Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Letter to Su Tung P'o - W.S Merwin

Almost a thousand years later
I am asking the same questions
you did the ones you kept finding
yourself returning to as though
nothing had changed except the tone
of their echo growing deeper
and what you knew of the coming
of age before you had grown old
I do not know any more now
than you did then about what you
were asking as I sit at night
above the hushed valley thinking
of you on your river that one
bright sheet of moonlight in the dream
of the water birds and I hear
the silence after your question
show old are the questions tonight

W.S. Merwin (b. 1927) writes of this poem, "It seems as though I have been sending a letter Su Tung P'o for most of my life. The great poests of the Chinese Tang and Song dynasties (in translation) wrote with an apparent intimacy that altered the whole sound of poetry in English for the past hundred years. (One of Su Tung P'o's poems) is a night piece, a river poem, the words speaking, or singing, from aboat moored on a long journey, before daybreak. It evokes a moment of great stillnes an distance, and of evanescence before departure. After reading the poem many times through the years, I read it again late one night in the house where I live, on the side of a wooded valley that is still blessed at night with its own deep silence, and I found myself beginning to answer the ancient poet."

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