Sidetracks by Bei Dao, Translated by Jeffrey Yang: Carcanet Online Book Launch

  • DATE

    10 July 2024

  • TIME

    7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome



Please join us to celebrate the launch of Sidetracks by Bei Dao, translated by Jeffrey Yang. The reading will be hosted by Will Harris. The event will feature readings and discussion, and audience members will have the opportunity to ask their own questions. We will show the text during readings so that you can read along.

Registration for this online event will cost £2, redeemable against the cost of the book. You will receive the discount code and instructions for how to purchase the book in your confirmation email as well as during and after the event.

Sidetracks, Bei Dao’s first new collection in fifteen years, is also his first long poem and undoubtedly his magnum opus – the artistic culmination of a lifetime devoted to the renewal and reinvention of language. ‘As a poet, I am always lost,’ he once declared. Opening Sidetracks with a prologue of heavenly questions and following on with thirty-four cantos, the poem travels forward and backward along the divergent paths of the poet’s wandering life. From his time as a Young Pioneer in Beijing, the poem roves through the years of exile living in six countries, back to the rural construction site where he worked during the Cultural Revolution, to the ‘sunshine tablecloth’ in his kitchen in Davis, California and his emotional visit home after a thirteen-year separation (‘the mother tongue has deepened my foreignness’). The various currents of our times rush into his lifelines, reconfigured through the ‘vortex of experience and the poet’s encounters with friends, strangers, and with other artists living and dead. He moves from place to place unable to return home. As the poet Michael Palmer noted, ‘Bei Dao’s work, in its rapid transitions, abrupt juxtapositions and frequent recurrence to open syntax evokes the un-speakability of the exile’s condition. It is a poetry of explosive convergences, of submersions and unfixed boundaries, ‘amid languages.’

About the speakers:

Jeffrey Yang is the author of the poetry books Line and Light; Hey, Marfa; Vanishing-Line; and An Aquarium. He is the translator of Bei Dao’s autobiography City Gate, Open Up; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo’s June Fourth Elegies; Ahmatjan Osman’s Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile; Su Shi’s East Slope; and an anthology of classical Chinese poems, Rhythm 226. He is the editor at large at New Directions Publishing.
custom photo of speaker

Will Harris is a London-based writer. He is the author of the poetry books RENDANG (2020) and Brother Poem (2023), both published by Granta in the UK and Wesleyan University Press in the US, and the essay Mixed-Race Superman (Peninsula Press) which came out in 2018. He has won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. He co-translated Habib Tengour’s Consolatio (Poetry Translation Centre) with Delaina Haslam in 2022, and helps facilitate the Southbank New Poets Collective with Vanessa Kisuule. Siblings, a conversation between Jay Bernard, Mary Jean Chan, Will Harris and Nisha Ramayya, was published by Monitor Books in February 2024.