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#1692 - Thursday, January 29, 2004

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  • Jerry Katz
    #1692 - Thursday, January 29, 2004 - Editor: Jerry This issue features Red Pine ... Bill Porter, translator of Chinese poetry under the pen name Red Pine, in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2004

      #1692 - Thursday, January 29, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

      This issue features Red Pine

      Bill Porter, translator of Chinese poetry under the pen name Red Pine,
      in front of bamboo in the back yard of his Port Townsend (Washington) home.

      Porter (Red Pine) has become one of the foremost Chinese poetry and essay translators in the world.
      He has captivated lovers of Chinese poetry, in particular, with his
      precise yet accessible translations of ancient texts written centuries
      ago by wanderers, exiles and monks. More than translations, Porter's
      books evoke a way of life that he has experienced firsthand as a
      Buddhist monk and recluse in Taiwan.
      Red Pine's latest project is the translation of "Poems of the Masters"
      (Copper Canyon Press, $18), an anthology of verse from the T'ang and
      Sung Dynasties, which ruled China from 960 to 1278 A.D. in the Golden
      Age of Chinese poetry.
      His experiences have given him a rare understanding. "When you have
      somebody that lives their work, I think that seeps through the lines,"
      said Jim Harrison, a Montana novelist and the screenwriter behind the
      film "Legends of the Fall," who practices Buddhism. "There's an
      emotional credibility to the work."
      "It's not like a professor with a grant," he said. "It's his life."
      Porter's quiet lifestyle in Port Townsend seems at odds with his
      gregarious personality. But in China, he says, being a recluse isn't
      the same as being antisocial.
      In Chinese, the term for "poetry" — "shih" or "chih" — actually means
      "words from the heart," Porter explains. His translations and detailed
      footnotes about the authors have been described by critics as uncannily
      Porter met more than 100 hermits in the 1980s while researching his
      travel book "Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits" (Mercury
      House, $14.95), which helped revive interest in that subculture. He
      says seclusion is a necessary rite of passage for any Buddhist master,
      akin to earning a Ph.D. in the West.
      "They're there to gain the insights that will filter down the hills to
      the government, the leaders of society," Porter said.
      These have been excerpts from the article:

      The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain
      Customer Review #3: Red Pine grasps Cold Mountain.
      Twelve hundred years ago, Chinese recluse-poet Han Shan ("Cold
      Mountain") "fled to the woods to dwell and gaze in freedom" (poem 26),
      where he also wrote the 307 poems collected here "on trees and rocks
      and walls" (p. 9) around the cave where he lived. In 1974, while living
      in a Taipei monastery as a Buddhist monk, Bill Porter (a.k.a. "Red
      Pine") began translating Cold Mountains poems. Red Pine breathes new
      life into Cold Mountain:
      "I enjoy the simple life
      between dark vines and mountain caves
      the wilderness has room to roam
      with white clouds for companions
      there's a road but not to town."
      It is easy to appreciate Cold Mountains verse
      not only for its "spiritual honesty, poignancy, and humor" (p. 15), as
      Red Pine observes, but also for its rich, natural imagery. White clouds
      cling to dark rocks (poem 1), and old pines cling to crags (poem 256).
      Cicadas sing (poem 300). Yellow leaves fall (poem 300).
      "My mind is like the autumn moon
      clear and bright in a pool of jade"
      In a recent interview, Red Pine compares Chinese hermits to "a mountain
      spring that brings fresh water down into town" (Tricycle, Winter 2000,
      p. 69). Cold Mountain is a good teacher, and his poems offer insightful
      lessons. He writes:
      "Trust your own true nature" 
      "Rock sugar and clarified butter
      mean nothing when youre dead"

      "The moon is the hub of the mind"

      "Silence thoughts and the spirit becomes clear
      focus on emptiness and the world grows still"

      "Drop a ball of mud in water
      and behold the thoughtless mind"

      "Retiring to my hut I accept white hair"
      "The world is full of busy people
      well-versed in countless views
      blind to their true natures"
      "People who wander among clouds
      dont have to buy the hills"
      Red Pines collection will become an well-travelled path on your
      bookshelf to contemplative, Cold Mountain. (It is easy to understand
      why Jack Kerouac dedicated his DHARMA BUMS to Cold Mountain in 1958.)
      For those interested in meeting other Chinese hermits, I recommend
      some contemporary poetry reminiscent of Cold Mountain, I recommend
      David Budbills recent MOMENT TO MOMENT (2000).
      G. Merritt


      The Ancient Recluse

      Somehow I ended up beneath pines
      sleeping in comfort on boulders
      there aren't any calendars in the mountains
      winter ends but who counts the years

      •   •   •

      Nothing is known of the author of this poem, other than he lived in the Chungnan Mountains south of Ch'ang-an and called himself T'ai-shang ying-che (The Ancient Recluse). Here, he replies to someone who has asked him why and how long he had been living there. He dismisses the first question with ou-lai (somehow/by chance) and the second question with wu-li-jih (no calendar) and then laughs at the idea of time-constrained concerns. ...

      — Red Pine (reprinted in the Seattle Times courtesy of Copper Canyon Press)  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/northwestlife/2001845878_redpinepoem29.html



      The trail to Cold Mountain is faint

      the banks of Cold Stream are a jungle

      birds constantly chatter away

      I hear no sound of people

      gusts of wind lash my face

      flurries of snow bury my body

      day after day no sun

      year after year no spring

      --Red Pine


      Here's a flyer from Emory University announcing An Evening of Chines Poetry and Music: http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/RELIGION/redpineflyer.PDF


      Deserted mountains - not a man is seen,
      Only the sounds of wind can be heard.
      The sunbeam, entering the deep woods,
      Reflects again, on the green moss. 
       -- Han Shan (8th century


      Not one care in mind all year
      I find enough joy every day in my hut
      and after a meal and a pot of strong tea
      I sit on a rock by a pond and count fish 

      The stream is clear enough to see pebbles
      my ungabled hut sits among vines
      gibbons howl late at night when the moon sets
      few guests get past the moss below the cliffs
      bamboos in the yard bend with spring snow
      plum trees on the ridge are gnarled by winter nights
      the solitude of this path isn't old or new
      grinding a brick on a rock is a waste 

      A clean patch of ground after it rains
      an ancient pine half-covered with moss
      such scenes appear before us all
      but how we use them isn't the same 

      My home is secluded far from the world
      the moss and woods are thick and the plants perfumed
      I can see mountains rain or shine
      all day I hear no market noise
      I light a few leaves to make tea on my stove
      to patch my robe I cut a cloud whisp
      lifetimes seldom fill a hundred years
      why bother chasing profit or fame 

      from The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a Fourteenth-Century Chinese Hermit
      according to the following website: http://www.howardism.org/thoughts/000257.html


      from a review of The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom. Tranlated by Red Pine. http://www.dharmalife.com/issue19/diamondsutra.html

       'The Diamond Sutra may look like a book, but it's really the body of
      the Buddha. It's also your body, my body, all possible bodies. But it's
      a body with nothing inside and nothing outside. It doesn't exist in
      space or time. Nor is it a construct of the mind. It's no mind. And yet
      because it's no mind, it has room for compassion.' Thus it is not
      surprising that he sees the epitome of the text not in the famous
      four-line verse from the final chapter asserting the illusory nature of
      all phenomena, but rather in the verse from Chapter 26, in which the
      Buddha proclaims,
      Who looks for me in form
      who seeks me in a voice
      indulges in wasted effort
      such people see me not.

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