John Kinsella translates Ouyang Yu

By November 2021, Ouyang Yu has published 137 books in both English and Chinese in the field of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literary translation and criticism. His second book of English poetry, Songs of the Last Chinese Poet, was shortlisted for the 1999 NSW Premier’s Literary Award. His third novel, The English Class, won the 2011 NSW Premier’s Award, and his translation in Chinese of The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes won the Translation Award from the Australia-China Council in 2014. He won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection in the 2021 Queensland Literary Awards, his bilingual blog at:



Intermingling the waves of sleep
with the bric-a-brac of instructions,

I shift one word via another word
and take a left turn at a left turn

wondering which direction
they want me to take — I refuse,

of course, looking for codes
in the blossoming of transplanted

trees, those uprights of consonants
in the calligraphy I write maps with;

how much eating and shitting
can the room of a vowel take

out of homonyms and the particles
I line up to the appropriate side

of some old old universe — blowing
hot & cold, the stem of a lotus

simply the direction heaven lays down:
atonal tones on an instrument tongue —

seconded people leaving my mouth,
shout outs and tongue twists waking asleep.


John Kinsella’s recent books include the memoir Displaced: A Rural Life (Transit Lounge, 2020), the co-written poetry collection The Weave (with Thurston Moore, UWAP, 2020) and the collection of stories Pushing Back (Transit Lounge, 2021). Vagabond published Supervivid Depastoralism (poems) and Five Islands Press (Apothecary Archive) Saussure’s Kaleidoscope: Graphology Drawing-Poems in 2021. UWAP will bring out the first volume of his collected poems The Ascension of Sheep: Poems 1980-2005 in early 2022. He lives in wheatbelt Western Australia on Ballardong Noongar land.