Yuan Mei


A month alone behind closed doors
forgotten books, remembered, clear again.
Poems come, like water to the pool
Welling,
up and out,
from perfect silence

Yuan Mei - J.P. Seaton

Yuan Mei (1716-1798) was without question the finest poet in the final thousand years of the classical Chinese tradition. A man of great ambition, he let failure in political life bring him wisdom rather than bitterness, and perhaps to spite his Manchu “masters” he lived a conspicuously unconventional life, mocking Chinese collaborators and the Manchus themselves with his “life-style”, licentious and libertine from a prig’s point of view, merely broad minded or even libertarian, from the point of an English gentleman such as his biographer and translator Arthur Waley.

it is surely surprising that . . . Yuan Mei and the monk Ching An, are certainly among the best of all the classical Chinese poetic tradition. Both are outstanding for their mastery of classical forms, and their willingness to use those forms to record the realities of their lives in a language that made classical poetry available to ordinary people. Both poets, a century apart, realized that the millions of readers of popular fiction were a potential audience, and so, unlike the majority of “classical” poets of the period, both refused merely to imitate the great poetry of “the ancient”, choosing rather to put classical techniques at the service of vernacular language, in order to reach the people, always the intended audience for wen. [tooltip content= “The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry, J.P. Seaton (Shambhala, 2006)”] [source][/tooltip]

 

Just Done

A month alone behind closed doors
forgotten books, remembered, clear again.
Poems come, like water to the pool
Welling,
up and out,
from perfect silence

J.P. Seaton

Things Seen

Apricot about to fade, raindrops quiet now;
filling the paths, patches of moss,
the green has stained my clothes.
The wind is strong-I cannot get the little window shut:
flower petals and my poems
go flying through the air.

Jonathan Chaves

Motto

When I meet a monk,
I bow politely.
When I see a Buddha,
I don’t.

If I bow to a Buddha,
the Buddha won’t know.
But I honor a monk:
he’s here now, apparently,
or, at least, he seems to be.

J.P. Seaton