Long time readers will remember me posting my attempts at poetry when I was living in Xi’an, but I don’t think I’ve written anything since I’ve left. Except one piece that I don’t think I’ve shared here. So might as well! You might find it odd to start writing poetry in one’s second language, but it seems to work for me. That’s not to say what I write is good or even remotely resembling actual Chinese poetry (I’m in no place to judge), but it’s the thought that counts, and I mostly write these for me. I suppose as always the effectiveness of art comes in part from intention. If I were trying to make a living as a poet in Chinese, while being foreign might give me a unique selling point, I’d better make damn sure those poems are good and have an effect on the reader. In this case though, where I just write for fun and as a way of cleaning off the muse-spit when it dribbles onto me, its the effect of the piece on the author (that’s me) that’s important. Also, since my only physical artistic talent (not including music) is in arrangement, Chinese poetry kind of suits me better than English. A lot of ancient Chinese poetry, the style I attempt to emulate, follows a real strict structure. Four lines, second and fourth end in rhymes, usually five or seven characters per line. I go with seven because it just feels more natural. Anyway, when I write a poem, my process usually begins with a thought about my day or life popping into my head and then easily transferring into classical Chinese. If it’s five or seven characters, I can then expand on the idea another three times, tweak the order to what looks best, tweak the endings to get the rhymes right, and boom: a simple quatrain is born, the lowest standard for a poem. I usually stop at one, but I’ve been known to write more.
The first one is based on a quote someone said at the Taiwan conference, “Money can’t do everything, but you can’t do anything without it.”
On earth there’s things omnipotent, but they sure ain’t cash.
But then, you won’t do anything without a good stash.
Those who seek it with all their might are more than slightly brash.
And those who turn their nose to it at the starting line will crash.
Lastly, one of greater length that came around this week and still doesn’t have an ending I’m satisfied with.
When your mind’s in another place, seems you don’t know where you are.
Alas, dreams afar are not the present, despite their boundless joy.
When your body is not whole, it becomes a prison for the mind.
A prison that sends it escaping to lands afar, where fantasy brings peace
When rain meets seed, only then is there harvest; when ruler meets subject, only then is there a state
When mind meets body, only then are you whole, only then, when you know satisfaction, do you have a life.
The poetry may or may not be inspired by the one year anniversary of my trip to Hong Kong where I met a friend who is quite the accomplished poet, gonna plug her work here if you’re interested.
In other news, it’s been a slow week negatively highlighted by bad smog and a knee-tweak, hence the angsty poem at the end. Between those two I was completely sedentary for like five of the past seven days. So, to keep my head in the right place, here’s a couple things I did manage to do this week. I finished a book (the Art of War, finally read it in its entirety), finished another two issues of the school journal, and finished my counselor training! First shift is Monday! I’m a little nervous, and a little excited. I’ll let you know how it goes in broad terms (I’m not allowed to do more).
In better news though, the weather lightened up on Sunday. I have to say, it’s clear blue skies and fresh-fallen snow that make me love Harbin so much it hurts. The contrast between crisp mountain air and sharp classic Russian/ 70’s Chinese architecture is a beautiful thing to witness. Very glad I was able to get out of the house yesterday and enjoy it with some sunset beers on the river. Also! My succulent is growing, so psyched! Doesn’t have a name yet, but it may someday.