Isabella Wang and Yilin Wang

Episode 44: A Conversation between Yilin Wang and Isabella Wang

Dec 15, 2022

In this interview, Yilin Wang and Isabella Wang explore the nuances of languages as practices. They discuss their latest works and how they are managing during the pandemic. They also explore their paths relating to languages through their experiences involving immigration, translation, poetic study, and more. Along the way, they share their interest in the different forms of Ghazal and a kind of women’s script (Nüshu). They conclude with a few fantastic book recommendations, and plans for the future. 


Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, poet, Chinese-English translator, and editor. Her writing and translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, POETRY, Guernica, The Common, The Malahat Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Star, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry translation chapbook, The Lantern and the Night Moths, which features five modern and contemporary Chinese poets in translation, won the Tafseer Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming with Collusion Books in October 2022. Yilin has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

Isabella Wang is the author of the chapbook, On Forgetting a Language, and her full-length debut, Pebble Swing, currently shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Among other recognitions, she has been shortlisted for Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest, The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Contest and Long Poem Contest, and was the youngest writer to be shortlisted twice for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over thirty literary journals and three anthologies. She is completing a double-major in English and World Literature at SFU. She is also a youth mentor with Vancouver Poetry House, and an Editor at Room magazine.

Show Notes

4:30 Setting up the context of this conversation

5:15 Yilin and Isabella reflect on past conversations and Isabella’s first poetry collection, Pebble Swing, and the experience of launching books during COVID/reader responses

9:00 Discussing a shared interest in translations

9:26 Yilin’s road to translations via MFA program at University of British Colombia

11:25 Isabella’s approach to considering languages in poetry and shared experiences relating to immigration and translation

13:00 Language loss and English in Pebble Swing

15:25 Yilin’s research into an “women’s language”/”women’s script” (Nüshu)

16:10 Amy Tan’s essay “Mother Tongue” and the complicated relationship “mother tongue” and the pressure to speak “perfect English”

17:55 Yilin’s immigration and language journey—going to North America, returning to China, and relearning Chinese and English

19:30 Thinking outside of Western writing traditions and language as a practice

20:00 Isabella’s experience with Farsi and the Ghazal

21:15 The story of Ghazal and the various types of subversion, especially writing focusing on the perspective of women

25:42 How Nüshu characters were different from Chinese characters (Hanzi), and how the script was passed down matrilineally. 

26:40 The practice of burning women’s writing after they pass away to preserve their privacy.

29:45 Discussing the difference between logographic Chinese and the phonetic Nüshu

30:52 Nüshu script being quite curvy and the myth of how the language originated through embroidery

32:00 New project: feeding cats!

32:15 Applying for graduate school

33:24 Isabella is working on two new poetry manuscripts and a novel!

34:10 Situating creative practice within academic work

36:10 Dogs at the Perimeter by ​​ Madeleine Thien and her audiobook, Do Not Say We Have Nothing 

37:29 Linda Mora’s Getting Lit with Linda podcast

37:35 Rawi Hage

38:41 Ocean Vuong’s poetry collections Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2017) and Time is a Mother (2022)39:44 Discussion of Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses

41:00 Discussing reading with Larissa Lai

41:17 Discussing Theories of Chinese Fiction by Ming Dong Gu

42:40 Navigating writing and living through the COVID-19 pandemic

TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.

TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Shazia Ramji, Rebecca Geleyn, Mikka Jacobsen, Benjamin Ghan, Amy LeBlanc, Marc Lynch, and Mahmoud Ababneh.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive

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