“Ballad of the Savage Tiger” by Li He

grown.jpeg

No one attacks it with a long lance,
No one plies a strong cross-bow.
Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs,
It trains them into savagery.
Its reared head becomes a wall
Its waving tail becomes a banner.
Even Huang from the Eastern Sea,¹
Dreaded to see it after dark,
A righteous tiger, met on the road,²
Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai.
What good is it for that short sword
To hang on the wall, growling like thunder?
When from the foot of Tai mountain
Comes the sound of a woman weeping,
Government regulations forbid
Any official to dare to listen.³

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Notes from The Collected Poems of Li He:

A satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers.

  1. Huang, of Dong-hai, had magical powers which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost these powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger.
  2. The zhou-yu was a white tiger with black markings which appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned were-tiger, who ate his own elder brother. He is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others.
  3. Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.

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More about Li He from The New York Review of Books:

Li He is the bad-boy poet of the late Tang dynasty. He began writing at the age of seven and died at twenty-six from alcoholism or, according to a later commentator, “sexual dissipation,” or both. An obscure and unsuccessful relative of the imperial family, he would set out at dawn on horseback, pause, write a poem, and toss the paper away. A servant boy followed him to collect these scraps in a tapestry bag.

Long considered far too extravagant and weird for Chinese taste, Li He was virtually excluded from the poetic canon until the mid-twentieth century. Today, as the translator and scholar Anne M. Birrell, writes, “Of all the Tang poets, even of all Chinese poets, he best speaks for our disconcerting times.” Modern critics have compared him to Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, and Trakl.

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Source: Li He, Ballad of the Savage Tiger. “The Collected Poems of Li He.” Translated by J.D. Frodsham, New York Review Books, 2016.

 

‘Transformed Creature’ by Liu Xia

Translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

You have a strange pet—
one eye is a cat’s, the other a sheep’s.
Yet, it won’t socialize with felines,
will attack any flock of sheep.
On moonlit nights,
it wanders on roofs.

When you’re alone,
it will lie in your lap,
preoccupied,
slowly studying you until—
on its face—a challenge.

6/1988

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Source: Liu, Xia, Di Ming, Jennifer Kronovet, Herta Müller, and Yiwu Liao. Empty Chairs: Selected Poems. 2015.

Begin reading about Liu Xia here and then Google her name and pay attention to learn more. 

I encourage readers to purchase the book here, and listen to a conversation between poet Rachel Zucker and translator Jennifer Kronovet on a recent episode of the Commonplace Podcast. You can financially support (as I do) Commonplace Podcast—a brilliant, important project exploring the work of influential working artists—on Patreon.

‘We have passed through the night without deliverance’

Columbus692-sm

these might be bad translations
but at this moment they are
the only translations available in english

Nous avons traversé la nuit sans délivrance
translated as
We have passed through the night without deliverance

sure it’s accurate but
the translator must also be
a most loving octopus

No Echo No Light (Sorted)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 808

noecho

without echo
this is arguable
the new edition
no echo no light
no echo no light
no echo no light
echo without tongue
a soft clumsy argument
departments and programs
new edition of the borrowed text
the new edition of the translation
the new edition of the new edition
in this it is arguable: in his preface
this preface to a treat without echo
departments and pronouns continue to
continue to tongue without imagination
west relates how many university translators
treat the translator’s invisibility without echo
to the new edition departments and programs
of soft clumsy giants this is arguable in his preface
kanye west relates how many university programs
imagine a soft clumsy giant ingrown in a mountain
as a linguistic brick rather than a humanity of fields
continue to treat the translator’s invisibility as a liability

Print Formatting with Strings

Wikipedia Poem, No. 795

w795

black of 
    warmth 
  of a 
   truce 
      in 
          warmth of death i 
      live in black of death i 
live in that disappearing apparition 
you and the black bough
      of black of 
moments only 
i 
          am the 
   apparition that 
disappears 
believes without noticing you ask me with strings 
      black moments 
on an order of space 
of the apparition you and 
the 
         cleric in 
favor of 
  death i 
      live 
in 
    what disappears 
and space 
and 
black 
          the black of you under moments 
only i am sacerdotal of  
  apparition 
         your 
         caresses but 
i 
do not confess you ask me forever 
print forever print forever print forever

‘There Are No Innocent People in Gaza’

Wikipedia Poem, No. 752

tamim-3-sm

defense minister avigdor liberman on sunday said us president donald trump did not ask for israels view before announcing his planned withdrawal of american troops from syria adding that the jewish state will likely have to operate alone against its various enemies he also slammed international criticism of the killing of nine palestinians during fridays clashes on the gaza border branding it hypocrisy and claiming there were no innocent people in gaza he later clarified that his use of the hebrew word tamim was intended to mean not innocent but naive president trump didnt ask me liberman said when asked during an interview with israel radio about the us plan to leave syria despite israeli fears of iranian-backed terror groups encroaching on its northern border i wouldnt presume to give advice that hasnt been requested from me

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Source: Bachner, Michael. “Liberman Signals Trump Didn’t Consult with Israel on Syria Withdrawal.” The Times of Israel, 8 Apr. 2018. 10:15 a.m. Web.

“Aubade Sung at Laetare a Year Ago” by Guillaume Apollinaire

aubade1

It’s spring come out Esther you should
Take a walk in the pretty woods
The hens are clucking in the yard
Dawn’s pink folds are shooting skyward
And love is coming to steal your heart

Mars and Venus have come back anew
They give each other mad kisses
An innocent interlude
While beneath the fluttering roses
Lovely pink gods are dancing nude

So come my tenderness is queen
Of this flowering that appears
Nature is beautiful and touching
Pan is whistling in the trees
The wet frogs are singing

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Source: Apollinaire, Guillaume. “Aubade Sung at Laetare a Year Ago.” Zone: Selected Poems. Trans. Ron Padgett. NYRB Poets, 2015. 25. Print.

After Cellini’s ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa’

Wikipedia Poem, No. 590

pain 
if 
you ever forgive me

i'm 
not 
silent   i'm not 

know that 
premere 
il fiore 

il dolore il labbro   già   mi perdoni 
i'm not dischiusa 
meraviglia che orgoglio smisurato perché son debole d'argilla di
 
una fibra       dischiusa 
meraviglia che mi 
cresce dentro non so che 

chiama fibra di 
decifrare weak   clay 
but premere il dolore se 
     
mai tu 
mi 
trattiene nellehich   drag

ma in fervide unghie 
del mio tempo
tempo di demonio o 

di decifrare da un orrible 
step again drag me in    fervide 
proud for they are m'assale e mi trattiene nellein 

if you ever forgive me 
devi   i'm not silent   premere 
il fiore

 

Hezutsu Tōsaku (1726-1789)

affluence

Affluence—define it as:
pickled greens,
rice for supper,
nice wine, one bottle,
modest but never empty

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Source: Sato, Hiroaki, and Burton Watson. From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Print.

Handheld Halo (Drinks with Mitch)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 475

Mitch

“The Dark One threw me a glance like a dagger today. / Since that moment, I am insane; I can’t find my body.” Mirabai (trans. Robert Bly)

          drunking 
          out 
          pretty 
      along 
      the hand 

      scratching 

        out 
  pretty along the baptist?
    no is it 
krishna then?
is 
it 
mirabai 
or the baptist?
    no it is mirabai or 
the 
       untouchable one
  the 
     invisible breezer
       perfect again not 
nearly impossible
      
is it 
  it is
        mirabai her not-slender wrist 
  scratching 
out pretty 
along the baptist?
        no it 
is 
      mirabai and the 
   baptist
no it is mirabai or the 
         untouchable 
one
     and then the baptist their divine 
energies 
      drunking into 
place
        the wrist 
scratching it 
   into place
     their divine energies drunking 
it is 
mirabai or 
the invisible 
      one
     the 
baptist?
no it is krishna
is 
it blue-faced like st. john the baptised 
no is it placed
      into this divine energy
safely