This is great work you’re doing, Phil, I really appreciate it.

I introduced myself to Chinese poetry through translations of Po Chu ~ I while browsing a bookstore (remember them?) and I was struck by, among other things, the covert politics of the poetry.

Down the rabbit hole, I went. So nice to meet a fellow traveler online.

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Thank you! Yes, this is definitely one of the hardest aspects of translating these poems: in their original context they may well have had quite different layers of meaning that we can only guess at now. The kinds of events that inspire writers to create poetry may often be tiny, quotidian things, unrecorded in any history. Or imagine the difference that timing makes: how would the reading change for a poem praising X during his political ascendancy, versus a poem praising X after X has been demoted. When poems come to us undated, we have to guess at these distinctions.

But there is still a lot that shines clearly through - the images, in particular. In this piece, the images seem to create their own spectacular poetry: the mythic site abandoned by its god, the heritage crumbling away, the landforms cut off and only half-accessible... Given that we can read these images and form that moment of connection with Li Bai, we just have to make a start on the translation. Whether something specific happened to Li when he was at Jinling - whether the poem was inspired by a particularly weird cloud formation one day - we'll probably never know. But there's enough there to get started.

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Yes, I get it, and you put it well.

“Enough to get started . . .” made me think of the “Found Poem“.

These wise sages left some treasures. A good find with a headstart for the seekers.

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