Tuesday, March 27, 2007

getting a jump on poetry month

April is officially national poetry month, I know, but I was thumbing through a book tonight, and I came across this poem by the 18th Century Vietnamese poet Hô Xuân Hu’o’ng (“Spring Essence”). This translation is by John Balaban.

Trân Quôc Temple

Weeds sprout outside the royal chapel.
I ache thinking of this country’s past.

No incense swirls the Lotus Seat
curling across the king’s robes

rising and falling wave upon wave.
A bell tolls. The past fades further.

Old heroes, old deeds, where are they?
One sees only this flock of shaved heads.

The endnotes on this poem explain that Trân Quôc Temple is a 1,400 year-old temple—the oldest in Hanoi. It commemorates the struggle to drive out the Chinese and establish an independent Vietnam. By the time Hô Xuân Hu’o’ng was writing, Balaban says, the country was struggling with “fratricidal clan wars, corruption, and religious hypocrisy.”

[Spring Essence: the poetry of Hô Xuân Hu’o’ng. Translated by John Balaban. Copper Canyon Press. Those endnotes, by the way, were published in 2000.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want poetry, try this on for size: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F86s4Vq59Ks

9:45 PM  

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