United Verses

My friend Tom (mentioned once before here) has put together a really cool event which he’s calling “United Verses” (译站 in Chinese). The concept is basically a bilingual poetry reading event. Each Chinese poet will read his poems in Chinese, and then an English-speaking partner poet will read English translations of them. That English-speaking poet will later read his own poems, and his partner poet will read the Chinese translations.

United Verses (译站)

This is a really cool cross-cultural activity, and I applaud Tom for putting it together. It took a lot of work to coordinate translators behind the scenes, because the poets themselves aren’t usually the translators. Additional translators are needed, both native Chinese speakers and native English speakers.

I participated as a translator myself (as did one of my AllSet Learning clients), and I found it a really interesting and rewarding experience. Not only do you get to discuss the meaning behind the poem with the original poet, but then you also get to discuss your translation into English with an English-speaking poet. This isn’t just basic off-the-cuff translation, and the resulting translations are quite solid.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to be at the event myself, because I’ll be out of town. I leave you with a photo of “my poet,” 叶青, a very interesting Shanghainese man, pictured here in his study.

Ye Qing (叶青), poet

Finally, the event details in plain text:

> United Verses (译站)

> July 23rd, Saturday 7pm (event starts around 8pm, but seats are limited)

> at Anar: 129 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu (幸福路129号,近法华镇路)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Love Anar… we’re so spoiled 😉

  2. This is a fabulous idea. As a creative writing type, I’m particularly interested in these kind of cross-linguistic literary goings-on. Are there any plans to publish side-by-side versions of the poems, either online or in paper form? I’d love to see them if so.

  3. Very very interesting project. I would buy the book (if it was in parallel).


  4. I’d love to see the poem you worked on (and of course your translation) if the poet is okay with you posting it.

  5. Hi John – great blog post – i think the personal interactions that the project prompted were amazing. Did you make it down to the event itself? If you want a little taster I made this short film of my interactions with a fantastic chinese poet called Zhou Haiming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY2C9VTxL0A

    For one of his poems in full see: http://penpaperpause.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/the-city-earth/

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