Tony Barnstone is The Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College and the author of twelve books, including Tongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki, winner of the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry (BKMK Press); The Golem of Los Angeles, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award in Poetry (Red Hen Press); Sad Jazz: Sonnets (Sheep Meadow Press); and Impure: Poems by Tony Barnstone (U of Florida Press). He is also a translator of Chinese poetry and literary prose, including The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry (Anchor), The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters (Shambhala), Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei (U Press of New England), and Chinese Erotic Poems (Everyman).

Steven Bradbury’s poems and translations have recently appeared in Asymptote, Jacket Magazine, The Literary Review, and Sub-Tropics. A recipient of the 2011 BILTC Translation Residency and 2011 PEN Translation Fund Grant, he lives in Taipei, where he edits Full-Tilt: a journal of East-Asian poetry, translation, and the arts and is writing a novel about his Brooklyn-bred Norwegian mother, tentatively titled Gertie ‘til Thirty.

Michael Farman is a retired engineer who, in the past decade, has enjoyed translating Chinese early and Classical poetry. These labors of love have led him to participate in panels and poetry readings, to produce articles and book reviews, and to have his translations published in several anthologies and numerous literary magazines.  He has published Clouds and Rain, lyrics of love and desire from medieval China (Pipers’ Ash, 2003) and 300 Tang Poems, translated by Geoffrey Waters, Michael Farman and David Lunde with an introduction by Jerome P Seaton

Matthew Flannery, New Brunswick NJ, was educated at Reed College, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University.  He refines English translations of Chinese poems from 200-1200, collects recordings of western classical chamber and solo music, edits scholarly papers, translates the occasional poem by Georg Trakl, and collects Chinese calligraphy and seal stones.  He has published A Chronological Order for the Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston NY, 2004.

David Hinton has translated many volumes of classical Chinese poetry, as well as the four seminal masterworks of Chinese philosophy. He has a book of essays forthcoming that tries to invest contemporary experience with the worldview of ancient China: Hunger Mountain: A Fieldguide to Mind and Landscape.  His work can be seen at: davidhinton.net.

David Lunde is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in more than 350 journals such as Poetry, The Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, Kansas Quarterly, Hawai’i Review, Chicago Review, Seneca Review, Cottonwood, The Literary Review, Renditions, and Northwest Review, as well as in 40 anthologies. He is the author of eight books of poems and has published three collections of translations: The Carving of Insects (2006), Bian Zhilin’s collected poems, co-translated with Mary M.Y. Fung, which won the 2007 PEN USA Translation Award; Breaking the Willow (2008); and 300 Tang Poems (2011), co-translated with Geoffrey Waters and Michael Farman.

Chou Ping took his doctorate in Asian literature from Stanford University and his MFA in creative writing from Indiana University and has taught at Reed College, Oberlin College and Washington University, among other places. His books include The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry and The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

J.P. Seaton lorem ipsum

Cover poem: “High Quality Information” from Left Out in the Rain, New Poems 1947-1985. Copyright 1986 by Gary Snyder. Published by North Point Press and reprinted by permission of the author.


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.