When I was 17 and suffering from anorexia–a factor of disability and depression, I was given the gift of Kenneth Rexroth’s poems. To this day his “One Hundred Poems from the Chinese” occupies an important place, both in my imagination and on my bookshelf. Rexroth’s “Complete Poems” (available from Copper Canyon Press) is a must read for anyone who cares about American poetry and intellectual independence.
Today I must travel on business and I will carry this poem with me. This is Rexroth’s translation of an ancient Chinese poem by Hsieh Ngao:
"Wind Tossed Dragons"
The shadows of the cypresses
On the moonlit avenue
To the abandoned palace
Weave in tangles on the road
Like great kelp in the depths of the sea.
When the palace was full of people
I used to see this all the time
And never noticed how beautiful it was.
Mid-Autumn full moon, the luminous night
Is like a boundless ocean. A wild
Wind blows down the empty birds’ nests
And makes a sound like the waves of the sea
In the branches of the lonely trees.
Every noun is an image, and every image is a possibility. That’s a revery. Let us all take reveries on the road.