Tag Archives: Chinese poetry

#17: The American Teenagers Have Theories About The Ancient Chinese Masters


The American Teenagers Have Theories About The Ancient Chinese Masters

They’re just making stuff up.
Here’s one that says that Li Po
was Wang Wei’s evil twin,
his doppelgänger,
or that the two poets were,
in fact, the same guy,
a sort of Jeckyl and Hyde affair.
Here’s another that
says Li Po was drunk
ninety-five percent
of his entire life,
her exact words,
and that he killed some
people just because he could.
He was an alcoholic, you see,
and I was thinking that maybe
she mistook the ancient Chinese master
for the character in a Johnny Cash tune,
or she confused the poet’s sacred
devotion to wine with her uncle Bob’s
binge drinking,
which, might be reasonable,
as the result is pretty much the same.

They fixate on Li Po’s wine and women
and on Wang Wei’s mountains,
and one of them was–
or–both of them were captured
by rebels and were let go,
not because they were exonerated,
but because they were such great poets,
all deaf, mouth-burned, mountain
and river-loving, drunk and at peace,
in love with the moon unto death,
so yu and wu it’s not even funny.
And that’s why the T’ang Dynasty was
so great for the Chinese
and those Chinese Zen master poets.


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#11: The American English Teacher Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters


The American English Teacher Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters

I want those mountains, that river,
my head in those clouds–that kind of wandering,
self-ablaze, alive with possibility,
drunk with wine,
as silent as nature,

missing now–
found again only through right diligence,
an effort conspired against by
almost every natural fact of modern living.

I long to see stars again
and breathe deeply an air free of diesel,
gasoline, concrete, rubber, and garbage, which,
even in my bucolic suburban neighborhood, is always present,
the persistent, nagging ghost,
the shadow of civilized life.

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#4: The American Teenager Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters


The American Teenager Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters

Untitled (Wang Wei, translated by David Hinton)

You just came from my old village
so you know all about village affairs.
When you left, outside my window,
was it in bloom—that winter plum?

What the hell?
What village affairs? Who left? Why did he leave?
Where’d he go? What does a plum have to do with village affairs?
What difference does it make whether this guy
saw the plum or didn’t see the plum?
Do plums grow during winters in China?
What the hell?

In Reply To P’ei Ti (Wang Wei, translated by David Hinton)

The cold river spreads boundless away.
Autumn rains darken azure-deep skies.
You ask about Whole-South Mountain:
mind knows far beyond white clouds.

What the hell?
Who’s P’ei Ti?  What’s an azure-deep sky?
What’s he asking?
What ABOUT the damn Whole-South Mountain?
Mind knows? Whose mind?
How does a mind know beyond clouds?
What the hell?

The American teenager does not know how much she knows.
Her questions give rise to answers unspoken, unwritten.

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