*It could be verse: Some ancient words to celebrate spring
Happy National Poetry Month, and welcome to words written about 959 years ago. To celebrate the thirty poetic days of April, I selected two poems translated from Chinese by David Hinton, who lives in East Calais. In Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, Mr. Hinton provides translations of 19 poets who lived many springs ago. Tu Mu’s life spanned from 803-853. Mei Yao-Ch’en lived from 1002-1060. Despite the abyss of years and culture: both of these poems reach out to us, here, now. I think Tu-Mu may have been walking around in the Morse’s sugar woods. Perhaps Mei Yao- Ch’en and his horse paused over by Wrightsville Reservoir.
Though neither of these ancient poets had an answering machine (or a phone for that matter), they have left these spring greetings for us, that perhaps encourage us to leave our own message.
Thankfully, one thousand springs later, limbs are again blossoming on ancient trees.
A Mountain Walk by Tu Mu (tran. David Hinton)
Climbing far into cold mountains, the stone path
White clouds are born up here, and there are
I stop to sit for a while, savoring maple forests in late light;
frost glazed leaves glistening red as mid-spring blossoms.
East River by Mei Yao-Ch’en (tran. David Hinton)
Reaching East River, I gaze across the water,
Then sit facing a lone island. Boats creep forth.
Wild ducks, thoughts idle, sleep along the bank,
And in ancient trees, every limb is blossoming.
*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on April 30, 2008 and is reprinted with permission.
Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States writing about poetry. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, ”The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review, Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to: www.writingonthefarm.com