A Video Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Nostalgia for Fluting on the Phoenix Terrace”

 

Will Slack visited from Boston and we took the opportunity to record him reading Li Qingzhao’s  “Nostalgia for Fluting on the Phoenix Terrace” in the original Chinese and my response to it. Recorded at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

The birds
The little birds
The little brown birds
The little brown birds
Sing wordless songs at dawn

The tree
The locust tree
The flowering locust tree
The flowering locust tree
Caressed all day by honeybees

The Moon
The Moon and Mars
The Moon and Mars—white and red
The Moon and Mars—white and red
Waltz through the midnight skies

Each day I rise
Each day I make the bed
Each day I listen to wordless songs
Watch the blossoms get caressed
Try to sleep with the Moon and Mars
Together waltzing through midnight stars

And I think at least the wind will blow
And the world will spin all of this away
Like you who would not stay
You who refuses to be seen
Not even in my dreams
Because if you could disappear
If you will not be here
Why should they persist?

The birds
The little birds
The little brown birds

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Depth charge: Li Qingzhao’s poem about separation from a loved one may have been the original impetus for this poem, but in the end it was a line from a Carter Family song Darling Little Joe: “Thelittle brown birds around the door,” that provided the key. I also found inspiration in Skeeter Davis’ The End of the World and, finally, by commenting on the locust tree outside my wind and being challenged by a friend to turn it into a poem.

Tune: “Nostalgia for Fluting on the Phoenix Terrace”
Separation
by Li Qingzhao

No more incense smoke from the gilt lion burner;
Quilts in the bed: a riot of crimson waves.
A night of unrestful sleep,
And I am in no mood to comb my hair,
Heedless that my jewelled toilet-set is covered with dust,
And the morning sun peeping above the curtain-hooks.
A jumble of parting thoughts,
Yet I hesitate on the verge of utterance
For fear of bitterness.
Of late I’ve been growing thin,
Not that I over-drink myself,
Nor from lament for the autumn.

Finished! Finished!
Ten thousand Songs of Farewell① failed to detain
The loved one-now gone f a r away
To Wu Ling Peach Blossom Springs. ②
Here in this mist-locked chamber
I sit brooding t h e livelong day,
With only the limpid stream showing me sympathy
As it glides quietly past the terrace.
A fresh wave of regret floods my heart
Where I gaze.

①  An allusion to a poem written by Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to see off a friend, which in later generations came to be widely used as a song of farewell, with its last line
“West of Yang Guan you’ll have no more old friends ” sung as a refrain. Yang Guan was an ancient pass in present-day Gansu province.

②  The poet compares her husband to the fisherman who sojourned in the Land of Peach Blossom Springs in Tao Yuanming’s Utopian essay.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

李清照凤凰台上忆吹箫
香冷金猊,被翻红浪,起来慵自梳头。任宝奁尘满,日上帘钩。生怕离怀别苦,多少事、欲说还休。新来瘦,非干病酒,不是悲秋。
休休,这回去也,千万遍《阳关》,也则难留。念武陵人远,烟锁秦楼。唯有楼前流水,应念我、终日凝眸。凝眸处,从今更添,一段新愁。

李清照鳳凰台上憶吹簫
香冷金猊,被翻紅浪,起來慵自梳頭。任寶奩塵滿,日上簾鉤。生怕離懷別苦,多少事、欲說還休。新來瘦,非干病酒,不是悲秋。
休休,這回去也,千萬遍《陽關》,也則難留。念武陵人遠,煙鎖秦樓。唯有樓前流水,應念我、終日凝眸。凝眸處,從今更添,一段新愁。

Lǐqīngzhào fènghuáng tái shàng yì chuī xiāo
Xiāng lěng jīn ní, bèi fān hóng làng, qǐlái yōng zì shūtóu. Rènbǎolián chén mǎn, rì shàng lián gōu. Shēngpà lí huái bié kǔ, duōshǎo shì, yù shuō hái xiū. Xīn lái shòu, fēi gàn bìng jiǔ, bùshì bēi qiū.
Xiū xiū, zhè huíqù yě, qiān wàn biàn “yáng guān”, yě zé nán liú . Niàn wǔlíng rén yuǎn, yān suǒ qín lóu. Wéiyǒu lóu qián liúshuǐ, yīng niàn wǒ, zhōngrì níngmóu. Níngmóu chù, cóng jīn gèng tiān, yīduàn xīn chóu.

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”

To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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April Ice Storm

If the city were—
Sensible—it would simply
Pause—wait for the ice
To melt in its own good time—
Mad clocks keep it grinding on

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guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

 

Haiku for jr

Late March turns cold—white—
Snow—covers but can’t conceal
Fresh magnolia buds

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for jr

 

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

In the Japanese Garden

Red on red on red
The red crabapple blossoms
Cover the courtyard
In the Japanese Garden
Rare respect for the fallen

White on black on white
The white crabapple blossoms
Float on dark waters
White letters on a black sheet
Writing this poem in reverse

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20160525 Crabapple blossoms in Japanese Garden stream cropped

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

They don’t bloom for you and me

Sometime in the night
The apples and magnolias
Decided to bloom
And so now they are waiting
For the bees bats and beetles

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guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Translation of Li Qingzhao’s “As if in a Dream Made: Don’t You Know?”

“As if in a Dream Made: Don’t You Know?”
by Li Qingzhao

Sudden winds scatter last night’s rain showers,
Heavy sleep failed to clear my head of wine.
I ask you as you’re rolling up the blinds,
But you say the crab apple is unchanged.

Don’t you know?
Don’t you know?

By now the foliage should be thick and green
With flowers blooming delicate and red.

Translated by AGG20160506.

Depth Charge:  As part of the “Our Tears Become a Language” project, I will be doing my own translation of 64 poems by, or attributed to, Li Qingzhao.

Chinese:
李清照·如梦令
昨夜雨疏风骤,浓睡不消残酒。试问卷帘人,却道海棠依旧。
知否?知否?应是绿肥红瘦。

Pinyin:
Li Qīngzhào·rú mèng lìng
Zuóyè yǔ shū fēng zhòu, nóng shuì bùxiāo cán jiǔ. Shì wènjuàn lián rén, què dào hǎitáng yījiù. Zhī fǒu? Zhī fǒu? Yīng shì lǜféi hóng shòu.

Word-by-word:
Li Qingzhao/as(if)/dream/to make (cause) something (to happen)
Yesterday/night/rain/scattered/wind/sudden, dense(heavy)/sleep/not/dissipate/remaining/wine (alcohol). Try/ask/scroll/screen/person, however/say/wild plum (海棠)/to be aware/as/before.
Know/or not? Know/or not?/Ought to/green/fat/red/thin.

Here is an earlier version of this poem.
guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Moon Magnolia Morning

 

The moon’s a bone cloud
In a cloudless morning sky
Chill air—branches bare
Magnolia buds opening
Only they know it is spring

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guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

For the daily dead who rise

A flurry of snow
Sparkles under the streetlights
It will leave no trace
For the daily dead who rise
Only with the sun to see

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guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Revised Response to Li Qingzhao’s “As if in a Dream: A Song”

Last night
Drifting rain showers
Sudden winds
Even these could not dispel
This long winter’s perpetual hangover

I ask as you roll up the blinds—
But you say
The ice and snow are unchanged

Then the sunlight sudden bright
Falling into your dark skin
Unsheathes every cell in my body
Up until that very moment
Dull—muffled—wrapped
Each alone enshrouded
Now raw unravelling
All the fibres of our separate being

Don’t you know?
Don’t you know?
We will be the green leaves fattening
Become the flowers slender when in bloom

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Original Response to Li Qingzhao’s “As if in a Dream: A Song”

Last night
Drifting rain showers,
Sudden winds,
Even these could not dispel
This winter’s hangover.

I ask as you roll up the blinds—
But you say
The ice and snow are unchanged.

Don’t you know?
Don’t you know?
The green leaves should be fattening,
The slender flowers blooming.

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Tune: “As in a Dream: A Song,” Two Lyrics
by Li Qingzhao

Last night, a bit of rain, gusty wind
a deep sleep did not dispel the last of the wine,
I ask the maid rolling up the blinds—
but she replies: “The crab apple is just as it was.”

Doesn’t she know?
Doesn’t she know?
The leaves should be lush and the petals frail.

Translated by Eugene Eoyang, from Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry

Simplified Chinese:

李清照·如梦令
昨夜雨疏风骤,浓睡不消残酒。试问卷帘人,却道海棠依旧。
知否?知否?应是绿肥红瘦。

Traditional Chinese:

李清照·如夢令
昨夜雨疏風驟,濃睡不消殘酒。試問卷簾人,卻道海棠依舊。
知否?知否?應是綠肥紅瘦。

Word-by-word:

Li Qīngzhào·rú mèng lìng

Zuóyè yǔ shū fēng zhòu, nóng shuì bùxiāo cán jiǔ. Shì wènjuàn lián rén, què dào hǎitáng yījiù. Zhī fǒu? Zhī fǒu? Yīng shì lǜféi hóng shòu.

Li Qingzhao/as(if)/dream/to make (cause) something (to happen)

Yesterday/night/rain/scattered/wind/sudden, dense(heavy)/sleep/not/dissipate/remaining/wine (alcohol). Try/ask/scroll/screen/person, however/say/wild plum (海棠)/to be aware/as/before.
Know/or not? Know/or not?/Ought to/green/fat/red/thin.

Here is an earlier version of this poem.
guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

The Urge

I’m sure you feel it
The urge to fight fuck and feast
Lurking deep within
The tarnished snow drifts melting —
The relentless threat of spring

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