Yang Lian was one of the original Misty Poets who reacted against the strictures of the Cultural Revolution. Born in Switzerland, the son of a diplomat, he grew up in Beijing and began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return he joined the influential literary magazine Jintian (Today). His work was criticized in China in 1983 and formally banned in 1989 when he organized memorial services for the dead of Tiananmen while in New Zealand. He was a Chinese poet in exile from 1989 to 1995, finally settling in London in 1997, also living for some periods in Berlin. Translations of his poetry include five collections with Bloodaxe, Where the Sea Stands Still (1999), Concentric Circles (2005), Lee Valley Poems (2009), Narrative Poem (2017) and A Tower Built Downwards (2023), as well as his long poem Yi (Green Integer, USA, 2002), Anniversary Snow (Shearsman, 2019), and Riding Pisces: Poems from Five Collections (Shearsman, 2008), a compilation of earlier work. He is co-editor with W.N. Herbert of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), and was awarded the International Nonino Prize in 2012. Both Where the Sea Stands Still and Narrative Poem are Poetry Book Society Recommended Translations.
His translator, Brian Holton, was born in Galashiels in the Scottish Border country but grew up partly in Nigeria. After being educated in Greek, French and Latin, he studied Chinese at the universities of Edinburgh and Durham and was the first Programme Director of the Chinese-English/English-Chinese translation programme at Newcastle University. He taught translation for ten years at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and in 1992 he began a continuing working relationship with the poet Yang Lian, which has so far resulted in a dozen books of translated poetry, including Where the Sea Stands Still (Bloodaxe Books, 1999), a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation, Concentric Circles (with Agnes Hung-Chong Chan) (Bloodaxe Books, 2005), Lee Valley Poems (with Agnes Hung-Chong Chan and seven poets) (Bloodaxe Books, 2009), Narrative Poem (Bloodaxe Books, 2017), Anniversary Snow (Shearsman Books, 2019) and A Tower Built Downwards (Bloodaxe Books, 2023). He is the lead translator and associate editor of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2012). He also translates into Scots and is the only currently-publishing Chinese- Scots translator in the world. His latest Chinese-Scots translations are Hard Roads an Cauld Hairst Winds: Li Bai and Du Fu in Scots (Taproot Press, 2022) and Aa Cled Wi Clouds She Cam: Saxty Sang Lyrics (Irish Pages, 2022).