Two Languages / One Community

An English/Mandarin Poetry Translation Project
by Michael Warr and Chun Yu

The seeds of our project ”Two Languages / One Community,” began with poet / novelist / scientist / translator Chun Yu translating my poetry into Mandarin. Our collaboration started the day after we met at one of my readings in the Thursdays At Readers Poetry Series organized by San Francisco’s fourth Poet Laureate, Jack Hirschman. Soon Chun and I were exchanging poems, discussing the meaning and connection of our works, and delving deep into the words of both our writing and the \ English to Mandarin / Mandarin to English translation. That initial exchange between two poets morphed into our community-based project “Two Languages / One Community,” so that in addition to the translation of our own writing, we are replicating that experience in neighborhoods, where Blacks and Chinese speakers live and/or work together, by gathering their stories and helping them to tell those stories poetically. We prompt youth and elders to write of their own experiences, engage them in the translation of their own work, and present the aftermath in either printed and/or digital format. Our first funded undertaking is a collaboration with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, generously funded by the Zellerbach Family Foundation, where we will hold workshops drawing on the life stories of seniors from the Black and Chinese speaking community.

Watch the video by Mark Sabb, featuring Michael Warr’s poem My Father’s Favorite Pastime:

Stream an audio clip of “My Father’s Favorite Pastime” recited in Mandarin from the Chinese translation by Chun Yu: