Meet the 2020 Mentees: May Huang

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is nine months. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in this timeframe, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s poetry from Hong Kong mentee, May Huang, who will be mentored by Jennifer Feeley:

May HuangMay Huang is a writer from Hong Kong. Born in Taiwan and based in Chicago, she translates prose and poetry from the Chinese. She graduated from the University of Chicago with honors in English and Comparative Literature last June, and is a member of the Third Coast Translator’s Collective, a community of translators primarily based in the Chicagoland area. She is thrilled to attend ALTA for the second time this November as a mentee of the Emerging Translators Program!

May was introduced to literary translation in 2017, when she enrolled in a prose translation workshop taught by Annie Janusch through her university’s Program in Creative Writing (coincidentally, May now works as the program’s Student Affairs Administrator). Since then, she has been lucky enough to study with Jason Grunebaum, Haun Saussy, Jennifer Scappettone, and Lynn Xu. Her thesis, which was awarded the Janel Mueller Undergraduate Thesis Prize, explores the ways in which poetry and translation shape urban life in Hong Kong and Chicago.

May’s interest in the poetics of place has always been a driving force behind the poems that she reads, writes, and translates. Her poems about Hong Kong have appeared in journals such as Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and The Kindling Journal, and her reviews of Hong Kong poetry have been published in the Hong Kong Review of Books. The first translation she published, titled “Chicago” and published in Brooklyn Rail’s InTranslation, came from a suite of city poems by the Taiwanese poet Ya Hsien. May’s translation of the short story “How the Best Masters Died” by Ma Xiaoquan is forthcoming in the Wuxia issue of Pathlight Magazine.

Over the course of the ALTA mentorship program, May intends to translate a book-length manuscript of poems by the Hong Kong poet Chung Kwok-keung (鐘國強). A prolific poet, essayist, critic, and translator, Chung has been writing poetry for over two decades and is the recipient of numerous Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, among other accolades. His poems navigate the personal and political to portray the city’s different dimensions; through his work, one understands more about what it means to work, eat, live, love, and protest in Hong Kong. For May, translating Hong Kong literature is not only about advocating for the city’s culture, but also about better understanding its past, present, and possibilities. When translating Chung’s work, May feels connected to and endlessly inspired by Hong Kong—a city she is proud to consider home. May’s translations of Chung’s poems have appeared in Exchanges and more recently in Asymptote, in an essay on protest poetry that went viral on Twitter.

May is thrilled to be mentored by Jennifer Feeley, whose translation of Xi Xi’s work was one of the first examples of Hong Kong poetry in translation that she encountered. Now is a crucial time for Hong Kong literature to reach an international audience, and May is grateful to ALTA for supporting Hong Kong voices through its mentorship program.

This mentorship is being offered by ALTA in partnership with the Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation.

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