Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Joy Harjo
Dear Editor,

I was impressed by Marilyn Chin’s translations of Ho Xuan Huong in the April issue. I reveled in the sassy, brilliant wit of this Vietnamese poet. Then I was disturbed to discover a ring of male translators circled around Chin in the July issue, punching, taunting, and kicking her and her translations. Shame. This is plain old ganging-up in any language. It’s nothing new. I’ve seen the same thing in insecure non-native translators and literary critics who claim ownership of any place where they have planted their assertive flags. The commotion isn’t really about quality of translations. Chin has just as much right to translate, perhaps more than anyone involved in this discussion. Essentially, the slam is based on racism and sexism. But Chin has successfully cracked the key and given an ancestral female voice fresh breath.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Originally Published: October 23, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2008

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Biography

Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Native American and Canadian ancestry. Strongly influenced by her Muskogee Creek heritage, feminist and social concerns, and her background in the arts, Harjo frequently incorporates Native American myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her poetry tends to emphasize the Southwest landscape and need for remembrance and transcendence. She once commented, “I feel strongly that . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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