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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry Paperback – November 4, 2008


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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry + The Selected Poems of Li Po + Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375711600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711602
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not a biography, but instead a very coherent book of free translations, this new volume translated by Young (Black Lab) gives the sense of a life as lived, a life that belongs at once to Du Fu (712–770, also called Tu Fu) and to any sympathetic reader who has experienced beauty in nature, disillusion in politics, or love and trouble at home. These 168 poems, along with clear footnotes, also create a sense of the poets own times. Du Fu began his poetic career as a bachelor writing beautiful seasonal poetry, a close friend of the great, and slightly older, poet Li Bai (Li Po). Autumn again and you and I/ are thistledown in the wind, he told his friend in one early poem. But Du Fu married and began a family, and then, seeking noble patrons, had to travel through war zones. He wrote, in consequence, poems about conscription, battle, poverty and loneliness: on my face new tears/ are running down familiar tracks. Search for secure employment later on brought him to far-flung provincial towns, where he produced his most tranquil verse: here comes some tea and sugarcane juice/ brought down from the house. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

David Young has written ten books of poetry, including Black Lab (2006), At the White Window (2000), and The Planet on the Desk: Selected and New Poems (1991). He has also translated the poems of Petrarch and Eugenio Montale. A past winner of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a Pushcart Prize, he is the Longman Professor Emeritus of English and Creative Writing at Oberlin College, and the editor of the Field Poetry Series at Oberlin College Press. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Julie Vognar on March 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is most of a life in poetry--and occasionally, pictures from that life that are startling, both for their strangeness and their familiarity. How much do we know of the the private feelings of a man from 8th century China? David Young ties the story together, with his translation, and his references to people, places, times, and the translators who have gone before him. (All my comments around the three poems are either his, or inspired by his).

Du Fu has already failed the Imperial exam, already met Li Bai, whose poetry he loves, and thinks, but restlessly, of becoming a hermit-poet. At thirty, he looks at a painting--with the eyes of a young man(how many old Chinese paintings can we see today with "white" silk? How many--fragments-- that anyone could have seen in 742?):

Memorable portrait
of a falcon

the white silk
gives off wind and frost

is he watching fiercely
for a rabbit?

angry foreigner
he looks at me askance

he has a chain and ring
ready to unfasten

I could almost
take him off his perch

send him out to find
some of those little larks

scatter blood and feathers
on the prairie.

*

Five years before the An-Lushan rebellion (755), the border fighting which--partly-- inspired it was already underway:

...tax gatherers go back and forth
but where will the taxes come from?

it makes us question whether
there's any sense in having sons

daughters can marry neighbors
boys seem born to die in foreign weeds

have you seen how the bones from the past
lie bleached and uncollected near Black Lake?
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Louis Petrillo on March 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been reading translations of Du Fu's poetry since my undergraduate days when I bought a copy of _ The White Pony _ at my college's bookstore. Since then I've read innumerable translations: Kenneth Rexroth, Burton Watson, William Hinton, Sam Hamill, Red Pine, and who knows how many others. This is the finest of the lot since Rexroth. Already I plan to use one of the poems for a eulogy of a dear friend who's very ill. My only complaint is that he doesn't include the Chinese originals.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. liu on August 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oh, mine! Du Fu in his life time never was praised and respected with such attention, even though he (my idol) deserved all the praise!
A Poet's Biography and his Poetry in one booklet in picturical and musical English!
This is the best way to honor a poet, and all of English poems of Du Fu, that I always telling myself that poetry can be translated when I become a part of that poet, and what's better than a bio and poems on every page in the order of years (timeline). David Young is awesome poet and I can feel how much life he spends to just meditate with the words of Du Fu, I am a Chinese and American too, I could recite most beautiful verses of Tang and Song poets, I have so many poetry dictionaries that categorized by topic, object, style, scene, image... but I have not seen a lot of poet's bio and poems in 'one', but Mr. Young created something new for poets. This way readers may understand the poet more, why he writes curtain poem and how he feels at that moment in his life, and the same journey we are guided by this.
This book is must buy! and Mr. Young's Five Tang Poets too!
If our parent is smart, then we must give our teenage children this book and along some others, these poets are the best teachers in human history, because they condense their life and soul into a few beautiful words that we can obtain the lesson of art, wisdom and humanity thru all the natural English poems. And this translation, all the poems are natural as Chinese aesthetic standard, Natural (Zi Ran ''''the highest standard for art or skill, which the thought and character and action of a person harmoniously meld into one with nature and society, and Wang Wei, Li Po, Du Fu... and many are all natural, and now Mr.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Erik C. Pihl on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful combination: part poetry, part biography. The biographical writing is clean and crisp, the translations read well in English. A great addition to the library of anyone interested in one of the great Chinese poets.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Max Kummerow on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 754 China had a very wet, cold year and much of the grain rotted in the fields. In 755 a general in charge of northeast China rebelled against the emperor who had been preoccupied with his mistress and not paying enough attention to administration. A year later the emperor's troops made him watch as the concubine was strangled. The census before the rebellion counted 53 million Chinese. Ten years later after the rebellion was put down, the next census counted 17 million. If these numbers are right, 36 million people, two out of three Chinese, did not survive, probably the worst collapse of a human society in history in terms of numbers and percentage. Some of Du Fu's poems give us a window to what it was like to live through such an appalling disaster.

In a long life in poetry, Du Fu captured many emotions and scenes--friendship, happy alcohol drinking, family life, nature, social injustice, political maneuvering. Du Fu saw and wrote it all down with economical language that captured the essence of his world. Translating Chinese poetry presents a huge challenge--the quality of the result has a lot to do with the translator. A little book called "15 translations of a poem by Wang Wei" (another Tang Dynasty poet) shows how the Chinese use of allusions and metaphor allow many different English versions, some more poetic, reflecting the poetic abilities, depth of knowledge and biases of the translator. Gary Snyder and Burton Watson are my favorite translators. But this book is pretty good. These English poems kind of get the job done, rendering the meaning with some grace and beauty and the openness to interpretation where a great poet allows us to draw our own meaning from the elusive words.
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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry
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