Rows of Small Mountains by Li Qingzhao, translated by Wendy Chen

Spring arrives at Long Gate
with its green grasses.

The red plums are just beginning
to blossom.

I grind the block of tea
into powder:
a pot of spring breaks

apart the memory
of this morning’s dream.

Flower shadows flower a
cross the layered doors.

The gauzy curtain spreads
over the pale moon.

The evening is good.

Two years, three times
I’ve ignored the Lord of the East.

Come home.
This year, we’ll enjoy the spring.
Li Qingzhao (1084-1151) is considered the greatest female poet in Chinese history, though only one English translation of her complete works remains in print today. During her lifetime, she defied cultural expectations for women by writing and persevering through war, exile, imprisonment, and the loss of her fortune. She is renowned particularly for her ci, which are poems set to music with predetermined meters and tones. During the Southern Song Dynasty, her ci were gathered into a collection titled Rinsing over Jade that has since been lost.
Wendy Chen was awarded the Most Promising Young Poet Prize by the Academy of American Poets in 2014. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, American Poets, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The McNeese Review, Copper Nickel, and the anthology Translations from World Literature, among others. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA in poetry at Syracuse University.