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One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions Book) [Paperback]

Kenneth Rexroth

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Later Printing edition (1 Feb 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811201805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811201803
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 1.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 560,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

Selected translations from the poetry of the Sung Dynasty together with thirty-five poems by Tu Fu.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The windy forest is checkered By the light of the setting, Waning moon. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True to the spirit, and valid as English poems. 20 Jun 2001
By tepi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
ONE HUNDRED POEMS FROM THE CHINESE. By Kenneth Rexroth. 148 pp. New York : New Directions, 1965 and Reissued.
The present book is in two parts. First we are given Rexroth's readings of thirty-five poems by Tu Fu, based on the Chinese text. The second part consists of a selection of Sung Dynasty poetry, most of which had not been Englished prior to Rexroth.
Rexroth makes no great claims for these translations, some of which he admits are rather free. But he does express the hope that "in all cases they are true to the spirit of the originals, and valid English poems" (p.xi).
It has always seemed to me that Rexroth succeeded brilliantly. Here are a few lines chosen at random from Tu Fu's 'Loneliness' (with my obliques added to indicate line breaks) :
".... Where the dew sparkles in the grass, / The spider's web waits for its prey. / The processes of nature resemble the business of men. / I stand alone with ten thousand sorrows" (p.16).
Here are a few from Su Tung P'o :
".... As for literature, it is its own reward. / Fortunately fools pay little attention to it. / A chance for graft / Makes them blush with joy" (p.73).
These readings of Rexroth will delight all open-minded readers. Who cares if he wasn't a union-approved sinologist? Purists may sputter, but since his versions are 'true to the spirit, and valid as English poems,' could any sensible person reasonably ask for more ?
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So good my daughter stole it! 19 Mar 2000
By Donnel Nunes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've owned the boxed, hardcover first edition of this little volume since it was first published going on 30 years ago. It remains one of my all-time poetry favorites, both for its depth of feeling and for its selection. I recently lent it to my youngest daughter who is now madly in love with it, too, so I may have to buy another copy.
Ancient Chinese poetry is as simple and direct as a drop of rain on your cheek, but don't be misled. It is that very simplicity and directness that gives it the power to cut you to the quick. Since I don't have the volume handy, I can't, unfortunately, cite any examples, but they're there in my heart and the influence my own writing every day. This is an exquisite little book. And don't miss Arthur Waley's "A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems" which Rexroth cites in this work.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poet, not a Translator 24 April 2003
By Mark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Kenneth Rexroth is a poet first and a translator second; judged on that basis, his One Hundred Poems from the Chinese is a great success. His approach, set out in a brief introduction, is simply to produce the best English poem he can in the spirit of the original. The resulting translations are more or less free as he thought appropriate for each individual work.
The book is in two parts. Part one consists of Rexroth's versions of 35 poems by Du Fu, whom he describes as "the greatest non-epic, non dramatic poet who has survived in any language". He clearly knows these poems well, and his translations are uniformly good.
Part two offers around 70 works by Sung dynasty poets; some are represented by only one piece, some by more extensive selections. These tend to be more free, more personal, and often strikingly modern works. In Rexroth's words again: "The whole spirit of this time in China is very congenial today"- a statement as true today as when it was written in 1971. Many of these poets are still not well translated in English, so Rexroth's translations are invaluable.
At the back of the book is a brief, but adequate, notes section with information on each poet and explanatory material.
Rexroth's concentration on the lesser-known Sung poets is paralleled by his choice of poems in the Du Fu section. He does not confine himself to the best known pieces found in other collections, striking a good balance between the familiar and the new.
An interesting example of Rexroth's approach to translation is:
Another Spring
White birds over the grey river./Scarlet flowers on the green hills./I watch the Spring go by and wonder/If I shall ever return home.
Rexroth has changed the river's colour from blue in the original to grey: a good example of a liberty which would be objectionable from a translator, but which he can get away with. He also clarifies "blazing" in the original to "scarlet", which allows him to preserve the original's strictly parallel parts of speech in the first couplet.
This is a fine book. It was first published more than 30 years ago, but it has lasted because of the consistently high quality of translation and because of the unusual selection of poems offered. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So good my daughter stole it! 19 Mar 2000
By Donnel Nunes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've owned the boxed, hardcover first edition of this little volume since it was first published going on 30 years ago. It remains one of my all-time poetry favorites, both for its depth of feeling and for its selection. I recently lent it to my youngest daughter who is now madly in love with it, too, so I may have to buy another copy.
Ancient Chinese poetry is as simple and direct as a drop of rain on your cheek, but don't be misled. It is that very simplicity and directness that gives it the power to cut you to the quick. Since I don't have the volume handy, I can't, unfortunately, cite any examples, but they're there in my heart and they influence my own writing every day. This is an exquisite little book. And don't miss Arthur Waley's "A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems" which Rexroth cites in this work.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just to clarify what the other reviewer said 20 Mar 2001
By Ken Chen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't really want to rate this book--which incidentally is very good (it's been said that Rexroth is a better poet when he is not Rexroth)--but to clarify what the previous poster wrote. Chinese poetry is not simple--Rexroth's translation is simple. The original Tang poems were metered, rhymed, heavily referential, and too complex to completely translate without a pockmark of footnotes. They only end up unrhymed and direct in English as a legacy of Ezra Pound's use of Chinese imagism as artillery against Victorian metric conventions. (I have the strange feeling that I'm going to end up repeating this post several times.) I think Rexroth's notes are very interesting, like his offhand claim that "Tu Fu is the best non-dramatic, non-epic poet in world history," but I think the Japanese poems tend to translate better into English. So, if you like this, you would probably like 100 Poems from the Japanese as much or more. Burton Watson, Stephen Owen, Arthur Waley, and James Legge are the obvious scholars on this era, though I am partial to AC GRAHAM's Poems of the Late Tang, especially his Li Shang Yin. Hugh Kenner's THE POUND ERA also provides an explanation of Pound's 'translation' that combines sly close critiques with Poundish Pound cheerleading.
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