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One Hundred Poems From The Chinese Hardcover – July 22, 2011

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About the Author

Poet-essayist Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was a high-school dropout, disillusioned ex-Communist, pacifist, anarchist, rock-climber, critic and translator, mentor, Catholic-Buddhist spiritualist and a prominent figure of San Francisco's Beat scene. He is regarded as a central figure of the San Francisco Renaissance and is among the first American poets to explore traditional Japanese forms such as the haiku. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Literary Licensing, LLC (July 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1258069156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1258069155
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
ONE HUNDRED POEMS FROM THE CHINESE. By Kenneth Rexroth. 148 pp. New York : New Directions, 1965 and Reissued.
The present book is in two parts. First we are given Rexroth's readings of thirty-five poems by Tu Fu, based on the Chinese text. The second part consists of a selection of Sung Dynasty poetry, most of which had not been Englished prior to Rexroth.
Rexroth makes no great claims for these translations, some of which he admits are rather free. But he does express the hope that "in all cases they are true to the spirit of the originals, and valid English poems" (p.xi).
It has always seemed to me that Rexroth succeeded brilliantly. Here are a few lines chosen at random from Tu Fu's 'Loneliness' (with my obliques added to indicate line breaks) :
".... Where the dew sparkles in the grass, / The spider's web waits for its prey. / The processes of nature resemble the business of men. / I stand alone with ten thousand sorrows" (p.16).
Here are a few from Su Tung P'o :
".... As for literature, it is its own reward. / Fortunately fools pay little attention to it. / A chance for graft / Makes them blush with joy" (p.73).
These readings of Rexroth will delight all open-minded readers. Who cares if he wasn't a union-approved sinologist? Purists may sputter, but since his versions are 'true to the spirit, and valid as English poems,' could any sensible person reasonably ask for more ?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mark on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Rexroth is a poet first and a translator second; judged on that basis, his One Hundred Poems from the Chinese is a great success. His approach, set out in a brief introduction, is simply to produce the best English poem he can in the spirit of the original. The resulting translations are more or less free as he thought appropriate for each individual work.
The book is in two parts. Part one consists of Rexroth's versions of 35 poems by Du Fu, whom he describes as "the greatest non-epic, non dramatic poet who has survived in any language". He clearly knows these poems well, and his translations are uniformly good.
Part two offers around 70 works by Sung dynasty poets; some are represented by only one piece, some by more extensive selections. These tend to be more free, more personal, and often strikingly modern works. In Rexroth's words again: "The whole spirit of this time in China is very congenial today"- a statement as true today as when it was written in 1971. Many of these poets are still not well translated in English, so Rexroth's translations are invaluable.
At the back of the book is a brief, but adequate, notes section with information on each poet and explanatory material.
Rexroth's concentration on the lesser-known Sung poets is paralleled by his choice of poems in the Du Fu section. He does not confine himself to the best known pieces found in other collections, striking a good balance between the familiar and the new.
An interesting example of Rexroth's approach to translation is:
Another Spring
White birds over the grey river./Scarlet flowers on the green hills./I watch the Spring go by and wonder/If I shall ever return home.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donnel Nunes on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've owned the boxed, hardcover first edition of this little volume since it was first published going on 30 years ago. It remains one of my all-time poetry favorites, both for its depth of feeling and for its selection. I recently lent it to my youngest daughter who is now madly in love with it, too, so I may have to buy another copy.
Ancient Chinese poetry is as simple and direct as a drop of rain on your cheek, but don't be misled. It is that very simplicity and directness that gives it the power to cut you to the quick. Since I don't have the volume handy, I can't, unfortunately, cite any examples, but they're there in my heart and the influence my own writing every day. This is an exquisite little book. And don't miss Arthur Waley's "A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems" which Rexroth cites in this work.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ken Chen on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I don't really want to rate this book--which incidentally is very good (it's been said that Rexroth is a better poet when he is not Rexroth)--but to clarify what the previous poster wrote. Chinese poetry is not simple--Rexroth's translation is simple. The original Tang poems were metered, rhymed, heavily referential, and too complex to completely translate without a pockmark of footnotes. They only end up unrhymed and direct in English as a legacy of Ezra Pound's use of Chinese imagism as artillery against Victorian metric conventions. (I have the strange feeling that I'm going to end up repeating this post several times.) I think Rexroth's notes are very interesting, like his offhand claim that "Tu Fu is the best non-dramatic, non-epic poet in world history," but I think the Japanese poems tend to translate better into English. So, if you like this, you would probably like 100 Poems from the Japanese as much or more. Burton Watson, Stephen Owen, Arthur Waley, and James Legge are the obvious scholars on this era, though I am partial to AC GRAHAM's Poems of the Late Tang, especially his Li Shang Yin. Hugh Kenner's THE POUND ERA also provides an explanation of Pound's 'translation' that combines sly close critiques with Poundish Pound cheerleading.
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