Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Poetry Month: Final Installment...Rashomon Style...


upstream downstream
Originally uploaded by placeinsun.
Wow - the month flew by - as months do - and as i write this there are maybe one hundred and ten (or less) minutes remaining in the month of April. So not a lot of time remains to get people pumped up for National Poetry Month.

and besides, May, which is just around the corner, is Date Your Mate Month, National Hamburger Month, and Fungal Infection Awareness Month. (really. try google and see.)

But despite the plethora of upcoming reasons to celebrate, we should probably just concentrate on the here and now, and appreciate the few fleeting moments that remain with us as part of National Poetry Month 2006.

and so rather than rounding out the month with just one poem, i thought it would make more sense if we rounded out the month with just one poem.

Meng Hao-jan was something of an old-school (689-740 C.E.) chinese poet.

here is a William Carlos Williams translation of his poem Night on the Great River:

Steering my little boat towards a misty islet,

I watch the sun descend while my sorrows grow:

In the vast night the sky hangs lower than the treetops,

But in the blue lake the moon is coming close.



and here is the very same poem, in another translation by Kenneth Rexroth:

We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island.

As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.

The plain stretches away without limit.

The sky is just above the tree tops.

The river flows quietly by.

The moon comes down amongst men.



and finally here is a third translation by Gary Snyder:

The boat rocks at anchor by the misty island

Sunset, my loneliness comes again.

In these vast wilds the sky arches down to the trees.

In the clear river water, the moon draws near.


I love how each interpretation of the original poem is so wildly different (and similar), in the same way that the four versions of the same story in Rashomon reflect, well - who can say exactly what they reflect - other than our own way of seeing/saying what we perceive or need to preceive as "the truth".

And i love that we can all examine the same exact poem/incident/newspaper story, and the variety and randomness of our individual lives insures that as much as we are all, in some way, looking at the same page, we are simultaneously looking through a set of eyes that is never quite in focus for anyone but ourself.

Happy National Poetry Month !

(poems from The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry)

3 comments:

emdot said...

I wish I could fave this post.

UrielUnbound said...
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7-how-7 said...
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