Monday, May 28, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Thirteen (Po)

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
by Li Po
Translated by Sam Hamill

This week I've selected a perfect little meditative jewel from Li Po--a prime example of how much can happen in so few words. Here we see the power of silence functioning in beautiful conjunction with the power of language. If you're not familiar with Li Po, he can be found under the names Lǐ Bái and Lǐ Bó, as well, and he lived from 701 - 762 in China. Po was a major poet of the Tang dynasty period, also known as China's "golden age" of poetry.

If you're new to the blog, please check out the first Mnemosyne Post to see what this project is all about. And please keep suggesting titles! I always learn the most from the ones I would have never thought to select myself.

Have a great week, everyone! I hope you take time to really sit with this poem, perhaps until only the poem remains...

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.


  1. I JUST read this poem about two days ago I believe when reading an article on spiritual poems by Jane Hirschfield. This is a little gem isn't it? In that space where the mountain remains perhaps the nonpresence exists undetected. That is, the life static which cannot be measured except through spiritual perceptics. much in such few words. This is the joy of the Asian forms of haiku, tanka, haibuns etc. It is a level of mastery that seems so simple. When you interviewed Tony did you also happen to pick up the translation he did of Wang Wei?

    Thank you. xx

  2. I picked up an anthology he did - it contained works by a lot of different Asian writer. It's fantastic. I am just now studying and writing Haiku to create moments of breath in my collection. Because the poems are so image dense, I thought this would be a good way for the reader to take breaks. And how about you? How is your own beautiful poetry coming along?