Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets
Masters, the mock orange is blooming in Syracuse without scent, having been bred by patient horticulturalists To make this greater display at the expense of fragrance. But I miss the jasmine of my back-country home. Your language has no tenses, which is why your poems can never be translated whole into English; Your minds are the minds of men who feel and imagine without time. The serenity of the present, the repose of my eyes in the cool whiteness of sterile flowers. Even now the headsman with his great curved blade and rank odor is stalking the byways for some of you. When everything happens at once, no conflicts can occur. Reality is an impasse. Tell me again How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies forever across the nacreous river at twilight Toward the distant islands.
Hayden Carruth's "Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets," from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems (2006) is used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.