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Selected Poems of Su Tung-P'o Paperback – February 1, 1993

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From Publishers Weekly

Chinese is a daunting language to translate, but this new selection of poems by the leading poet of the Sung dynasty (960-1279) is in safe hands: Watson ( From the Country of Eight Islands ), a prize-winning translator of numerous volumes of Chinese and Japanese poetry, has translated and compiled an extraordinary book of poems. Su Tung-p'o was a civil servant who traveled to numerous political posts throughout the state. Hence, much of his poetry is a catalogue of his travels--their diverse landscapes, inhabitants, songs and folklore. With his lyrical precision and astonishing eye for detail, Su Tung-p'o renders the Chinese countryside with a vivid particularity: "Purple plums, yellow melons--the village roads smell sweet; / Black gauze cap, white hemp robe--traveling clothes are cool." Less aesthetically rigid than earlier Chinese poets, he sought inspiration both in issues of philosophical complexity and matters of everyday life. This expansiveness, combined with a sophisticated sense of image and metaphor, created a body of work that is strikingly modern. Or, in Su Tung-p'o's own words: "We're like a rabbit darting from preying hawks . . . lightning glimpsed through a crack."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Above The River, Heavy On The Heart (1088)
Along The Road To Stone Lake (1078)
At Twilight, Fine Rain Was Still Falling
Beginning Of Autumn: A Poem To Send To Tzu-yu (1083)
Bell And Drum On The South River Bank (1101)
Black Clouds -- Spilled Ink (1072)
Black Muzzle
Bright Moon, When Did You Appear?
By The River At T'eng-chou, Betting Up At Night (1100)
Climbing Cloud Dragon Mountain (1078)
Creek Crisscrosses The Meadow (1087)
Days Of Rain; The Rivers Have Overflowed: 1
Days Of Rain; The Rivers Have Overflowed: 2
Describing Water Wheels On The Road To Wu-hsi (1074)
Dipping Water From The River And Simmering Tea (1100)
Drank Tonight At Eastern Slope (1082)
Drinking At The Lake; It Was Clear At First But Later (1073)
Drinking Wine (1092)
Eastern Slope
Eastern Slope
Eating Lichees, The 2nd Poem Of Two With Introduction (1096)
Evening View From Sea Watch Tower (1072)
The Fa-hui Temple's Pavilion Of Horizontal Green (1073)
Feet Stuck Out, Singing Wildly (1094)
First Prose Poem On The Red Cliff (1082)
Following The Rhymes Of Yang Pao's Early Spring
For Fu Yao-yu's Grass Hall At Chi-yuan
Grasses Bury The River Bank (1072)
Half-sober, Half-drunk (1098)
Held Up By Head Winds On The Tz'u-hu-chia (1094)
Held Up Two Days At Gold Mountain (1079)
Hsin-ch'ou Eleventh Month, Nineteenth Day
A Hunded Days, Free To Go (1080)
Hundred Pace Rapids (1078)
Husband-watching Height
I Only Hear A Bell Beyond The Mist
I Thought I'd End My Days In A Hainan Village (1100)
I Travel Day And Night
I'm A Frightened Monkey Who's Reached The Forest (1095)
In The Rain Visiting The Temple Of The Compassionate Goddess
It Snowed In South Valley
Lament Of The Farm Wife Of Wu
Letting The Writing Brush Go Where It Will (1099)
Lodging At Hai-hui Temple (1073)
Long Ago I Lived In The Country (1093)
Lotus Viewing
Mid-autumn Moon (1078)
Mirage At Sea (1085)
Mountain Village (1073)
New Year's Eve (1071)
New Year's Eve (1084)
The New Year's Eve Blizzard
New Year's Eve: Spending The Night Outside Ch'ang-chou City
On A Boat, Awake At Night (1079)
On First Arriving At Huang-chou (1080)
On The Road To Hsin-ch'eng
On The Yangtze Watching The Hills
Overgrown Garden Deserted In Fall (1074)
Painting Of A Wild Goose By The Scholar In Retirement (1084)
A Pair Of Rocks, With Introduction (1092)
Pear Blossoms By The Eastern Palisade (1077)
Presented To Abbot Ch'ang-tsung Of The East Forest Temple
Presented To Liu Ching-wen (1090)
Reading The Poetry Of Meng Chiao
Rhyming With Tzu-yu's At Mien-ch'ih, Recalling The Past
Rhyming With Tzu-yu's Silkworm Fair
Rhyming With Tzu-yu's 'treading The Green'
Roadside Flowers, Three Poems With Introduction (1073)
Second Prose Poem On The Red Cliff (1082)
Seeing The Year Out
Setting Off Early On The Huai River (1092)
Seven Thousand Miles Away (1094)
Song Of The Stone Drums
South Hall (1083)
Spring Night
The Statue Of Vimalakirti, A Clay Figure By Hang Hui-chih
Ten Days Of Spring Cold Kept Me Indoors (1081)
Ten Years - Dead And Living Dim And Draw Apart
Three Delights In My Place Of Exile (1097)
Three Hundred Tiers Of Green Hills (1084)
To The Tune Of Partridge Sky
Traveling At Night And Looking At The Stars
Under The Heaven Of Our Holy Ruler
Viewing Peonies At The Temple Of Good Fortune (1072)
Visiting Gold Mountain Temple
Visiting The Monastery Of The Patriarch's Pagoda While Ill
Visiting Yung-lo Temple I Learn That The Old Priest Wen Died
When Yu-k'o Painted Bamboo (1087)
White Crane Hill (1097)
Who Days A Painting Must Look Like Life? (1087)
Wild Birds On The Roof Call Insistently (1073)
Winter Solstice
Written For Master Chan's Room At The Double Bamboo Temple
Written On Abbot Lun's Wall At Mount Chiao (1074)
Written On The Wall At West Forest Temple (1084)
-- Table of Poems from Poem Finder®

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 145 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (February 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556590644
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556590641
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
SELECTED POEMS OF SU TUNG-P'O : Translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson. 148 pp. Port Townsend, WA : Copper Canyon Press, 1994. ISBN 1-55659-064-4 (pbk.)
Burton Watson has always struck me as an eminently civilized scholar and as a fine translator. Unlike certain others, he wears his scholarship lightly, and doesn't overburden the text with extraneous matter. His many translations from Chinese and Japanese Literature are of uniformly high quality, and are well worth having as they are books one often wants to returns to.
The present book, after a typically brief but interesting and informative introduction which provides all we really need before diving into the poems, gives us translations of 105 of Su Tung-p'o's poems, lightly annotated and beautifully printed on spacious pages.
Su Tung-p'o is one of China's greatest poets, and Watson has outdone himself here. The wrapper includes a highly laudatory appreciation by Gary Snyder, and it's easy to see why. Watson has always been a brilliant translator, and a true artist with words, but in this book he has lifted himself into the ranks of the very best, and has produced translations indistinguishable in quality from those of Snyder himself.
Here, as an example of his marvelous control of tone, thought, feeling, image, rhythm, and sound, are the opening lines of poem 52 (with my obliques added to indicate line breaks) - 'Reading the Poetry of Meng Chiao' :
"Night : reading Meng Chiao's poems, / characters fine as cow's hair. / By the cold lamp, my eyes blur and swim. / Good passages I rarely find - / lone flowers poking up from the mud - / But more hard words than the Odes or Li Sao - / jumbled rocks clogging the clear stream, / making rapids too swift for poling. / My first impression is of eating little fishes.
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The amazing thing about Su Tung-p'o is how modern he feels. Part of this is the translation by Burton Watson, but most of it is a reminder that the human condition has not changed a lot in 1000 years. We still miss our friends, marvel at the beauty of nature, feel the bittersweet loneliness of travel, and live in special moments. An excellent collection.
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Burton Watson, recognised as one of the finest translators of our time, gives us a selection of poems by an illustrious Chinese poet who lived in the 11th century. Many of the poems refer to Su Tung-P'o's travels as a government official in China. The poems are remarkable for their descriptions of the landscape and for their clear, concrete detail. The poet often has a light, playful touch. The poems reveal Su Tung-P'o as a compassionate man who, even though he suffered hardship, had a cheerful temperament. He asks questions still relevant to us all. There are poems that are warm and tender - others that reveal the influence of Taoism - and others such as "Dipping water from the river and simmering tea" that are artistic and touching. Jan Hutchison.
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This is a fine little volume of poetry by Su Tung-p'o, one of the great poets of Sung Dynasty China, translated with the usual virtuosity by Burton Watson. As usual, too, Watson knows how to be scholarly without being pedantic: his introduction is appropriately brief and to the point, outlining the poet's life and his poetics nicely and so giving readers enough background information without delaying them too much from the wonderful poems that follow. In the same way, enough footnotes are included to clarify and contextualize without overburdening the poems with a morass of prose.

Su has sort of helped Watson out on this, though, because his poems are for the most part very straightforward and accessible, appealing directly to our sensibilities. There is nothing so very convoluted or obscure about them that would require lots of annotation (in contrast, say, to poetry like that of Li He (as seen in Goddesses, Ghosts and Demons (Poetica)). This is not to say that Su's poems are shallow or simplistic. Far from it. They include within themselves depths and depths of feeling and insight by someone who was clearly moved by the world around him, someone who had seen his shares of life's ups and downs, someone who as a layperson practiced Buddhist meditation and fine-tuned his spirit thereby but who was far from adverse from inspiring himself with spirits of a more liquid nature. Indeed, the poems give every impression that this poet would've been a great guy to hang out with, perched somewhere on the ridge of some mountain temple, looking out over the landscape, sharing a few bottles of wine and a good laugh. In a way, the poems themselves travel over the centuries and give the reader just such an experience.
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i really liked these poems of Su Tung-P'o. Most are nature poems but a few are written about relationships. These poems are very accessible. The images in them are very sharp and quite lyrical. i think Burton Watson did a great job of translating these poems.
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