Friday, November 25, 2016

Off-Hand Poem

Off-Hand Poem
by Wang An-shih 

Translated by David Hinton

It’s a blessing, the ten thousand things
spoken. Don’t forget even a single line,
for I’m sending in these words a place
far from this loud world of confusion.

Wang An-shih (1021–1086 C.E.) was a remarkable figure — not only one of the great Sung Dynasty poets, but also the most influential and controversial statesman of his time. In his retirement, practicing Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism and wandering the mountains around his home, Wang An-shih wrote the poems that made his reputation. Short and plainspoken, these late poems contain profound multitudes — the passing of time, the rivers and mountains, silence and Buddhist emptiness. They won him wide acclaim in China and beyond across the centuries. And in David Hinton’s breathtaking translations, Wang feels like a major contemporary poet with deep ecological insight and a questioning spirit.

While not in the exalted ranks of such Chinese poets as Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, Wang’s poetry possesses the power to transport the reader to another time and place, far from our own “loud world.” How beautifully the poet echoes the strength of a relationship and its place in this world of confusion.

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