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Dong LI

Translator’s Note: YE Hui

YE Hui is a poet of quiet and a quiet poet of questing thoughts. His poems do not try to impress with grand philosophical arguments or linguistic gymnastics. They draw us in, slowly, and make us see how his mind drifts and addresses. “Two birds perch[ing] in the tree” predicts first snow and then death that comes with an unknown flower and its “blinding blue.” In a hotel “that is converted / from an old building,” a dispirited face appears in “a fog and a fine scent,” and as a terrifying past is about to be unveiled, everything is again obscured among “[t]he world of grass and trees.” On a high-speed train, death is both humiliation and humility, revealing its attendant “inborn wildness.” Rather than fleshing out his thoughts, YE Hui’s poems make us think, stretching our minds into unseen territories. Not unlike the classical Chinese masters, whose brushstrokes leap from one image to another, YE Hui’s thoughts spring from one context to another in concentric circles, orbiting a poetic quest for the contemporaneousness of all ages and things. Here is a metaphysical poet who remains lowkey and restrains himself from abstraction; a meditative poet whose multifaceted realities converge into a dizzying radiance; a transcendental poet whose ancient sensibility dismantles boundaries in a shift of thought. Rarely do poetry and philosophy come together, but they do in YE Hui’s questing poetics that reaches for their common source and the little freedoms that reside in our restless mind, overcoming “the cold and the night.”

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