Discussion Group: Translating Otherness and the Remaking of Poetic Language in Contemporary Anglophone Chinese Diaspora Poetry

As David Morley argues in Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity, ‘traditional ideas of home, homeland, and nation have been destabilised, both by new patterns of physical mobility and migration and by new communication technologies, which routinely transgress the symbolic boundaries’. This is more acutely felt for migrant families, individuals and writers who inhabit a more diasporic 'elsewhere', shifting constantly between languages and cultures that they inherit, and those that they later acquire or embrace as a new dimension of home.  As the diasporic individual shares affinity with a real or imagined community in terms of their origin, rituals, cultural practices, values and/or experiences in border-crossing. At the same time, there is to some extent the untranslatable specificity of one's own diasporic journey. On a linguistic level, Agnes Heller’s powerful description of home as a place where ‘no footnotes are needed’ sheds light on the idea of home as a common language. In this seminar, I would like to explore how contemporary Anglophone Chinese diaspora poets negotiate the shifting relationships between notions of home, language(s) and cultural identity in their work. By looking at the inventive ways in which contemporary multilingual poets 'translate' and remake poetic language, one can also delve into the rich and complex translingual meanings. I will discuss the emerging ways for a reader to read and interpret the 'otherness' in poetic language and how to reach for the authenticity of the text.


Jennifer Wong was born and raised in Hong Kong. Jennifer is the author of three poetry collections including Letters Home (Nine Arches Press), a PBS Wild Card Choice. Her monograph, Identity, Home and Writing Elsewhere: Contemporary Chinese Diaspora Poetry was published by Bloomsbury in 2023. Her other publications include Where Else: An International Hong Kong Poetry Anthology (Verve, 2023) co-edited with Jason Lee and Tim Tim Cheng, and State of Play: Poets of East and Southeast Asian Heritage in Conversation (Outspoken, October 2023) co-edited with Eddie Tay. She is working on her next collection.