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2021 Northern California Book Award (Translation) Finalist


Wu Sheng has written vivid poems about rural life and the land since the 1960s, when he became one of Taiwan’s most popular poets. His poems are rooted in the soil, imbued with an unshakable affinity for the people who till it, sweat over it, and eventually are buried in it, and serve as his personal response to the industrialization, urbanization and globalization of his vanishing world. He has remained attached to his nativist roots, and the occasional moralizing in his poems, particularly those addressed to children, continues a long literary tradition in China. Many of his poems have the directness of song lyrics, and indeed, many have been set to music in two published sets of cds. Though well-read in modernist and other poetic styles, Wu Sheng developed a style that is ever-linked to his home and its geography.


WU SHENG, born in 1944, is a farmer, teacher, poet, essayist and environmental activist who lives in central Taiwan. He has written more than a dozen volumes of poems and essays, and in 2007, received the Wu Sanlian Literature Award, one of Taiwan’s most prestigious honors. In 2002, he and his wife spent a year exploring and reporting on the social and environmental conditions of Taiwan’s longest river, the Zhuoshui River. He also purchased land near his farm and created a park forested with trees native to Taiwan. Wu Sheng’s work was the first to be digitized for the National Museum of Taiwan Literature’s digital archives, and many of his poems have been set to music.


JOHN BALCOM, PhD., is a translator of Chinese literature, whose previous books for Zephyr Press include Abyss, by Ya Hsien (a finalist for the PEN Poetry in Translation Award), Grass Roots, by Xiang Yang, and Driftwood and Stone Cell, both by Lo Fu. Other recent publications include Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry (contributor), Wintry Night by Li Qiao (co-translator), The City Trilogy by Chang His-kuo, There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night, by Cao Naiqian, and Taiwan’s Indigenous Writers: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems, the last two of which won Northern California Book Awards. He teaches at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014

  • My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014
    Wu Sheng
    Translated from the Chinese by John Balcom

    188 pages | Bilingual (Chinese/English)

    ISBN 978-1-938890-79-6 (paper)

  • “Wu Sheng is profoundly steeped in the world of traditional Taiwanese agricultural society, which he sees as being under threat from excessive globalization… Here is the poet, extremities exposed to the elements, touching the land he loves with his bare feet and feeling the wind on his bare arms.”

    — John Butler, Asian Review of Books (a double review of this book and Ya Shi's Floral Muttertranslated by Nick Admussen)


    "John Balcom’s translation of Wu’s poetry is beautiful. His introduction to the poet’s work is informative and supplies explanations that enables the reader encountering Wu’s poetry for the first time (like me) with a framework to full understanding of his thematic concerns and his development as a poet."

    — David W. Landrum, Cha JournalJuly 23, 2020


    "John Balcom has translated these poems with such care and accuracy, capturing tones and expression whole-heartedly."

    Northern California Book Review for the 2021 Northern California Book Awards

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