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Question and Answer in the Mountains -- Li Po

(Poem #916) Question and Answer in the Mountains
 They ask me why I live in the green mountains.
 I smile and don't reply; my heart's at ease.
 Peach blossoms flow downstream, leaving no trace --
 And there are other earths and skies than these.
-- Li Po

 Mandarin Chinese, mid-8th century.
 Translated by Vikram Seth, in "Three Chinese Poets" (Faber 1992).


 Li Po combines the elegant, evocative minimalism of haiku with the oblique
philosophy of the best Zen koans, and mixes them both with a romantic
mysticism that's entirely his own [1]. His poems are suffused with an air of
otherworldliness, a melancholy that's not quite sad, a joy that's not quite
happy. And he's a consummate craftsman, wonderfully adept at getting the
most out of the least: with a few deft strokes of the calligrapher's brush,
he creates worlds of meaning, "other earths and skies than these". Mmmmm.


[1] Note to the nitpick-inclined: Yes, I know, Li Po's poetry predates both
the invention of the haiku form, and the founding of the Zen school of
Buddhism. So sue me.

[Minstrels Links]

 Li Po:
Poem #504, About Tu Fu
Poem #683, To Tu Fu from Shantung
Poem #749, Parting
Poem #794, In the Quiet Night
Poem #826, Self-Abandonment
Poem #916, Question and Answer in the Mountains

 Vikram Seth:
Poem #650, All You Who Sleep Tonight
Poem #754, Protocols
Poem #460, Round and Round

 Another of the Three Chinese Poets of Seth's book:
Poem #855, Lady Xi -- Wang Wei

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