Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Instituted of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
In a long preface to The Smell of Rain (2006), Ye Weilian (Yip Wai-lim) relates his (as well as those of his contemporaries) life experiences and pursuit of the art of poetry. The translation and contemplation of a complicated cultural bloodline, misplaced in a different land, culture, and political climate, even a different language system and aesthetic experience, has lent complexity to Ye’s poetry. Forged in the modernist tradition, Ye’s poetic language is capable of condensing or dilating thought and imagery, suggesting ideas that are beyond linguistic expression and that can only be comprehended indirectly through abstruse overtones. Regardless of whether he is examining the linked dialogues of historical memory, capturing fleeting sensory experiences, or recording the interplay of emotion and reason, his poetry is characterized by linguistic elasticity and philosophical reflection.
The Smell of Rain is a collection forty poems written between 2000 and 2006; the work is divided into seven sections: “London Poetry Notes,” “Looking for Darkness,” “City of the Poor,” “Searching for China,” “Provence: Landscape, Meditation, Reflections,” “Lucia,” and “Reunion and Return.” The poems seem to have been arranged according to the routes of the poet’s travels, recording Ye Weilian’s philosophical and aesthetic experiments in different cultures and locales, as well as “emotional knots and psychic injuries.” Perhaps this derives from what Ye calls “the huge cultural crisis of large-scale individual and group exile, the dejection and hopelessness of cultural disintegration, cramps, fear and wandering.” From the 1960s onward, the political landscape underwent a dramatic transformation, but the “emotional knots and psychic injuries” have not been dispelled, revealing the poet’s ongoing cultural concerns, inner and outer discord and harmony, and the blending of history and memory.
In The Smell of Rain Ye Weilian explores the position of the “self” through physical travel and spiritual search. His “landscapes” are not simply those of classical art, but show the scars of historical violence and cultural fracture, presenting Ye’s view of civilization, history, emotion, and myth in dense vocabulary and richly resonant language. And because of this, Ye Weiliang’s pursuit of existential aesthetics, embodied in The Smell of Rain, are not merely the translation and transmission of Western modernism; they are, moreover, a complex transcultural negotiation and awareness.
Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Born in China’s Guangdong province, Ye Weilian (1937- ) relocated to Hong Kong with his family in 1948 to escape the chaos of war. He came to study in Taiwan in 1955, graduating from both the National Taiwan University Department of Foreign Languages and Literature and the National Taiwan Normal University Department of English Graduate School. He earned a master’s degree in aesthetics from the University of Iowa in 1964, and a doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton University in 1967. That same year he accepted a position as professor of comparative literature at the University of California-San Diego, later helping to develop comparative literature courses at National Taiwan University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Beijing University. He has served as professor at the University of California, visiting professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, chairperson of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature, and visiting professor at National Tsing Hua University. He currently resides in the United States. His academic specialties include Western poetics, comparative literature, aesthetics, and philosophy. Scholarly publications include The Face of Modern Chinese Fiction (1970), Drawing upon Great Harmony (1980) Comparative Poetics (1983), Chinese and Western Literature: A Search for Common Literary Principles (1986), History, Hermeneutics and Aesthetics (1988), and Reading the Modern and the Postmodern (1992). Important creative works are Fugue (1959), Crossing (1969), Edge of Waking (1971), The Voice of Blooming (1977), Thirty Years of Poetry (1987), The Transcendence of Glaciers (2000), and The Smell of Rains (2006). He also writes essays and children’s poems, and translates poetry.
Ye Weilian had already shown a great interest in poetry and literary creation while living in Hong Kong, cofounding Poetry Flower, The New Current magazine, and Cape of Good Hope, with Kun Nan and Wang Wuxie. He became a member of the Epoch Poetry Society after coming to Taiwan. He often uses terms such as “exile,” “anxiety,” and “displacement” to describe his life experiences and literary philosophy. Living on the colliding and intertwined borders of Asian and Western cultures, and in multiple cultural contexts and political environments, Ye has a developed a deep and complex interpretation of Asian and Western languages, aesthetics, and cultures. In his poetry he unceasingly explores new possibilities in language, imagery, and sound. Yan Yuanshu has interpreted the aesthetic structure of Ye’s poetry as “directional perspective.” Ye’ Weilian’s language experiments are highly elastic and innovative; in seeking the mysteries of Asian and Western poetics, the poet responds to life’s tangled historical memories and wounds.
|Related Literary Themes：||Modernist Literature|