cover image Sea Summit

Sea Summit

Yi Lu, trans. from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Milkweed Editions (PGW, dist.), $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-57131-476-5

With this selection of more than 80 of her ecologically conscious lyric poems, Yi receives a generous introduction to English readers. The pastoral is Yi's mode of choice, and the poems here take as their subject matter the natural world as well as the human experience of it%E2%80%94the space where consciousness meets nature: "that valley is a huge dye vat/ I just stand on its edge/ feel its rich green/ oozing from the sole." The collection is rich in anthropomorphic metaphor ("I see the skeleton of a mountain/ upholding everything/ see the silent endurance of a mountain") as it eschews high language. Yi's poems do the work of reinscribing observed nature in basic, human terms as she blurs the lines between environment and labor or natural processes and man-made machines: "like millions of motors unleashed undersea/ the sea's body shakes/ its chest heaving/ in a splash of white breast milk/ as if spouting the essence of life to its end." Well known in China as a "second-generation" woman poet, Yi has won numerous high-profile awards in China and works as a stage and set designer for the People's Art Theater in Fujian. Sze-Lorrain's steadfast translations, presented en-face, make accessible one of China's most famous woman poets. (Jan.)