Saturday, September 05, 2009

Poem of the Week 8/5/2009: Waking Up Drunk on a Spring Day

Waking Up Drunk On A Spring Day

Life is a huge dream
why work so hard?

all day long I drink
lying outside the front door

looking up through the trees
in the garden

and one bird singing in the flowers

bird, what season is this?
"Spring! I'm a mango bird
and the spring wind makes me sing."

now I grow sad
very sad

so I have some more wine
and I sing
out loud
until the bright moon

what was I upset about?
I can't remember

Li Po
trans. David Young

I would really love to hear what you all think about this poem--why does Li Po get sad? Who is this character speaking in the poem? Is there a symbolic meaning to the drunken-ness?

Comment, feel free!


Carl said...

Spent some time with this now and here's how it goes for me.
Chinese metaphors: they're performative more than descriptive. "Drunkenly" is a way of doing things, becoming aware drunkenly. It wakes one up from the dream of working hard. Presumably it's been a long time because the poet asks "what season is it?" not what time or day it is. He must be sad that he spent so much time in the frozen cold, the sober winter where nothing takes flight, no mouth opens in song, winter like a coiled spring, a catapult that will "spring up" when wines loosens the voice.
There are three times: the time of pure potential which doesn't pass into actuality; the time of sorrow and remorse for wasted time; and then at last a time, so drunken and awaked and full of song one can't even remember that one ever slept or sorrowed, because that was back in another temporal dimension which has vanished in pure becoming.

Something like that is what I think today. Probably it will grow. I'm interested in the spaces between stanzas. The lightness of the images and the passage from one to another makes me think of Holderlin. Especially the fragments and sketches.

Sarah E. Smith said...

Thanks for your comment Carl. The point about there being three times helped give birth to another idea -- that along with the progression of time from potential to awakened life without time (as shown in memory) there is a progression in the narrator's idea of self. He moves from the world of "i do" to that of impersonal happening. Even by the time he talks to the bird the "I" is gone, replaced by a question freed from a subject. It's a poem also of the enclosed self that dissipates into the time that is not time, where sadness passes like the seasons.