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One of the most provocative and cosmopolitan poets writing in Chinese today


From the introduction to Fusion Kitsch by Steve Bradbury:


Hsia Yü's frank and innovative treatment of gender and sexuality in a small handful of poems in this collection and in her second collection Ventriloquy (Fuyushu) was seized upon by critics and scholars anxious to find a candidate to fill the long-vacant post of “Chinese feminist poet.” But while Hsia Yü may well have been one of the first woman poets writing in Chinese to have written about love and romance in a manner that broke dramatically from the conventions and constraints of traditional Chinese women's poetry, if we bother to look beyond labels at the poetry itself, we will find a body of work that is far less interested in providing a critique of gender relations or advancing a sexual/textual agenda than in exploring the sensuous and quirky interface between the pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of the text. It is this preoccupation with pleasure that sets Hsia Yü apart from other poets writing in Chinese today; that and the fact that her poetry embodies a fusion of styles and influences—both high and kitsch—with the French influence running perhaps stronger than most.


Among her numerous honors, Hsia Yü was most recently awarded the Taipei City Literature Award for her book Salsa.




The Saw


I visualize you walking on the other side from me
In our scanty understanding of the universe
We propose a simple definition
Which we call “the time difference”
Whenever I feel delicious or defeated
In the watery regions of the night
We author our “form and meter”
Like the cardinal principles
Certain schools of painting have long advanced
Pressing myself against the dark
I continue my contemplation of a kind of saw-tooth-shaped truth

I engage in the contemplation
Of serration
An opened can for instance
My contemplation of the can goes thus:
The opening of a can turns
Upon a kind of saw-tooth-shaped truth

I contemplate but then I sleep
Sleep being an ancient practice
Older than civilization
Older yet than poetry
I sit and puzzle over it for hours
Resolved to not resist it

I contemplate sleep
When like a saw
I drag myself awake

I contemplate the saw



Born in Taiwan but now dividing her time between Paris and Taipei, Hsia Yü makes a living as a song lyricist and translator. She is the author of four volumes of poetry, of which the most recent is Salsa (1999). She first came to prominence in the mid-1980s with the appearance of Beiwanglu, or Memoranda (1983), a self-published collection of poetry whose brassy and iconoclastic tone struck a deeply sympathetic cord in Taiwan's younger readers. Besides her popularity in Taiwan, Bei Ling devoted ten pages of an issue of his journal Tendencies to her poems, and Michelle Yeh and Goeran Malmqvist's anthology of Taiwan poetry, forthcoming from Columbia, will contain translations of 27 of Hsia Yü's poems.


Steve Bradbury translates Chinese literature and teaches American and Children's Literature at National Central University in Chung-Li, Taiwan. His translations have appeared in Manoa, boundary 2, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals.

Fusion Kitsch, by Hsia Yü

  • Fusion Kitsch
    Hsia Yü
    from Chinese by Steve Bradbury
    ISBN 0-939010-64-X (paper)
    7 x 8½
    144 pages

  • Listen to Hsia Yü read “Bringing Her a Basket of Fruit”.

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