All poetry and translation in this issue in alphabetical order.
Poets from Israel:
Poets from China:
Poets from the United States:
More translations in our
Poets and Translators - Fall 2000
- Along with Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, Sam Hamill’s celebrated translations include The Art of Writing: Lu Chi’s Wen Fu, The Essential Chaung Tzu, and The Essential Basho. He is the author of a dozen volumes of original poetry, including Destination Zero: Poems 1970-1995 and Gratitude, as well as three collections of essays, the most recent of which is a A Poet’s Work. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and contributing editor of
American Poetry Review.
In this issue we have Hamill’s translations of the following poets (all biographical notes by Sam Hamill, copyright © 2000 from Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated with an introduction by Sam Hamill):
Hsu Hsuan (916-991) was an accomplished editor who rose to the position of Supervising Censor before being banished to Shensi Province.
Li Po (701-762) is China’s most famous poet, one whose biography is thoroughly infused with the stuff of legend, much of which may have been generated by the poet himself. Imprisoned as a traitor, pardoned, exiled, celebrated, granted amnesty, he lived on the edge. He was a consummate panhandler and an epic drinker. Despite a complex vocabulary and rich, varied meters, he claimed to have never revised a poem. Legend says he drowned in the Yellow River, drunk, trying to embrace the reflection of the moon in 762.
Meng Chiao (751-814) was highly praised by Han Yu and other contemporaries. Unable or unwilling to conform to court society, his life was filled with poverty, failure and bitterness. He turned to a classically Confucian stance embracing the virtues of sufferings as a "scholar out of office."
T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), also called T’ao Yuan-ming, was born in Kiangsi province and lived most of his life as an impoverished farmer. Rejecting the highly mannered style of his contemporaries, his poems reflect a serious mind infused with fundamental Confucian conviction combined with Taoist spirituality. Although his poems were neglected in his own lifetime, he became one of classical China’s most venerated poets.
Tu Fu (712-770) the "Poetry Sage" was born in 712 to a family that had once been part of nobility, but whose fortunes had declined. After failing his (chin-shih) examinations several times, he spent years wandering, living in poverty, a model of Confucian conduct and a poet whose inspiration came in large part from the suffering he observed during his travels, much of it the product of ruthless inscription and unfair taxation. His poetry went largely unacknowledged but by his friend Li Po and few others during his lifetime. Only 1554 of his ten thousand poems survive.
Tzu Yeh may have been a single "wine-shop girl" or the poems known generally as "Tzu Yeh songs" may have multiple authors. They dated from the 4th century C.E. Because of the innovative style of composition—the chueh-chu or back-to-back couplets—they were probably written by a single author. The wineshop girl was rigorously trained in music, dance, calligraphy, history, and the arts of prosody and storytelling. Li Po claimed to have memorized all of her songs.
Wang Wei (701-761) was perhaps China’s first truly great Buddhist poet. Unlike the Taoist Li Po and Confucian Tu Fu, he excelled as a courtier after having been imprisoned at the Bodhi Temple in the capital city of Ch’ang-an during the An Lu-shan Rebellion. He was admired as a poet, landscape painter and musician, and died while serving in the State Department in 761.
Yuan Chen (779-831) shared with his friend Po Chu-i a profound social conscience, and he also suffering banishment and exile for speaking out. A controversial poet (Sun Tung-p’o called his poems "frivolous"), his elegies are among the most profoundly moving personal poems of the T’ang dynasty. A prose piece assumed to be autobiographical provided the story line which the Yuan dynasty dramatists developed into The Dream of the Red Chamber.