The Feel of Nature in Yi Lu’s Work: Existence in its Grandeur and Small Moments

Yi Lu at Vũng Tàu Beach, Vietnam
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR


See

See
BY Yi Lu
(China Literary Union Press, 2004)

Translator’s Note

Known for its elegance and a teasingly theatrical language play, Chinese contemporary female poet Yi Lu’s work contains an unusual architecture — both musical and spatial — that employs images in a refreshing sincerity. Asymmetrical but with a natural poise, her verses expand lyrical possibilities and linguistic sensibilities in a poem, while keeping intact the density of a personal narrative. Words in a verse behave literally like notes, each with a sound before coming together as a string of meanings. Both cadence and movement pull and push each line, creating a playfulness between space and verse. Warm and tender, her poetry above all shares many features of what we may call an “ecopoetics” — celebrating, evoking and invoking nature both in its grandeur and in its small moments.

Chinese contemporary female poet Yi Lu’s work contains an unusual architecture — both musical and spatial — that employs images in a refreshing sincerity.

Yi Lu leads a parallel life as a theatre scenographer, set designer and painter. Naturally, colors and visual form are the immediate intuitive choices that help to shape the voice in her poetry. Without sentimentalism, nor extravagant verbalism, her writing speaks to the transience of matter by assuming image-driven metaphor in seemingly austere but lucid language. I consider her a quiet poet who says something precise. She questions the role of modern human existence in the larger world of nature. The issue of how one may maintain an intimate relationship with the natural world in our time is an urgency that informs much of her poems. Living in Fuzhou, the urban capital city of Fujian province, she is very nostalgic of the sea and the mountains: they incarnate specific landscapes as well as emotions that accompanied her during her childhood and her young adulthood. Birds and trees spring up often in her poems, as she writes from her study with a window facing a sturdy tree. She is a curious observer of the tree’s “bird visitors,” and the tiny surprises they bring and create. She practices listening to them. Always interested in luminosity and renewal, the poet is keen to channel, regenerate, and share with others these energies in her quotidian life. In “Cassia Fragrance,” she writes:

fine needle tips
prick my heart
clear spring water flows oozing out

till I can’t bear to make a turn
for the alley home
accompanying it just like this
to many beautiful, affectionate places
thankful that the world blesses me a little more

The two poems featured in this issue, “Cassia Fragrance” and “In the Canyon,” are part of her third poetry collection, See (2004), which contains writings that had spanned over seven years. Yi Lu has recently published her fifth volume of poetry, Forever Lingering (The Cultural Art Press, 2011); this new book happens to contain several sequenced poems that evolve from earlier narratives in See. Also a work-in-progress, my translations of Yi Lu seek syncopated sounds and rhythms that in turn serve as both detail and event. Hopefully these translations may also compel newer and more vigilant reads to come.

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