Yu Yan Chen is a poet and literary translator. Her poems and literary translations have appeared in the US, UK and China. Her first collection of original poetry, Small Hours, was published by New York Quarterly Books in 2011. Her translation of The Chief Cellist, a children’s book by Taiwanese author Wang Wenhua, was published by Balestier Press. She currently resides in Singapore.
Zheng Xiaoqiong (郑小琼) was born in rural Sichuan in 1980 and moved to Dongguan City in southern Guangdong Province as a migrant worker in 2001. She is the author of eleven collections of poetry, including Women Migrant Workers, Huang Maling, The Rose Manor, Selected Poems by Zheng Xiaoqiong, Pure Plants, and Pedestrian Overpass. Women Migrant Workers (2012) has been hailed as “the first symphonic verse on women, work and capital in the history of Chinese poetry.” Her works have garnered numerous accolades including China’s Avant-garde Poetry Prize, 2006, People’s Literature Award, Zhuang Zhong Literary Award; the In-Presence Cutting-Edge Prose Award, and the Lu Xun Literary Award, among others. Some of her poems have been translated into German, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Turkish. Her poems in Women Migrant Workers have also been set to music by American and German musicians and performed in a number of countries.
What flows on the assembly line is streams of people
From the east or the west, standing or sitting, in blue uniforms and white caps.
With names of A234, A967, and Q36, only their fingers go to work…
Some insert themselves to put on springs and screws.
They drift in and out of the constant flows of people and products
Like fishes, they pull customer orders, profits and the GDP
day and night. While their youth, vision, and dream
push the prosperity of the industrial age forward.
Amidst the factory noises, they carry a lonely existence.
Men and women flow into each other, but remain strangers.
They are constantly choked at the deep end. Only glues, screws,
nails, plastics, coughing lungs, and sickened bodies float on top.
The assembly line never stops tightening the valves of the city and the fate
Look at these yellow switches, red threads and grey products, the fifth carton
loaded with plastic lamps and Christmas cards, youth, Li Bai,
love that boils and cools. It recites quietly – oh, wanderlust!
Within its tiny confine, I catch a glimpse of the movable fate
and scribble down some poetry of industrial age in the southern city.
Pain is wearing out the clothes flickering in the light
as the dimly lit train roars across the dark night.
Our doors are open, towards the unspeakable years,
while the river rushes to a deeper source of our origins.
Light drifts in from every direction like snow. You read the old news
and the new tales in the papers, those published, distant happiness.
All alone, I plow through the snow, on the road to resentment,
when a tree falls down diagonally near me.
This is the strange land, the end of the year, I am taking a stroll,
searching for my lines and tone on the go.
(Reprinted with permission from the author)