My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree: Selected Poems

Yi Lei, trans. from the Chinese by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi. Graywolf, $18 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-64445-040-6
In the introduction to this stunning collection, Smith writes that Lei “astounded readers in China when, in 1987, she published a long poem entitled ‘A Single Woman’s Bedroom’... this at a time when cohabitation before marriage was still illegal in China.” But the poem in question isn’t simply about erotic desire—a topic Lei writes poignantly about—it’s on agency and freedom of the mind, as well: “I imagine a life in which I possess/ All that I lack. I fix what has failed./ What never was, I build and seize.” Lei’s poems fearlessly and thoughtfully explore sensuality, celebrating physical pleasure in spite of societal restrictions. Her poems also praise the beauty of the natural world, as in “Glorious Golden Birds Are Singing,” in which she paints a vivid scene through unusual juxtaposition: “Glorious golden birds are singing/ In heavy hexagonal snow./ Gold, brass, bronze, zinc, copper and tin. All are my kin.” Lei’s frankness and lyricism make her a significant voice in Chinese poetry, one that rightfully deserves a wider international audience. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 11/12/2020
Release date: 11/03/2020
Genre: Poetry
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