a person, but out of
the dress that I was wearing. We were
going to lunch: could I please put on

something nice? I knew it was over
not because I fought back but because
I obeyed: I stop fighting once I stop
caring, and once I slipped out

of that dress, I slipped out of her grasp.
The next three months she spent picking
fights, I spent unpicking us. This meant
that when we finally split, the threads

came apart with ease. I went back
to my dress, she went back to dating
people who agree that the clothes
on your body reflect what you embody.

My taste has since improved.


from Leaving: Tutorials on How & When


Homesick (by Grace Chua)


I am standing in the snow
in the middle of the woods.
Somewhere a telephone is ringing –
in a red telephone box
standing in the snow
in the middle of the woods.
The call comes like geese
from a distant place.
Frost clings to the branches
as I make my way
to the telephone box
standing in the snow
in the middle of the woods.
If a telephone rings
in the forest
and there is no one to hear,
is it still ringing?
I pick up the phone.
Winter, she says,
is coming. Are you wearing a coat?



I don’t know if it was before, because
or when he first developed symptoms that
she left him. In any case, his body started
to turn to bone. His neck and shoulders flared
up, hot and red and swollen; then it spread
down his body, back to front, his own
flesh harbouring beneath the surface a coarse,
rebellious, calcifying mass that slowly
became new bone, following the same
process of skeleton formation in
an embryo. His bruises healed as bone,
his joints grew uselessly sealed. Surgeons said
more bone would grow if they were to operate.
He was seen by specialists and famed professors;
none could tender a solution, as
there was no cure; he had a strange disorder
caused by one gene broken. So he grew
more vertebrate, more blasé and more mature,
some say unfeeling also, like a stone;
but that was wrong: he felt, although he made
no bones about what life had dealt him. He
had none to remonstrate with; his DNA
had spoken, other people merely cut
him to the bone with words like knives. Years passed
that stretched out prone inside a nutshell, like
a richness of unknown longings and fears.
He could hardly move, his urgency
diminished, and his only consolation
came in needing none, accepting his fate,
not shelling out blame for having to become
a Gregor with an exoskeleton;
and in that same dwelling without desolation,
as his parents rallied round their son,
I do believe he found a perfect love.

Author’s note: The poem is based on a rare, real-life disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. 

Reprinted with the author’s permission, the slightly revised poem is from The Enclosure of Love, Landmark Books, Singapore.