In 2016, award-winning Hungarian British poet George Szirtes and Indian American poet Ravi Shankar spent a month in China on a residency at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou. Traveling to the scenic spot of Yangshou, located along the Li River in the Southeast of Guilin Province and with views of the spectacular karst mountains all around, the two poets wrote this collaborative poem that delved into some of the conundrums and sublimity of life in contemporary China.
Pushcart-prize winning author Ravi Shankar is the author/editor of 13 books, including The Many Uses of Mint: New and Selected Poetry from 1998-2018 (Recent Works Press). He currently holds a research fellowship from The University of Sydney.
George Szirtes has published some sixteen books of poems since his first, The Slant Door, in 1979. Reel (2004) won the T S Eliot Prize for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Mapping the Delta. (2016). His previous publication with Eyewear was Notes on the Inner City (2015).
A thrill to see the representation of China in this pamphlet moving beyond its conventional treatment in most contemporary Anglophone poetry, which always reflects, if not also flattens. InA Field Guide to Southern China, you will find enticing poetic lines in section intellectually at play. With the juxtaposition of cultural imageries and references with humour, the poems immediately decay and grow into absurdity and paradoxes. If, as Shankar and Szirtes redefine, “censorship [is] the best words in the best order,” I’m censored, happily, for the first time in life. — Nicholas Wong author of Crevasse, winner of Lambda Literary Award