Monday, July 27, 2015

Tu Fu, Poems VI-X

For today's conversation prompt, I'm asking readers to focus on one of the poems in this set: a poem that attracts you, either because you like it or because it puzzles or disturbs you. Reread the poem and jot down the individual words that seem to rise to the surface as you read. Then among those words, choose the one that seems most vital--to the poem, to you, to this moment.

In your remarks about the poem, share your decision-making process and then comment on how your close attention to Tu Fu/Rexroth's word choice might affect the way in which you revise your own writing.


David (n of 49) said...

None of them were “disturbing” in the normal sense, but most were moving and it was hard to choose. Finally I leaned toward VII and VIII: VII’s “green ghost fires” (connecting to the title’s jade) in “black rooms”, “shattered pavements all washed away”, dancing girls turned to yellow dust and their cheeks powder, even that “stone horse”. Ozymandias with a personal Eastern touch. In VIII it’s the moonlight shining “cold on white bones”, almost hallucinatorily clear, and the moon making the white seem so white. (And how about those “rhinoceros cups” in X? Strange and “disturbing”.) Also, there isn’t a simile in either of the two poems, or any of the others, I don’t think. (Maybe that’s too obvious or I’m missing something obvious, or my definition of simile is off, but anyway.) And yet they are vivid, and they suddenly reminded me of, of all people, Hemingway, how his power too came out of simple words and constructions:

“The bus climbed steadily up the road. The country was barren and rocks stuck up through the clay. There was no grass beside the road. Looking back we could see the country spread out below. Far back the fields were squares of green and brown on the hillsides. Making the horizon were the brown mountains. They were strangely shaped.” (from The Sun Also Rises)

Then DiTa’s comment about these pieces being haiku-like seemed even more relevant. Haiku, so much below the surface and aimed at the subconscious. That too suddenly seemed Hemingway, his “iceberg” theory about leaving so much of the story below the surface. Is some of that going on here?

Ruth said...

I am having a very difficult time choosing a poem. I really like all of them. However, finally, I am picking X To Wei Pa, A Retired Scholar. At present I am reading The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng which winds around Malaya in the 1950's and deals with the past, meetings and seeking solace. The first line of To Wei Pa stunned me with the sound and the winding, yet directness of language. I also loved "Our temples are already grey. I thought that it would work as temples of the head, the mind or the physical building. The last line was poignant. How often we meet the past and expect one thing, but find it doesn't match our expectations.

Carlene said...

There is much that gives me pause in these poems; some images (like the ones David noticed) really caught both my ear and my eye. However, one line in particular out of all the poems under consideration this week really caught me up: "'It is/ Sad, meeting each other again.'"
Why did this line catch me? Perhaps it is the unexpected truth in it. It made me think deeply: why sad? Have I experienced this? What did I do about it? And so on. The line resonates back into the poem, as well. I like/am emotionally triggered by "I visit my old friends./Half of them have become ghosts." Are they dead? Ar.e they less than their former selves? Are they missing from the speaker's life in such a way that they are now only "ghosts"? I find myself asking the same questions about whether I have experienced this, and what was my reaction.
The end of the poem also speaks truth: "...mountain peaks/Will come between us, and with them/ The endless, oblivious/Business of the world." Are the mountain peaks real or metaphorical?
I feel a sadness from this poem that underlies the joy in reacquainting oneself with a friend from whom the speaker (and I, too) has become distant. This is a shared experience, yet it is also uniquely the speaker's experience. I get the same finality and melancholy from (yes, Hemingway again!) the last part of The Sun Also Rises: "Isn't it pretty to think so?" I am also drawn to make connections with Wordsworth: "The world is too much with us, late and soon,/ Getting and spending we lay waste our powers...."
I suspect that this poem, like so many other works of art, is "talking" to all of the others we carry in our heads and hearts. I also think that a poem like this one (and perhaps the other two things I've connected with it) requires a certain amount of life experience to bring to it. A high school student would not likely hear the poem in the same way, and certainly would not respond with the same experiential kinship. Some poems (and other works as well) are good to hear and keep in our hearts for when we are ready to truly heed what they say, I think.

Dawn Potter said...

Dear commenters: Because I have been having a troll problem, I am presently moderating comments before I post them. So if yours doesn't immediately appear, don't worry. It will, once I ok it.

David (n of 49) said...

Addendum: Carlene's point about life experience determining what speaks to us seems absolutely right. It also seems too that Ruth's, Carlene's and my choices seem related: melancholy over time passing, and how it leads to our end. And for what it's worth, those white bones in the moonlight from VIII brought to mind a scene from your Civil War. Apparently the night before the Battle of the Wilderness many Union soldiers were camped on the same ground that was fought over the year before, and found skeletal remains left from the previous battle. Around one campfire a soldier apparently picked up a bleached-white skull, held it up, and in a fit of melancholy pronounced to his comrades "This is what you are all coming to, and some of you will start toward it tomorrow." The images in Tu Fu's VIII seem completely that recognition, a foreboding of our mortality.

DiTa said...

"a foreboding of our mortality" as David mentioned, speaks to me in all of Tu Fu's poetry. It was hard to choose a poem that was my favorite because they speak to my mortality. Is that a favorable moment?
In poem IV he "broods on the uselessness of letters". He is heartbroken, alone & aging. How can that be favorite moment? Yet the Snow Storm captures that moment of immortality so well for me. My father is 95, and everyday I face his mortality. I think I am more consumed by it that he is. Of course he has made peace with "the yellow dust of the dead." His future has slipped away, so everyday I wonder "how long the night will last."
I have this feeling of resignation from Tu Fu, I wonder how old he is when he wrote they poems. And does that matter. When do we begin to question our mortality?

Dawn Potter said...

When do we begin to question our mortality? I think, very early, as a child I did. But I don't know if that's typical. Still, it's hard to be alive without thinking about not being alive. The worst thing for me is fearing the death of the people I love.