Poems of Li Ye
On Yan Bojun's Manuscript
Feelings come as I lazily comb my hair in the mirror.
In a rainy dusk, autumn's trees sigh in the courtyard.
Don't blame my eyes for crying.
It's only because of your beautiful brush stroke.
Okay, this might be a love poem. A writing brush is double entendre for a penis. So if she is sending Yan this poem, that could be the message. However, "Gimme your best brushstroke, baby" is less subtle than her poems show her to be. I remain dubious. But the symbolism is there as a possibility.
Most people translate the title as "On Receiving Yan Bojun's Letter." But shu1 (书) is more like manuscript, book, scroll and there's no "receiving." Not that they're wrong. But she could be looking at a scroll of his poems. They could be very good friends. And he could have beautiful calligraphy. This poem could be just what it says. She misses her good friend.
So that's it. The poems so far include all supposed evidence of Li Ye's wild and sexy life. And it all boils down to one possible use of a symbol for male sexuality. Maybe she does have one poet lover, Yan Bojun. But to say so is almost unbearably iffy. Whether or not she is sleeping with Yan, she is obviously no debauchee, no couquette. She was appreciated enough in her time for the emperor Daizong to call her to the palace and have her write his wife's enduring epitaph. So her critics from the Song dynasty to the present have no leg to stand on. If she is discreetly seeing Yan, I think we can all leave them to practice their calligraphy in peace.