On Chinese Poetry: Let My Poems do the Talking
E. C. Chang
Poetry Speaks the Heart
Writing poetry is to speak about
what is in the heart and mind.
Feelings can be expressed through
words and lines.
Too many difficult and abstruse words
can obscure ideas and feelings.
Poetic elements can be clearly enhanced with rhymes
and tones that alternate rising and falling.
You can use the old genres to write a poem
about modern-day life.
A poem that reflects day-to-day life
can find a resonant voice in the reader’s mind.
Everywhere you can find the
material for poetry writing.
Description without turns and twists
can reveal genuine feelings.
The sound of Ping and Ze
Alternating a flat tune with a deflected
tune can bring a poem to life.
It is like sitting in a bamboo grove with sounds coming from two different springs.
When the pitch rises and falls, it feels as though
a boat is chasing the waves.
The rising and falling of the cadence may also
feel like the fingers plucking the strings.
Too many flat tones in a row
keeps one sleepy,
Too many deflected tones may trigger
the brain to spin.
When ping and ze are arranged methodically, the sound will please the ears.
The poetic ideas and feelings will also be
more vividly expressed.
Poetry and Modern Chinese Usage
The use of contemporary words
in poetry writing will help convey
the feelings of the heart.
Lines with hidden meanings can be
interesting to ponder.
Describing a scene or event in simple terms
will bring the poet and readers closer.
Fashions and customs will not last forever.
Ideas that reflect modern thinking are resonant
with today’s readers.
Old and new genres can coexist
for poetry to enlarge its readership.
The garden of poetry will flourish
if all flowers are allowed to bloom to the fullest.
A Chinese regulated verse contains
two couplets in an eight-line scheme.
Each couplet can function by itself as a little poem within.
The two lines have the same grammatical structure
but are different in ping and ze tones.
By means of contrast or analogy, the wordings bear a similar relationship
as the one between piping and fiddling.
The flow of ideas and sentiments opens out a broader field of visualization.
The rising and falling in tones gives one a swinging sensation.
Regulated poetry can be used to convey feelings, ambitions, and natural scenes.
When it is made sonorous in rhythm, one naturally likes to read it again and again.
Artistic Conception of Poetry
A poem without artistic quality shows its weakness.
Feelings cannot be appropriately conveyed
when wrong words are used.
In depicting a scene or form, the writer should vivaciously
use words to elicit images in the readers.
From the lines, the readers can easily feel
the mood and feelings of the writer.
One can have a different feel when one reads
Li Shuanyin’s poem “The Painted Zither.”
After reading Du Fu’s poem “Ascending Height,”
one can deeply feel Du Fu’s pain as a drifter.
Poets may express their points differently
based on their own styles.
A poem is considered a good poem when it resonates
with the reader’s heart and mind.
Poetic Sentiments and Picturesque Ideas
Poetry shares some basic principles with painting.
Drawing and describing a scene in
words evoke similar feelings.
When tones and rhymes are in harmony,
a poem brings music to the ears.
When words are carefully chosen and refined,
more poetic flavor is added.
Poetic sentiment is lifted in response
to the call of the mind.
Poetic boundaries are expanded as picturesque
ideas surface on the lines.
Material comes naturally with little effort
maybe more truthfully reflecting life.
One is inclined to enjoy reading poems that are
unique and refreshing in style.
Chinese Regulated Verse
The ancient Chinese wrote poems to express
what was in their heart.
The regulated verse was created to blend in feelings
and rhythm as an inseparable part.
When ping and ze tones are in harmony,
one can read the poem with vivid imagery.
The vivacity of the two couplets reveals
the skills of the writer.
With this poetic form, it is like
pouring into an old bottle new wine.
Emphasize more lines that reflect real life.
Avoid using words that are obscure
and difficult to define.
One should follow the basic rules
with some degree of flexibility.
Poetry can become popular again
if it reflects the time in which we live.
No fixed rules are required
for you to write.
A good style is refreshing
to the mind and eyes.
You can learn from painting
to describe a scene.
To write about feelings
is to feel like you are having an experience.
The theme should be clear and
reflect how you feel.
The poetic conception should be
lively and real.
No need to use difficult phrases and words.
Ordinary lines may sometimes
be even more attractive.
Reflections on Traditional Chinese Poetry
(Tune: Immortal at the River)
The old garden has lost its vitality.
The once vibrant green leaves are falling.
The west wind has left a desolate scene.
The cuckoos feel sorry over the
vicissitudes of life in vain.
The butterflies and bees have left
as new flowers no longer smell the same.
The golden age and splendid time are
things of the past.
Chinese poetry has faced some problems
that we before have not seen.
Who is now willing to keep the garden vibrant?
Don’t feel that your effort is negligible.
By taking a concerted action, we can
spread its fragrance over again.
The Future of Chinese Traditional Poetry
Poetry speaks the mind.
Lyrics are to be chanted from inside.
Tones and rhythm bring out feelings spontaneously.
Regulated and truncated verses evolved from the ancient-style poetry.
Song lyrics and Yuan singing verses arose to distinguish themselves
from the poetry of the Tang Dynasty.
As society never ceases changing, new styles
or forms arise at the historic moment.
Poetic ideas can be destroyed by hackneyed expressions.
Subjects that are relevant to real-life situations
inspire sympathetic vibration.
Follow the poetic rules with some flexibility to make changes.
Avoid abstruse words and hard-to-understand logic.
Elegance can be found in ordinary lines.
Genuine feelings are often expressed in poetry
that has popular appeal.
New and old styles can both be improved
by learning from the other side.
The best will emerge when we can see
the blooming of a hundred flowers.
Let’s restore the popularity of Chinese poetry by emphasizing
artistic conception and poetic ideas.
We all want to see that Chinese poetry regains its position.
We all wish the future of Chinese poetry to
continue to shine and flourish.
Poetry and Logic
Famous verse lines tend to be misty in meaning.
Scenery, when fused into emotion, could communicate
like a human being.
Thus, flowers, in sadness, shed their tears.
Birds blamed the wind for separating them in despair.
Li Bai likened his sorrow to the thousand-feet-long white hair.
To Zhang Ji, the sky was pervaded by the autumn frost everywhere.
Lines of personification, though exaggerating
and illogical, can indeed reveal one’s genuine feeling.
Never Too Old to Learn Chinese Poetry
tr. E. C. Chang
Too old to learn the craft, I once feared.
Silently I recited the famous poems during my walk outside.
In my walk, I also tried to figure out their tones and rhymes.
In the poems I read, I found my invisible teachers.
I enjoyed reading the poems of Su Shi, Xing Qiji, Li Bai, and Du Fu.
I studied verbal parallelism and diction from these masters too.
Abstruse words and phrases would tax my brain.
I tried not to mess up with them.
I liked things that were ordinary, easy, and simple.
Bilingual analysis was found to be quite valuable.
Juxtaposing words in two languages could also be helpful.
I felt like an old cow learning to climb a tree.
When I fell down, no one would know my pain but me!