When I share with friends the image of my Mother, Gaynell Warr, which appears with my poem "Black Star," they tend to have the same reaction I had when I first saw the photograph: "She looks like a movie star." When my Mother was growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she was called "Shinola." As beautiful as she was to all who could see, calling her "Shinola" was meant as an insult. It meant her skin was as black as the shoe polish. When Chun Yu, who translated the poem into Chinese, and I met to discuss its meaning and pick apart the words of the poem, I heard for the first time that in China, the Shinola brand is associated with luxury watches and bicycles. Not shoe polish. It was the same company, but it had successfully rebranded. So the reference would not automatically transfer in Chinese. This is what I love about translation: it demands conversation about meaning, a deep dig into cultural difference, and often creative interpretation. Considering the process in translating this poem Chun Yu writes: The translation was smooth sailing until I hit the word "Shinola," which is a word I did not grow up with during the Cultural Revolution in China, where there was no trace of American products. From the context of the poem I knew it must be something black. I Googled it, the Chinese word 手表 - watch appeared next to it. Further research revealed it was a brand of shoe polish until 1960 before I was born, and now a fashion brand. As a brand, Shinola has not been given a Chinese name yet. Combining all the factors listed, I decided to keep the "Shinola" in my translation and add the Chinese word 鞋油 - shoe polish to make the reference clear.

Another translation detail: As we considered whether or not the general reference to "shoe polish" would effectively convey the meaning of "Shinola" in the poem, since there are other tones of shoe polish, Chun Yu explained that in China shoe polish basically has one color: black.