Virtual Web Tour for a Book of Translated Poetry

Translators of Asian literature sometimes find themselves in an odd predicament: we want to live close to the language, culture, and literature that we love and translate, but doing so requires us to live outside the purview of western academia or a western reading audience—at least this has been my experience. Living in Asia as a translator of literature does not afford one the opportunity to do normal book promotion in America or the west. Much as one might value the translated literature, the ability to go to America and talk about it at conferences, seminars, or university book readings is difficult or impossible given the need to hold a day job. Being a tenured professor allows a little more flexibility in terms of time, but not a lot. So what to do?

cover-01[1]I’ve decided to do something that no literary translator of poetry has ever done, so far as I know: do a virtual web tour for my new book, Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim.

I heard about doing a virtual web tour as a means for book promotion from the poet Shaindel Beers. She toured about 10 blogs for her first book of poetry, which came out in 2009. I thought this was maybe an ideal method for me, given my situation. Plus, what happened with her virtual tour has never disappeared so long as the host blog stayed up. Whatever interview or commentary took place regarding the book is an open resource for anyone with internet access, potentially forever.

After a little research online, I quickly learned that a virtual book tour generally services independent writers or those who do ebook publishing, and in that case, usually it’s genre fiction that’s being promoted. Or, conversely, virtual book tours accentuate mainstream larger budget book campaigns from “big name” publishing houses.

It was a little discouraging to learn the place of translators of poetry in relationship to a virtual book tour, but I decided I wanted to give it a try. Making this decision was not the most comfortable thing. It felt strange to commit to breaking out of the normal venues for promotion of classical Korean poetry in translation. At the same time, after looking around at how a virtual book tour works in this day and age, I’m wondering why I appear to be the first person to do it for a work of translated poetry.

As the days have passed, it’s become easier to accept a virtual tour as long as I’ve been true to my goals and intentions. What I like about translating classical literature is that I help bridge not only different cultures and peoples, but times in history. As I’ve grown older and tried a variety of professions, I’ve learned that writing and translating offers me the most satisfaction as a process of work. I don’t think my current book, Magnolia and Lotus, is going to make me famous or bring me millions of dollars.  I do think promoting the book will help me get to a place where I can justify all the time and energy I have put into my writing and translating, and so continue until my last days on Earth.

Ian Haight Virtual Tour Schedule

The Book Barista — July 18 and August 15

 Melissa’s Midnight Musings — August 7

 True Book Addict — August 30

*Note: More dates to be added. Watch this space for updates!

Ian Haight_picture for bio (4)Ian Haight was a co-organizer and translator for the UN’s global poetry readings held annually in Pusan, Korea, from 2002-4. He has been awarded 5 translation grants from the Daesan Foundation, Korea Literature Translation Institute, and Baroboin Buddhist Foundation for the translation, editing, promotion, and publication of Korean literature. Ian is the editor of Zen Questions and Answers from Korea (2010), and along with T’ae-yŏng Hŏ, the translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ (2009) both from White Pine Press. Ian’s translations, essays, poems, and interviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Writer’s Chronicle, Quarterly West and Hyundae Buddhist News, among many other publications. For more information, please visit

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