Michelle Yeh

This paper is divided into two parts. Part I gives a brief survey of English translations of modern Chinese poetry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The select translations—their foci and chronology—not only delineate a historic trajectory but also suggest broader geopolitical and sociocultural implications. Part II proposes that we understand “translatability” as “elective affinity.” Borrowed from German letters and science, “elective affinity” is an essential component of translation across cultures, and it is illustrated with two sets of examples: the encounters between classical Chinese poetry and modern American poets, and those between modern Chinese poetry and Anglo-American translators.