Reading and translating Taiwanese poet Ling Yu reminds me much of American writer, environmentalist, and activist Terry Tempest Williams’s wisdom: There is an art to writing, and it is not always disclosure. The act itself can be beautiful, revelatory, and private.
In my opinion, Ling Yu’s poetry contains the above qualities: perhaps aware of how several poets in her country and language are prone to cultivating celebrity fame and fan culture, or capitalizing on Facebook or Twitter to sustain their poetic careers and publicity, Ling Yu strives to create a Beckettian lyricism and silence—in life and her art. What results is a poetic voice that often does not need to be loud or echoey in order to assert its confidence, passion, and weight. On the contrary, it may be heard and felt through the imagery or ambiance it evokes, hence an overall Impressionist effect that comes across as distinctly moving yet oblique.
As translator, I have received feedback about the pristine sonic and textual qualities of Ling Yu’s language. My translations seek to create—and recreate—a music that responds to simplicity. This four-sectioned poem, also published in The Offending Adam, is excerpted from her debut bilingual collection, A Tree Planted in Summer (Vif Éditions, 2015), which was released in Taipei this past winter and distributed locally by Youhe Book and Black Eyes. The cover image of this collection is from The Memory of Trees • Tainan (2010), a painting by Taiwanese artist Tzu-Chi Yeh.
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The One Who Speaks
I am the one who speaks