Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Poem of the Week 5/12/2008: Little Elegy

Little Elegy

That madman from the eastern regions
Ho Chi-chang
wild as wind and river

first time I met him
at the capital
he called me "angel in exile"

oh how he loved his cup
and now he's dirt
under the pine trees

he pawned his gold turtle
to buy me wine

as I remember that
tears wet my scarf.

Li Po
Trans. David Young

I don't think that Li Po's poems need much explanation; each is like a small glass globe, taking in the world, managing it so that it fits in the palm of one's hand.

A friend was challenging me that poetry can be too intrusive, (she may be thinking of confessional poets, and also undeveloped poets), who smear their emotions on the page, sharing what is little more than a diary entry, meant for no person's eyes. The emo-music of poetry. I suppose it's a rare thing to find a poem that really manages its emotion, though I think that all good ones should; Li Po's certainly achieves this through such carefully selected detail! The poem is so sparing with its images that what arise to us are the gold turtle, the tears on the scarf, the cup loved ny the madman, the dirt he now is...

1 comment:

Gloria said...

yeah..something fits about this tale- precise non-nostalgia story-memory- understatement, and a little bitter. a good poem to read while wearing dirty boots after the day ends.