Shen Haobo, born in 1976, came to fame at the start of the millennium as part of the ‘lower body movement’, and is known for his earthy, visceral work, so a poem about shitting seemed a good place to start. Lonavala is in India, and this is an interesting travel poem that warns of the dangers of reading – how a strong literary voice can affect our experience of place, and lead us into misconceptions.
‘Hobnobbing’ is probably the word here that caused the most debate. Dave Haysom’s literal translation read ‘as if socialising’ – but that didn’t quite work as in the English chatting is socialising (rather than being like socialising). We discovered the original word carried a sense of formal occasion, and the group came up with lots of possible solutions – did the shitting chatters look as if they were networking? Mingling? Having a meeting? Eventually we settled on ‘hobnobbing’ because it implies high social status, which brings out the humour and contrast in the image.
Clare Pollard - Poet Translator