Ling Yu (1952) loves the bizarre Li Bai as well as the melancholic Du Fu. She can be as strongly moved by the simplicity of Tao Yuanming’s poetry (fourth century) or a painting by the eccentric Badashanren (eighteenth century) or by Georgia O’Keeffe, as by a complex work of, for instance, Frida Kahlo, or the tenth-century poet Li Houzhu. She has a fascination for analytical writers such as Jorges Luis Borges and Cao Xueqin (The Dream in the Red Chamber) as well as more whimsical authors such as Zhuang Zi – whose work and person she happens to consider a high point in East Asian aesthetic literature.
From her own poetry, Ling Yu also emerges as someone who loves contrasts and paradoxes. She consistently contrasts light with dark, day with night, freedom with captivity, the hermit with society, rocks with water: ‘I want to dream, but not sleep / I want to walk, but without feet’.
Her style is firm and consistent. In the thoughtful poems she selected for Poetry International, Ling Yu records feelings and impressions in a pure and simple style, as is already apparent from her sparing use of adjectives and adverbs. In these poems the landscape plays an important role. Lin Yu clearly wishes to place herself within the tradition of Chinese classical landscape poetry, considered by many as the greatest of China’s literary traditions. A characteristic of such landscape poems is that the poet tries to paint the grandeur of the landscape while simultaneously expressing his personal feelings and ideas at a certain point in time – the landscape as a mirror of the soul.