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In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu

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Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty, ranked alongside such poets as Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Strangely, though, only a handful of Wei Ying-wu’s poems have ever been translated into English. True to his reputation as one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese, Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translates 175 of Wei’s poems a Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty, ranked alongside such poets as Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Strangely, though, only a handful of Wei Ying-wu’s poems have ever been translated into English. True to his reputation as one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese, Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translates 175 of Wei’s poems and demonstrates why he is “one of the world’s great poets.” Presented in a bilingual Chinese-English format, with extensive notes and an informative introduction, In Such Hard Times is a long-overdue world premiere.


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Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty, ranked alongside such poets as Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Strangely, though, only a handful of Wei Ying-wu’s poems have ever been translated into English. True to his reputation as one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese, Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translates 175 of Wei’s poems a Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty, ranked alongside such poets as Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Strangely, though, only a handful of Wei Ying-wu’s poems have ever been translated into English. True to his reputation as one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese, Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translates 175 of Wei’s poems and demonstrates why he is “one of the world’s great poets.” Presented in a bilingual Chinese-English format, with extensive notes and an informative introduction, In Such Hard Times is a long-overdue world premiere.

30 review for In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    A courtyard of bamboo and late-night snow a lone lantern a book on the table if I hadn't encountered the teaching of no effort how else could I have gained this life of leisure Everything Red Pine puts his translator’s hands to exudes suchness. How he manages this is (and should be) a mystery, but it possibly stems from his first-hand explorations into his subjects’ homelands where he sees for himself where they lived and where they died, and where he delves into public records and manuscript varian A courtyard of bamboo and late-night snow a lone lantern a book on the table if I hadn't encountered the teaching of no effort how else could I have gained this life of leisure Everything Red Pine puts his translator’s hands to exudes suchness. How he manages this is (and should be) a mystery, but it possibly stems from his first-hand explorations into his subjects’ homelands where he sees for himself where they lived and where they died, and where he delves into public records and manuscript variants, doing all his own scholarly dirty work. It also probably stems from his own nature: his self-effacement (as evidenced by his nom de plume) coupled with his Beat-like iconoclastic scholarship a la Gary Snyder. In short he is his own man and wants to learn and see and feel things for his ownself. This, the first readily available collection in English of the great Tang poet Wei Ying-wu, is yet another example of his selfless mastery. China’s Tang Dynasty was one of the world’s golden ages of poetry, leaving for our endless delectation the likes of Tu Fu, Li Po, Wang Wei, and Han Shan. Reading these poets offers so much meat for pondering minds, as each was produced by the same cultural flowering, yet each was so different – Tu Fu the poor struggling aesthete, Li Po the wealthy wild man and wine imbiber, Wang Wei the devout aristocrat, and Han Shan the earthy and ethereal society-loathing hermit. And now there’s Wei Ying-wu. Wei was a fallen aristocrat, his family losing their wealth in a political rebellion, so throughout his life he struggled, though his struggles were softened by connections that garnered him civil posts, so he never descended into poverty like Tu Fu (though Tu Fu's was voluntary). Being informed by Confucianism he considered it his duty to play his part in civil service, but his various government posts were punctuated by periods of voluntary and involuntary seclusion when he lived in monasteries in the boondocks. While he seems to’ve been very even tempered, and deeply in touch with the spiritual world which provided him with immense perspective on his personal lot, he was also somewhat unsettled, fluctuating between desire for solitude and social involvement. He composed poems throughout his life, poems usually focused on nature and the partings and arrivals of friends and seasons, and his clear-sighted honesty in his work provides a gripping inner narrative of all the changes wrought on his life by his own fluctuant nature and the tumultuousness of the society he lived in. This clear-sighted honesty makes his work universal for the individual interested in seeing through things while in no way missing out on the loveliness (and sadness) of those things. These are poems that sneak up on you, simple poems that while having a spontaneous feel also have deep resonation and meaning, resounding with the personal and the particular. He is a master. This is a gorgeous book, sporting a rich introduction by the translator, and each poem is given its own page to occupy, with the original Chinese facing (which allowed me at least a vision of the shape of the original), and each poem comes with its own notes which are never pedantic. In suburban gardens summer rains have stopped green shade spreads across vacant yards working in an office doesn't do any good and goes against my love of seclusion suddenly I see your image before me and the sadness of separation fills my heart especially when I feel the cool evening air and hear the din of cicadas

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Cyril

    An award-winning translation of one of the great poets of the late T'ang-- whose verse captures the spirit of the reeling empire after the catastrophic An Lushan rebellion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    One of the fascinating and delightful parts of life collections and samplers of poems from a single poet is to be able to observe how the poet's art and heart change over time. Red Pine (Bill Porter) illuminates Wei Ying-wu's changing body of work with small biographical notes under the poems he has translated. This translation is my introduction to Wei Ying-wu in more depth, and one I appreciated.

  4. 4 out of 5

    George

    Another wonderful contribution from Red Pine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bruce

    Bi lingual translation, well done. I can't read a single character of Chinese but it's interesting seeing the actual poems alongside the English translations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian Pounders

  7. 5 out of 5

    toroltao

  8. 5 out of 5

    Smiles

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elijah Tangenberg

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael McMahon

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aseem Kaul

  12. 4 out of 5

    Grady

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adam Day

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shari

  15. 5 out of 5

    Soke Ahmadi

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  17. 5 out of 5

    Um

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Goudreau

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gilbert Wesley Purdy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alebriand

  21. 5 out of 5

    LiehTzu

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ted Hayden

  24. 5 out of 5

    Roger Klingman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pepijn van Duijn

  26. 5 out of 5

    Valerio Dalla Ragione

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Ray

  28. 4 out of 5

    Koen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen

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