PUIs- 20th century poets under the influence

[green_message] In an Instant
David Budbill

The place where I
stopped last night
is far away today.

Tomorrow,
tonight
will be last night.

In an instant,
the present
is the past.

I was a kid
just yesterday, today
I’m an old man.

After Li Yi
David Budbill

Everything fades away.
The grass is brown.

My head is bald.
What hair is left is gray.

My youth is gone.
The end of life is in the mirror.

Harmonizing with Tu Fu’s “Written on the Wall at Chang’s Hermitage”
David Budbill

It is fall here now in the mountains. The air is crisp and bright.
Time for cutting wood. First the chainsaw’s whine, then the
splitting hammer’s fall, the clunk of blocks of wood coming apart.

I pause from my labors, wipe the sweat from my face,
and look down the hill to my late garden and then across
the valley to the yellow side of Judevine Mountain.

I am alone here today and I want to be alone. To cut, split,
and stack firewood, to eat simple food I myself have grown,
to work with pen and paper or at my computer making poems,

to sit in the evening and listen to the silence of
these mountains: these simple things, the warmth of friends, and love – the touch
of another – are all I’ve ever wanted. All else is distraction.

As I Step Over A Puddle At The End Of Winter, I Think Of An Ancient Chinese Governor
James Wright

pAnd how can I, born in evil days
And fresh from failure, ask a kindness of Fate?
— Written A.D. 819

Po Chu-i, balding old politician,
What’s the use?
I think of you,
Uneasily entering the gorges of the Yang-Tze,
When you were being towed up the rapids
Toward some political job or other
In the city of Chungshou.
You made it, I guess,
By dark.

But it is 1960, it is almost spring again,
And the tall rocks of Minneapolis
Build me my own black twilight
Of bamboo ropes and waters.
Where is Yuan Chen, the friend you loved?
Where is the sea, that once solved the whole loneliness
Of the Midwest?Where is Minneapolis? I can see nothing
But the great terrible oak tree darkening with winter.
Did you find the city of isolated men beyond mountains?
Or have you been holding the end of a frayed rope
For a thousand years?

After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard
Charles Wright

East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
up from the damp grass.
Into the world’s tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.

[/green_message]

The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.