It could be verse: David Hinton

*It could be verse: Some ancient words to celebrate spring

Happy National Poetry Month, and welcome to words written about 959 years ago. To celebrate the thirty poetic days of April, I selected two poems translated from Chinese by David Hinton, who lives in East Calais. In Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, Mr. Hinton provides translations of 19 poets who lived many springs ago. Tu Mu’s life spanned from 803-853. Mei Yao-Ch’en lived from 1002-1060. Despite the abyss of years and culture: both of these poems reach out to us, here, now. I think Tu-Mu may have been walking around in the Morse’s sugar woods. Perhaps Mei Yao- Ch’en and his horse paused over by Wrightsville Reservoir.

Though neither of these ancient poets had an answering machine (or a phone for that matter), they have left these spring greetings for us, that perhaps encourage us to leave our own message.

Thankfully, one thousand springs later, limbs are again blossoming on ancient trees.

A Mountain Walk by Tu Mu (tran. David Hinton)

Climbing far into cold mountains, the stone path

steepens.

White clouds are born up here, and there are

houses too.

I stop to sit for a while, savoring maple forests in late light;

frost glazed leaves glistening red as mid-spring blossoms.

***

East River by Mei Yao-Ch’en (tran. David Hinton)

Reaching East River, I gaze across the water,

Then sit facing a lone island. Boats creep forth.

Wild ducks, thoughts idle, sleep along the bank,

And in ancient trees, every limb is blossoming.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on April 30, 2008 and is reprinted with permission.

Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States writing about poetry. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, ”The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review,  Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to: www.writingonthefarm.com

It could be verse: Phyllis Larrabee

It could be verse: Yes, you too can go home and write them

Once, a woman in the audience at a poetry reading stood up and said to the poet William Stafford, “Why, these poems are so simple anybody could have written them!” To which Mr. Stafford gently replied, “Yes, but these are my poems, and so when you go home, you can write your own poems.” I love this anecdote because it dismantles the idea that poetry is only written by “Poets,” who are different than other people. As Stafford explains: yes, you too can go home and write them.

Phyllis Larrabee who lives in Woodbury has been writing down beautiful observations, descriptions and reflections since she moved to Vermont over 30 years ago. In her book, Shoveler on the Roof, the poem “Dusk Ride” is composed of details noticed on a summer evening, driving home from the store: the cattle, the grass, and the pink clouds distinguish this evening from all other evenings. Notice how she put her words down in a neat column—like an accounting column—this is how her senses were spent.

Dusk Ride        by Phyllis Larrabee

Black cattle munch

on lush grass

green

 

where the skies give up

their light

 

polishing the hills copper

before pink clouds

before night.

 

And I notice

driving to the store

for fish, cucumbers

and bread

 

then returning home

along the quiet road

groceries tucked in

the cooler, in the car

 

I notice

a pear sliver of moon

appear like a ghost to the

tune of the radio’s “Blue Moon,”

 

Now I’m no longer alone.

*column first appeared in The Barton Chronicle on April 18, 2007

Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, “The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review,  Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to: www.writingonthefarm.com