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The Selected Poems of T'ao Ch'ien Paperback – May 1, 2000

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

9/9, Chi Year Of The Rooster
9th Month, Keng Year Of The Dog, Early Rice Harvested
After An Ancient Poem
After Kuo Chu-pu's Poems
After Liu Ch'ai-sang's Poem
Back Home Again Chant
Begging Food
Burial Songs
Cha Festival Day
Drinking Wine: 1
Drinking Wine: 2
Drinking Wine: 3
Drinking Wine: 4
Drinking Wine: 5
Drinking Wine: 6
Drinking Wine: 7
Drinking Wine: 7
Early Spring, Kuei Year Of The Hare, Thinking
Elegy For Myself
Form, Shadow, Spirit: 1. Form Addresses Shadow
Form, Shadow, Spirit: 2. Shadow Replies
Form, Shadow, Spirit: 3. Spirit Answers
Great Men Want The Four Seas. I've Only
Home Again Among Gardens And Fields
An Idle 9/9 At Home
In Reply To Liu Ch'ai-sang
In The 6th Month, Wu Year Of The Horse, Fire Broke Out
Peach-blossom Spring
Reading He Classic Of Mountains And Seas
Returning To My Old Home
Scolding My Sons
Seeing Guests Off At Governor Wang's
Steady Rain, Drinking Alone
Thinking Of Impoverished Ancients
Together, We All Go Out Under The Cypress Trees In The Chou
Turning Seasons
Untitled
Untitled
Wandering At Hsieh Creek
We've Moved
Wine Stop
Written In The 12th Month, Kuei Year Of The Hare
Written On Passing Through Ch'u-o, Newly Appointed
Written One Morning In The 5th Month After Tai Chu-pu's Poem
-- Table of Poems from Poem Finder®
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556590563
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556590566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #548,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I teach Chinese literature in translation, and a few other things, at the University of North Carolina, and I've used this in class since it came into print. Students who have slept thru earlier Chinese literature snap awake to these. I have called T'ao Ch'ien the first modern poet( in the world). Hinton, one our best translators, makes a good case for my assertion. Since you're here you might note how many of the top new translations from Chinese come from the same publisher... Copper Canyon.
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Format: Paperback
This poet is an inspiration for me. T'ao Ch'ien came from a respectable, connected family. He received a good education in the classics. He entered government service as he was expected- to serve his emperor, his country, his family. He even served on the staffs of two generals. He had it made.

Then one day he simply walked out on it all. He walked deep into the countryside and became a recluse and a farmer. He did this because he couldn't stand to serve overbearing and arrogant superiors. But mostly, he couldn't stand being distracted from a life of inner peace centered around the flow of nature. It also cut down on his drinking time.

T-ao Ch'ien didn't retire to become a gentleman farmer. He howed his own crops- and the rice jar was often empty. He seemed to have lived a life close to Thoreau's ideal, except that he kept it up for over 40 years until his death- a death that he did not fear.

Don't think that this was an idyllic period in Chinese history. The empire had been driven from the north. Rebellion raged in both the east and west. The empire was disintegrating. The poet talks about how few neighbors he had because the countryside was depopulated. Yet, nowhere will you find poetry that speaks more truthfully about the quiet, harmonious life lived close to the earth. There is no striving here. T'ao Ch'ien had already reached enlightenment before he ever put pen to paper. For a poet that never actually mentions the great Tao, it is obvious that his every moment was spent in its embrace.

The poet makes it clear that he doubts the existance of heaven and of the immortals. He would live his life no differently if they did; he would regard inevitable death no differently. One can not but hope that he was in error here, for if any being deserved a place at the table of the immortals it was T'ao Ch'ien- with an ever flowing wine jar.
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The translations of T'ao Ch'ien's poetry by David Hinton represents a level of excellence not often achieved when translating non-comensurate languages. The English reads almost as if the poems had been written in that language and is a joy to read and re-read. Anyone interested in Asian poetry in general, and Chinese poetry in particular, should own a copy.
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Format: Paperback
These poems are absolutely lovely, and I would recommend them to anyone.
And if you enjoy long walks in wilderness, or if you enjoy solitude, then reading these poems will feel like nourishment.

The Biography of Mr. Five Willows is a particular favorite, and brings me to a point I have about the writing: I prefer the small amount of prose to many of the poems because I dislike the (translator's?) use of enjambment.

So, I have a question for reviewers who have also read the original: Does T'ao Ch'ien use enjambment across couplets/stanzas?

In English, it makes some of the poetry hard to read--it puts these long awkward pauses between couplets, in the middle of clauses, which don't seem natural. These pauses aren't like the pause between out-breath and in-breath, it's more like holding your breath.
To be clear, I'm not against enjambment, I just don't think it was well done here. I felt as if the enjambment was a product of trying to keep the lines of poetry the same length, and aesthetically similar. I eventually "got over it" and started to read the poetry without pausing for enjambment, but I thought it was a poor decision on the part of the translator. If the enjambment exists in the Chinese as well, is it put to better use?

Regardless, I would give the translator 5 stars anyway, because these poems really hit the spot.
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Format: Paperback
I find these poems by T'ao Ch'ien deeply moving. There is something very profound in them, lying behind their apparent simplicity. This makes the abyss of time, distance and culture (China, 1600 years ago) vanish suddenly to show us something utterly human that hasn't changed since. Without getting moral, T'ao gives us simple living lessons everywhere:

Our son plays beside me. Too young
to speak, he keeps trying new sounds.
All this brings back such joy I forget
glittering careers ...

which I find a very refreshing balsam for our ridiculously fast-pace times.
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These poems are wonderful, and the translator has done an excellent job of making the poet's voice immediate and universal. The message of these poems--how to live as an individual and a family in the midst of the pressing demands and distractions put on us by society-- is as relevant today as it was were 1700 years ago.
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Hinton makes English sing like the original Chinese. Not a loose poetic approximation of the original but a translation that is Chinese in English. T'ao Ch'ien isn't bad either!
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