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Three Poems

September 12, 2016

The fishing boats?
Red spots of light above the river?

Where each strand
Weaves the line. Rain, and here,

Just here, one ties
its fragile thread between setting sun and me.

Ping Hsin, 1956 (Tr. Julia C. Lin)

COMMENTARY: I sometimes think there are two kinds of poems: poems that try to capture something once and for all, wholly, in exact and irreplaceable language; and poems that try to capture something, partially, in a gesture or two, with the idea the gesture can be repeated over and over again. This is the latter kind of poem. Though the title, “Three Poems” implies that each little stanza is separate, in effect they are only separate the way a few shrugs in one conversation are separate. Each is an attempt to capture, impressionistically, a certain mood. NIghtime nostalgia? Poignant solitude? The feeling of being tied, tenuously and vulnerably, to a scene of beauty? Hard to tell.

Ping Hsin, which means “Ice Heart” in Chinese was the pseudonym of Hsieh Wong-ying. She was sort of considered the Emily Dickinson over there until the Cultural Revolution forced her out. She helped invent the hsiao-shih, a spare, haiku-like form, which, like the above, aimed at brusque, enigmatic expressions of emotion.

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