, , , , , , ,

Hello and welcome dVersers – I doubt that many of us know that today, April 20th, is UN Chinese Language Day. Well, I’m no linguist even for European languages and the Orient is still as inscrutable to me, as we in the West have often described it. Despite this I have taught Tai Chi to elderly Chinese at a Central London community centre and am an avid admirer of the Chinese aesthetic, both in painting and poetry.

Long before Shakespeare and Milton, poetry has held a place of esteem in Chinese culture and so without further ado let us dive into some classical Chinese poems. Here are five of their renowned poets, translated by others who already speak the language! Since we cannot fully understand the references or meanings, we must rely on the impressions they leave us with.

Winding River ~ Du Fu

“Each piece of flying blossom leaves spring the less,
I grieve as myriad points float in the wind.
I watch the last ones move before my eyes,
And cannot have enough wine pass my lips.
Kingfishers nest by the little hall on the river,
Unicorns lie at the high tomb’s enclosure.
Having studied the world, one must seek joy,
For what use is the trap of passing honour?

Stopping at Incense Storing Temple ~ Wang Wei

I did not know the incense storing temple,
I walked a few miles into the clouded peaks.
No man on the path between the ancient trees,
A bell rang somewhere deep among the hills.
A spring sounded choked, running down steep rocks,
The green pines chilled the sunlight’s coloured rays.
Come dusk, at the bend of a deserted pool,
Through meditation I controlled passion’s dragon.

Oh When Will Autumn Moon and Spring Flowers End (The Beautiful Lady Yu) ~ Li Yu

Oh when will autumn moon and spring flowers end?
How many past events I’ve known.
The east wind buffeted my room again last night,
I cannot bear to remember the bright moon of the old country.
The marble steps and carved balustrades must still be there,
The people’s rosy cheeks are all that’s changed.
How much sorrow can one man have to bear?
As much as a river of spring water flowing east

Crows calling at Night ~ Li bai

Yellow clouds beside the walls; crows roosting near.
Flying back, they caw, caw; calling in the boughs.
In the loom she weaves brocade, the Qin river girl.
Made of emerald yarn like mist, the window hides her words.
She stops the shuttle, sorrowful, and thinks of the distant man.
She stays alone in the lonely room, her tears just like the rain.

Flood ~ T’ao  Chien

The lingering clouds, rolling, rolling,
And the settled rain, dripping, dripping,
In the Eight Directions—the same dusk.
The level lands—one great river.
Wine I have, wine I have:
Idly I drink at the eastern window.
Longingly—I think of my friends,
 But neither boat nor carriage comes.

The Poetics’ Challenge here is: Select any ONE of the above poems and with as many re-reads as you need, imagine what the poet has painted, what impressions are conveyed. Then:-

  1. reinterpret the poem in your own style

OR for those of you who prefer a classical form then:-

2. re-interpret the poem in the Chinese LUSHI style

  • eight lines long of couplets – The first couplet should set-up the poem; the middle two couplets develop the theme, the final couple is conclusion
  • each line must have the same number of words, either 5,6, or 7.
  • a mono-rhyme is on every even numbered line
  • Caesura (a pause) should separate clauses.
Whichever style you choose you should:-
  • use the same title
  • not re-use more than a very few (if any) of the poet’s words
  • cite the poet at the end of your post. [Alternatively parallel the original with your own poem- by using a 2 column layout]

Background References
1. Chinese Poems
2. A Hundred & Seventy Chinese Poems ~ Gutenberg

Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment (see below). Then go visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts with other contributors which is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.