Thursday, July 31, 2014

Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing, XXXVII

the harvest moon
meets me at the window...
of Li Po's laughter
in the corner of my mind

Atlas Poetica, 15, July 2013

Note: You can read its preceding tanka or the whole sequence here.

Below is a relevant excerpt from Robert D. Wilson's "An Evaluation and Introspective Look at the Haiku of Chen-ou Liu," which was first published in  Simply Haiku, 8:2, Autumn 2010:

As a poet, Li Po is one of the most loved Chinese poets and his poems are widely taught in schools, memorized by children, and constantly recited on all sorts of occasions. The first poem I ever memorized was his “Thoughts in Night Quiet,” the best known of all Chinese poems, especially among Chinese living overseas:

Seeing moonlight here at my bed,
and thinking it's frost on the ground,

I look up, gaze at the mountain moon,
then back, dreaming of my old home.

-- translated by David Hinton
(note: the poem alludes to the harvest moon and therefore the Mid-Autumn Festival)

When I was six, my father recited this poem to me with watery eyes. At that time, he hadn’t seen his family for two decades since he came to Taiwan in 1949, with the defeated Chinese Nationalist Army. I memorized the poem and didn’t fully reflect upon its meaning in my heart and mind. Little was understood about the suffering endured by my father and his generation due to the Chinese Civil War. It was not until the seventh year since I emigrated to Canada that I’d experienced this pang of nostalgic longing explored in Li’s poem through the moon imagery – a symbol of distance and family reunion – portrayed in simple and evocative language. Since then, every time when I thought of my parents, my family, and my hometown, I recited “Thoughts in Night Quiet,” which is not only Li’s poem but also mine.

More importantly, some of the recurring themes in Li’s poems appeal greatly to me, such as dreams, solitude/loneliness, and the passage of time, and they become the key motifs of my work. His skillful use of language, his great sensibility toward imagery, and his deep insights into the human condition through a Taoist lens capture nuanced human experience, which is the main goal I want to achieve in my writing.

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