Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Some of the letters and other prose writings of Li Bo (lee boh) survive, but his reputation rests entirely on his poetry.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Li Bo and his younger contemporary Du Fu (Tu Fu) rank as the two greatest poets in the three thousand years of Chinese literary history. Each has the reputation, and the merit, of William Shakespeare in the English tradition.

By the age of forty, Li Bo was a popular poet, well known for the audacity of his poetry and his personality, but he was not widely considered an outstanding poet in his own lifetime. Contemporaries who liked his work despite its unconventional extravagance were highly enthusiastic about it. His friend Zui Zongzhi praised it as “incomparable,” and for several years Li Bo held a special position as a favored writer in the court of the emperor. In the last few years of his life, however, Li Bo’s influence waned.

Interest in Li Bo’s work began to revive several decades after his death, and the acclaim he received from the leading poets and critics early in the next century established him in the position of high regard that he has held ever since. His works were read, and memorized, by educated people throughout East Asia. Many later poets reveal debts to his compelling language, his gift for visualizing imagined scenes, and his intensely personal way of viewing the world. Li Bo’s ability to produce a unique twist in image, language, or perspective set his poems apart, even those on traditional topics.

In many ways, Li Bo’s playfulness, his individualism, and his visionary flamboyance make him the...

(The entire section is 538 words.)

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In the poem “In the Dai-tian Mountains,” is Li Bo affirming that the search for a holy man is more important than finding him?

If Chinese poetry has influenced Imagist poets and yet seldom conveys symbolism, metaphor, or personification, what qualities does an Imagist poet convey?

What must one know about Daoism to become a successful reader of Li Bo’s poetry?

“Marble Stairs Grievance” is about an “older palace lady.” Would any Western figure resemble this lady, and can the poem tell us about her or him?

Can a poet like Li Bo emerge more satisfactorily in a free translation, such as one by Ezra Pound, or in a more conventional translator’s version?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aiken, Conrad. A Letter from Li Po, and Other Poems. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955. Li Bo’s letter provides insight into his poems selected in this collection.

Bornstein, George, ed. Ezra Pound Among the Poets. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. A study of the influence of several poets on Pound, including Li Bo as well as Homer, Ovid, Dante, Walt Whitman, Robert Browning, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams, and T. S. Eliot.

Cooper, Arthur, comp. and trans. Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated with an Introduction and Notes. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1973. The translations are generally excellent, and the extensive background material on the history of Chinese poetry and literature is helpful. Li’s connection with Du Fu is usefully discussed.

Hagett, James M. “Li Po (701-762) and Mount Emei.” Cahiers d’Extreme-Asie 8 (1995): 101-118. Sheds insight into Li Bo’s poetic creativity and nature.

Li Bo. Banished Immortal: Visions of Li T’ai-po. Translated by Sam Hamill. Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press, 1987. A collection of translations of poetry by Li Bo.

Li Bo. Li Pai: Two Hundred Selected Poems. Translated by Rewi Alley. 1980. Reprint. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 1987. A selection of poetry by Li Bo.

Li Bo. The Selected Poems of Li Po. Translated by David Hinton. New York: New Directions, 1996. A translation of Li Bo’ poems. Includes some analysis.

Owen, Stephen. The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T’ang. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981. Provides information on Li Bo in the political and cultural milieu of the Tang Dynasty.

Pine, Red, trans. Poems...

(The entire section is 799 words.)