Poems in Abomination of Winter

I get my news about the U.S. rather slowly. For example, I only just learned of the snowstorm in the Northeast. Much as I would like to gloat and taunt my NYC-dwelling friends about the fact that it never snows here in Chengdu, the reality of the situation is this: I am drinking my coffee hot, the down comforters are on the beds, I am currently wearing two wool sweaters, and although I have not yet put on any thermal underwear, that moment is approaching rapidly. All of this can mean but one thing–winter has arrived–and there is no emoji capable of accurately depicting my feelings on the subject. Continue reading

Falling in Love with Dante’s Divine Comedy

In his essay, “Why Read the Classics?,” collected in the eponymous volume, Italo Calvino argues that “… it is no use reading the classics out of a sense of duty or respect, we should only read them for love,” because “It is only during unenforced reading that you will come across the book which will become ‘your’ book” (p. 6). I began reading Dante out of curiosity, but then I fell in love with an imaginative vision that dared what few have ever dared–and what no one today would even consider. Continue reading

Breaking “The Great Taboo”: A Translation of Li Bai’s 李白 “Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon 月下獨酌”

There is a tradition among English translators of Chinese poetry that all Chinese poems should be translated as unrhymed free-verse. This tradition goes back at least as far as Ezra Pound–whose “translations” bear little resemblance to their originals–and is very much alive and kicking. So much so that I am borrowing Nathan Sivin’s term, “The Great Taboo,” to describe it. Continue reading

On First Looking into Keats’s Sonnets

I want to talk today about Keats’s sonnets. I’ve always liked Keats—it’s hard to imagine not liking Keats—but I’ve mostly read his odes. Is it possible to graduate from an English-language high school without reading “Ode to a Grecian Urn?” I certainly hope not. But I honestly can’t recall ever reading any of his sonnets except for “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” I didn’t know what I was missing. Continue reading