“Even posthumously, Yi Lei remains one of the most revolutionary voices in Chinese poetry. This volume presents the expertly translated English poems alongside their Chinese originals for a beautiful and essential collection for any poetry lover.”—Ms. Magazine
Upon the magnificent extravagance of my beloved stilettos,
I want the world back. I’ve been alive—could it be?—
Near a century. My face has closed up shop.
My feet are a desolate country.
For a single woman, youth is a feast that lasts
Only until it is gone.
You didn’t come to live with me.
—from “A Single Woman’s Bedroom”
Yi Lei published her poem “A Single Woman’s Bedroom” in 1987, when cohabitation before marriage was a punishable crime in China. She was met with major critical acclaim—and with outrage—for her frank embrace of women’s erotic desire and her unabashed critique of oppressive law. Over the span of her revolutionary career, Yi Lei became one of the most influential figures in contemporary Chinese poetry.
Passionate, rigorous, and inimitable, the poems in My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree celebrate the joys of the body, ponder the miracle of compassion, and proclaim an abiding reverence for the natural world. Presented in the original Chinese alongside English translations by Changtai Bi and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith, this collection introduces American readers to a boundless spirit—one “composing an explosion.”
My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree: Selected Poems by Yi Lei
Graywolf Press 2020