WLT Student Translation Prize – Poetry

June 28, 2024
by  Xiao Hai
translated by Lucy Coleman
A black and white photograph showing a close up of a sewing machine at work
bettysphotos / stock.adobe.com

Writing Poetry on the Assembly Line

Sitting in front of the machine in the workshop
Exhaling like the moonlight.
The soldering iron, screwdriver, motor, buzzer, the injection molding machine.
Zippers, plackets, sleeves, collars, sewing machines
Turn into consonants, vowels, monosyllables, disyllables.
Become nouns, verbs, and adjectives
Adverbs, prepositions, exclamations.
Sentences with fixed structure
Confusing subject-verb inversion.
Taking away the smell of rust.
Feeling the winds of the seasons outside the shop window.
Letting the industrial blood and the Tang Dynasty moon
Resurrect together in the marrow deep within the mechanical body.
Rolling on the assembly line
An unending stream of new products with no known destination.

Translation from the Chinese

Editorial note: A special section on Chinese Migrant Workers’ Literature, including two poems by Xiao Hai and Fu Qiuyun’s essay “My Impression of Picun,” appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of WLT.

Xiao Hai (b. 1987) was born in Shangqiu City in Henan Province in China, the hometown of the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi. He has spent many years living in different cities as a migrant worker and composed over five hundred poems. After encountering Picun, an urban village outside of Beijing, he became a member of the Picun Literature Group and won the Best Poet prize at the First Laborers’ Literature Awards.

Lucy Coleman recently earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a minor in Chinese from the University of Oklahoma. She developed a passion for translation in her courses and especially loves the challenge of capturing the essence of Chinese poetry in her work. She plans to attend graduate school while continuing to strengthen skills in translating poetry and prose to further develop expertise in intercultural communication.