I must confess that I have never been very attracted to poetry. When I was younger I found it quite bewildering. My linear mind was tripped up by every line of creative syntax, I was too naïve to grasp the emotional content, and any biblical or literary allusions went right over my head. Now that I’m older and my brain has filled out a little I am a more curious about poetry. Today’s observance of World Poetry Day has inspired me to crack open my copy of World Poetry, which I recently picked up at a thrift store.
It occurred to me that part of my problem with poetry is that I somehow got the idea that if a poem is printed in a book, it must be good and so I should like it. After reading a few poems I noticed that I liked some right away, but many others simply did not interest me. Perhaps that’s OK. It may be that poetry is a more personal matter than prose. At any rate it is probably a good place to start, so here is one of the poems I like:
An Answer to Viceprefect Zhang
In my later years I care only for quiet;
Affairs of the world no longer concern me.
Communing with myself I find no plan –
I only know I must return to the forest.
Pine winds loosen my clothing,
The mountain moon shines on my lute.
You ask me about success and failure?
Listen! a fisherman’s song floats upstream.
—Wang Wei (699-759)