Tu Fu and me

I've been reading and teaching poetry for the past three weeks. Kenneth Rexroth's 100 Poems From The Chinese has just about the most kickass translations of Tu Fu anywhere. After you start reading those poems, you start living them. No kidding. I was driving along listening to the NPR fund drive and drinking a tall bottle of dark beer in my rattling car, and all of the sudden a flock of ducks appeared next to me. This is early March, and there's a cold snap happening, and the river is frozen over in even its swiftest rapids. I felt so bad for those birds, flitting their articulate wingtips toward no hope at all of an easy night's rest. If that isn't a Tu Fu poem moment - travelling, drinking, birds - I don't know what is. I haven't seen the birds at all since, but I haven't seen their frozen bodies on the riverbanks either. Then Ira Glass came on the radio and starting talking to me about how much my contribution mattered, and so I kept drinking my beer in my rattling car, feeling just like a sad Chinese guy looking out through the silk screen window of my lonely little hut.

- Drew McNaughton

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