The Selected Poems of Wang Wei

Overview

David Hinton, whose much-acclaimed translations of Li Po and Tu Fu have become classics, now completes the triumvirate of China's greatest poets with The Selected Poems of Wang Wei.
Wang Wei (701-761 C.E.) is often spoken of, with his contemporaries Li Po and Tu Fu, as one of the three greatest poets in China's 3,000-year poetic tradition. Of the three, Wang was the consummate master of the short imagistic landscape poem that came to typify classical Chinese poetry. He developed...

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Overview

David Hinton, whose much-acclaimed translations of Li Po and Tu Fu have become classics, now completes the triumvirate of China's greatest poets with The Selected Poems of Wang Wei.
Wang Wei (701-761 C.E.) is often spoken of, with his contemporaries Li Po and Tu Fu, as one of the three greatest poets in China's 3,000-year poetic tradition. Of the three, Wang was the consummate master of the short imagistic landscape poem that came to typify classical Chinese poetry. He developed a nature poetry of resounding tranquility wherein deep understanding goes far beyond the words on the page—a poetics that can be traced to his assiduous practice of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. But in spite of this philosophical depth, Wang is not a difficult poet. Indeed, he may be the most immediately appealing of China's great poets, and in Hinton's masterful translations he sounds utterly contemporary. Many of his best poems are incredibly concise, composed of only twenty words, and they often turn on the tiniest details: a bird's cry, a splinter of light on moss, an egret's wingbeat. Such imagistic clarity is not surprising since Wang was also one of China's greatest landscape painters. This is a breathtaking poetry, one that in true Zen fashion renders the ten thousand things of this world in such a way that they empty the self even as they shimmer with the clarity of their own self-sufficient identity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A member of the intellectual class and a government official by profession, Wang Wei (A.D. 701-761) became one of China's greatest classical poets and painters, alongside Li Po and Tu Fu (both of whom Hinton has also translated). This selection arranges in roughly chronological order 80 short poems (only a few are longer than a page). Characterized by Zen-like calm, acceptance of the changing world and careful observation of nature, these poems make big, though quiet, cognitive jumps and move with a stirring inevitability. Setting the poems in neat couplets, Hinton's fluid translation renders, with an ease befitting the poems' themes, meditations on old age ("No one's ever changed white hair back:/ might as well try conjuring yellow gold"), observations on the rhythms of agricultural life ("It's the farming season. No idleness now:/ families pour out to work southern fields") and metaphysical ruminations ("My dear friend nowhere in sight,/ this Han River keeps flowing east.// Now, if I look for old masters here,/ I find empty rivers and mountains"). This book is full of subtle delights. (June 28) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811216180
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/12/2006
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 337,861
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Hinton's many translations of classical Chinese poetry and philosophy have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary texts that convey the actual texture and density of the originals. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as numerous fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1997, he received the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He lives in East Calais, Vermont.

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