C H E N G H U I
translated, with annotation, by John Bradley
On Reading the Poetry of Su Tung-P’o
“The squeaking of an autumn insect”
that’s how you described the poetry
of Meng Chiao, a “tiny mud crab
with empty claws.”
But what if some pain in the rear
reader of your poetry
complains that your words
flicker and fracture
His eyes stutter and stammer
across the page
a river of light pulsing
far stronger than any words
And so he declares your poetry
simply does not measure up
to that of . . . . . or to . . . . .
or even to . . . . .
Master poet Su Tung-p’o
in a thousand thousand years
how do you know who
they will call the lotus blossom
and who sick monkey dung.
Su Tung-p’o (1037-1101) indeed does slam Meng Chiao’s poetry in “Reading the Poetry of Meng Chiao.” But Cheng Hui (fl. 1210) also pokes fun at Meng in “Complaint of Meng Chiao’s Neglected Wife,” so why is Cheng so worked up over Su’s poem? My wife tells me that all men are insecure, causing them to piddle on the feet of anyone they feel threatened by. I will not argue with her, at least in public, but I will say this. Cheng’s last point speaks for most of the writers I know, male and female. How do we know, for example, who will one day be considered the translator second only to Arthur Waley?
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