Changming Yuan

Changming Yuan's picture
b. 1957
Biography: 

Changming Yuan started to learn the English alphabet in Shanghai at age 19, published monographs on translation, and worked as a college lecturer and administrator before leaving China. An independent tutor and translator with a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver while writing all kinds of poetry, especially sociopolitical, languacultural, nature, reflective, dark and experimental. Credits include seven chapbooks, ten Pushcart nominations, the 2018 Naji Naaman's Literary (Honour) Prize, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry: Tenth Anniversary Edition, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review, and about 1,500 other journals/anthologies across 42 countries.

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

Yes, I did. I loved Guo Xiaochuan’s poetry in particular. 

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I started to write poetry first in Chinese when I was in high school, but I have never thought of myself as a poet; rather, I always call myself a poetry author. For me, “poet” is a noble title associated with those great poetry composers like Li Bai, Su Dongpo, Shakespeare, Keats, Pushkin, Neruda, and Tagore, whose poetic work has stood the test of history well, received much academic attention, or gained wide popularity among ordinary folks. Although I think I have written (and published) quite a lot of good individual poems, none of them belongs to any one of those three cateogories yet. Hence I prefer to use “poet” as an “other reference” rather than a “self-referee,” that is, a term to refer to other poetry authors rather than to myself.    

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

Writing poetry to his/her best abilities. 

If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?: 

I got my inspiration [for “Chinese Chimes: Nine Detours of the Yellow River”] from a Chinese translation of the book titled The God of Small Things. If memory serves me right, it is the description of a small riverlet I happened to read randomly that made me want to emulate it. No matter what, I have never had access to the book since then, nor have I ever tried to read its original English version. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

Probably John Keats’s “When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be” or Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken simply because I like the two the most — they are not only truly lyric and short but also particularly touching and meaninful to me. For instance, I have frequently thought of death since childhood: I fear I “may cease to be” before I can fulfill my life's goal in a minimal way. On the other hand, I often imagine what my life could have been: at each juncture, if i had taken a different road, I would have lived a dramatically different life. Indeed, full of such junctures or choices, including those of friends, schools, the subjects of study, the places to pursue one’s education, the persons to marry and etc., life can always lived in a “double” way. 

Publications: 
Poem title(s): 
Awaiting
Title: 
Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English: Tenth Anniversary Edition
Publisher: 
Tightrope Books
Editors: 
Molly Peacock, Anita Lahey
Date: 
2017
Publication type: 
Anthology
Poem title(s): 
Y
Title: 
Threepenny Review
Publisher: 
Threepenny Review
Editors: 
Wendy Lesser
Date: 
2014
Publication type: 
Periodical/Magazine
Poem title(s): 
Last Single Sale
Title: 
BestNewPoemsOnline
Publisher: 
Best New Poems
Date: 
2011
Publication type: 
Anthology