Yi Lei, a leading contemporary Chinese poet, was born in 1951 in Tianjin, a harbour city near the capital of Beijing. She was one of many youths whose education was interrupted by the Cultural Revolution in 1966. As a thirty-five-year-old student at Peking University, she famously sat down at her desk and wrote all night, creating a long poem that amazed Chinese readers. In “A Single Woman’s Bedroom,” a female speaker expresses her passion and sexual desire. Yi Lei published eight poetry collections, received the Zhuang Zhong Wen Literature Prize, and has had her work translated into Japanese, French, Italian, Russian, and English—notably by former U. S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith. Yi Lei, who was attacked by conservative critics following the Tiananmen Square Massacre, moved to Moscow in 1992, where she lived and wrote for a decade. She later returned to Tianjin, and died unexpectedly, of a heart attack, in 2018 while travelling in Iceland.


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