One of the most provocative and cosmopolitan poets writing in Chinese today.
Hsia Yü’s frank and innovative treatment of gender and sexuality heralds the beginning of a much-awaited Chinese écriture féminine. As critics have noted, Hsia Yü may well be the first woman poet in Taiwan to have written about love and romance in a way that breaks radically from the conventions and constraints of traditional Chinese women’s poetry. At a time when scholars in both Taiwan and North America are anxious to find a candidate to fill the long-vacant post of "Chinese feminist poet," Hsia Yü’s feminism remains somewhat problematic, in that the poet herself has not only strongly resisted the label "feminist" but has insisted that her poetry is far more concerned with exploring the pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of the text.
"L’Empire à la Fin de la Decadence"
For Qiu Jin, Qing dynasty revolutionary martyr
A waltz not without its possibilities of mutual destruction
Like your revolution
I discover I’ve appeared in the guise of a man
Dancing toward the nadir
Nadir ad infinitum
To the endless verge of toppling
The empire at the end of its decadence
But I am merely an androgyne
In a gloomy salon
Releasing my splendor
My loud and sonorous masculinity
Born in Taiwan but now dividing her time between Paris and Taipei, Hsia Yü makes a living as a song lyricist and translator. She is the author of four volumes of poetry, of which the most recent is Salsa (1999). She first came to prominence in the mid-1980s with the appearance of Beiwanglu, or Memoranda (1983), a self-published collection of poetry whose brassy and iconoclastic tone struck a deeply sympathetic cord in Taiwan’s younger readers. Besides her popularity in Taiwan, Bei Ling devoted ten pages of an issue of his journal Tendencies to her poems, and Michelle Yeh and Goeran Malmqvist's anthology of Taiwan poetry, forthcoming from Columbia, will contain translations of 27 of Hsia Yu's poems.
Steve Bradbury translates Chinese literature and teaches American and Children’s Litera