“Art is like a kite. You have to pull the string hard in order to stretch it to its limit, but you don’t want to pull it so hard that you break the thread, because the thread connects you to the land and its peoples.” ~ Wu Guanzhong
Once again, I have my tumblr dash to thank for discovering another artist. Seeing one print by Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) set me on an internet search for more of his work, which I found in abundance. Rather than including some of the images in a post, I decided to let the art be the post, hence, the gallery below.
Wu Guanzhong is considered by many to be one of the greatest Chinese contemporary painters of all time. For more details on the artist’s life and works, click here, here, or here.
“Everyone is asleep There is nothing to come between The moon and me.” ~ Enomoto Seifu-jo (trans. by Kenneth Rexroth)
Saturday’s Super Moon is a result of this month’s full moon coinciding with the moon’s perigee, or its closest approach to Earth, making it the year’s biggest moon. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon . . . not only does the moon’s perigee coincide with full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon’s close approach varies by about 3 percent, according to meteorologist Joe Rao, SPACE.com‘s skywatching columnist. This happens because the moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular.
This month’s full moon is due to be about 16 percent brighter than average. In contrast, later this year on Nov. 28, the full moon will coincide with apogee, the moon’s farthest approach, offering a particularly small and dim full moon.
Of the Surface of Things
In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
hills and a cloud.
From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
“The spring is like a belle undressing.”
The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.
Early Autumn (detail) by Qian Xuan (13th C., ink and colors on paper)
“Thus moved, he will spread his paper and poise his brush To express what he can in writing.” ~ Lu chi (261-303),
from The Motive for Poetry
I have spent too many days dwelling on life—my life, my role in this life, my thoughts about living life with someone you love but with whom you disagree at times (it’s called marriage). It’s all so complicated, and then, not really. As a result of my meditations, I wrote two poems, one of which I did not post. More on my poem(s) in a moment.
Today, I did not really want to write about mysef. I need a break from myself. Do you ever feel like that, like you would like to send that part of yourself that is in pain or is being a pain to another room, lock the door, and say don’t come out until it’s over? Of course, not possible in the physical realm of things, but I do know of individuals who can compartmentalize themselves to such an extent that they can move between the different parts of themselves, their different faces, if you will. They move seamlessly between their personae so that no one ever really gets to know them, the real them because there is no real them.
I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder here. I mean something much more ethereal, less tangible. Having dealt extensively with an individual who falls into this category, I can tell you that it is incredibly taxing. Me? I’m pretty much an open book about most things: I’ll tell you how I feel whether you want it or not. And as we all know, this is not necessarily a good thing. And self-censorship is something at which I have never been very capable. If part of me is in pain emotionally, then all of me is experiencing that pain; hence, my wish that it were not so.
Anyway, today’s post really isn’t about me. It’s about writing. Poems. Poets. Words.
“Perpetual thought itself gropes in time and space;
Then, the spirit at full gallop reaches the eight limits of the cosmos,
And the mind, self-buoyant, will ever soar to new insurmountable heights.”
~ Lu Chi, from Meditation Before Writing
In reading my comments and blogrolls today, I came upon the following poem by Chinese poet Po Chü-i (Tang Dynasty) posted by healnow of The Madder Hatter. I love Chinese poetry: Often it creates images with an enviable sparsity of words. Ancient Chinese poets were often involved in politics in some manner, and because of this, the poets would use metaphors to criticize the rulers of the time.
As with Japanese poetry, ancient Chinese poetry predominantly employs images in nature. I have tried Japanese Haiku as an exercise to use an economy of words. It is incredibly hard to write a poem that contains only 17 syllables (three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively). Of all of the Haiku that I have written, there is perhaps only one that I like, that I feels comes closest to the spirit of the form.
But as usual, I digress. “Night on the West River” employs only 64 words to create the same atmosphere that I was trying to evoke with “October Rain.” Granted, I really wasn’t thinking as much about form as I was more concerned with the emotion. But Po Chü-i’s lines, “Cold comfort,” “Water flowing grayly,” say what I was feeling but with much more perspective.
I usually don’t post any of my poems until I have worked and reworked them. I strayed from my own advice and posted purely out of emotion. I’m not sorry that I did. Don’t misunderstand. It was a pressing need, and I embraced that need with the post. Rather, what I am saying, is that it was an unfinished poem, and in comparison to “Night on the West River,” the deficiencies of my own “October Rain” are made all the more apparent.
It’s a good writing lesson, and it’s good to still be able to learn lessons. And of course, the masters are those from whom we can learn the best lessons.
Night on the West River
To light my way upon the stair,
In the wine I drink alone.
The hurried flight of birds,
Water flowing grayly
In the dusk.
A rising storm,
Boats tugging at their mooring ropes.
Or sails full-spread
To take advantage of the wind.
A moving point of fire
In the dark,
The distant lantern
Of a passing boat.
(Translated by Henry Hart)
This poem and many others can be found on a website called Humanist Texts, which includes writings by Aeschylus, Cervantes, Khayyam, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, and many others. According to the home page, the purpose of the website is to show “how people around the world gradually develop an understanding of what it is to be human. Multicultural extracts portray the wit, wisdom, and poetry of individuals as they reflect on ethics, philosophy, knowledge, and human relationships.” It’s a great site, and many thanks to The Madder Hatter for turning me on to it.
The following poem by Lu chi has more of a modern sensibility, but very often, translating from Chinese or Japanese—which is an arduous task—can be made harder as no precise English word exists for words in those vocabularies.
Unfortunately for Lu chi, his creative sensibilities were compelled into military service as he was born into a wealthy military family. Much of Lu chi’s work was dedicated to writing about the craft of writing.
The Joy of Writing
Writing is in itself a joy,
Yet saints and sages have long since held it in awe.
For it is being, created by tasking the great void;
And it is sound rung out of profound silence.
In a sheet of paper is contained the infinite,
And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.
The words, as they expand, become all-evocative,
The thought, still further pursued, will run the deeper,
Till flowers in full blossom exhale all-pervading fragrance,
And tender boughs, their saps running, grow to a whole jungle of splendor.
Bright winds spread luminous wings, quick breezes soar from the earth,
And, nimbus-like amidst all these, rises the glory of the literary world.
“All objects visible under the sun or moon will the poet in experiment strike aglow,
All that can give out a sound he will ring to test their resonance.”
~ Lu Chi from The Working Process
I love the line, “The words, as they expand, become all-evocative.” Exactement! That is what I seek when I write: to allow my words to come from a void and to expand until they fill the space for which they were intended. Lofty goal? Not really. Reduced to its simplest form, it merely means sifting through all of the possible words and finding the exact right word to convey the thought.
I’ll leave you now with just one more, a selection from a poem by Medieval Japanese poet Hitomaro. I love the allusions to fall.
On the Death of his Wife (I)
I would gladly follow
the wandering spirit of my love
through precipitous ways
hidden by autumn’s red leaves,
but cannot tread those unknown mountain trails
That lie beyond my ken.
In autumn’s fall of scarlet forest leaves
I see the message coming for me
and think of one day of love
that never more shall be.
To continue my theme of rain (may be a bit quiet) . . .