Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sam Hamill — To the Tune: Spring at Wu Ling

The breeze has passed,
pollen dust settled,
and now the evening comes
as I comb out my hair.

There is the book, the inkstone, the table.
But he who was my life
is gone. It is difficult
to speak through tears.

I’ve heard it’s always spring
at Wu Ling, and beautiful.
I’d take a little boat and drift
alone out on the water.

But I’m afraid a boat
so small would swamp
with the weight
of all my sorrows.

—Li Ch’ing-chao

Copyright 2016 Sam Hamill. From Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese translated by Sam Hamill, published by Tiger Bark Press.

Translator’s note: Li Ch’ing-chao (1084?-ca. 1151) is certainly one of China’s greatest poets, a genius of the tz’u, one of the most influential critics of her age, and with her husband, compiler of an immense catalogue of stone and bronze vessels. The death of her husband at an early age was emotionally and socially devastating to a “liberated” Li Ch’ing-chao, perhaps China’s first literary feminist. When her second husband proved abusive, she had the remarkable courage to leave him.

 Her form, tz’u poems, are new lyrics for old tunes: the equivalent in American vernacular of writing new words for On Top of Old Smoky.


Li Ch’ing-chao (1084?-ca. 1151)

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2018 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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