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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Discovered by Accident - by Du Mu

Here is a poem by the Tang poet Du Mu I stumbled upon this morning and decided to translate.  The poem has an interesting title -  偶题 - which literally could be translated as Accidental Topic.   But that doesn't seem quite right as the title for a poem as supple and profound as this is, as perhaps you'll agree once you read my translation.  Hard to believe this was written in the early 9th century.

The Way through
The human state of things
May be transmitted by verse

When we’re young
We tread light and easy
But that changes with
The coming years

Today finds us embarked
On a long ocean voyage
Raised on the waves
And buoyant with hope

Not yet arrived
At the Island of Peng Lai
Still short of those Immortal
Shores it seems

*  *  *  *  *

One explanatory note.  The reference in the last stanza to the Island of Peng Lai - this is a place where the Immortals resided located not so far off the coast of Mainland China.

Here's the text of the original:






October Frost

A morning that
Passes for perfect
With the crispness in the air
The crabgrass wan and forlorn
With October's first frost

But a colorful swatch lies draped
Along the fringes of the lawn
Red maple and yellow ash
Even those JumpUps
Carmine pink and red
Still remain at the ready
For one more allegro leap
Dreaming of noonday's
Final blast of warmth 

I hope there’s an extra
Set of blueprints
For a day passing perfect
Just as today is
Somewhere safely
In storage

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill Gates On the Occasion of Downloading OpenOffice

Dear Bill --

For the majority of
My adult life writing
Legal briefs
Business plans
A novel and poems
Of assorted length
You've been my
Constant companion
As uber software vender
And grammatical scold
(in addition to other roles
you sometimes chose)

Long did I chaff under
The yoke of those lines
You insistently served up
Always spewing vermillion
If ever I ran even slightly afoul
Of some grammatical
Stricture you
And Mister Softie
Sought to uphold

When quite suddenly
Thanks to my laptop's
Untimely crashing
Yesterday I found myself
Bereft of further recourse
To the full function and use 
Of what I had previously
Deemed indispensable

But in such mishap
I found greater license
For reward as I'm now
Writing to inform you
Of my immediate withdrawal
From the ranks of the loyal hobbyists 
And assorted others who remain 
Licensees in good standing
Of your copyright
Protected work

As I have declined
To enroll as a member in
Your new software
Subscription scheme
(which by its evergreen 
terms seems more than
a tad overreaching)

Instead I've opted
To download a freeware
Program called
OpenOffice Pro
By which means
From this day forward
I am officially severing all
Legal connection between
You folks in Redmond
And the text of my poems
As henceforth my work
Will be exclusively based
On open source code

Very truly yours,

Joe Lamport

Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Poem by Du Mu

Here's my translation of another poem written by Du Mu in the mid 8th century.  This strikes me as incredibly contemporary in sentiment.

Parting from Minister Shen

What’s done is done
A ragged dream
What’s still to come
Is the road that winds
Into autumn

Old friends unseen
But remembered
Time brings us
To a sacred tower
Facing east




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A New Blank Document

A few thoughts about Enlightenment are coming into better focus for me this fall.  Maybe it’s not a mental state after all.  I mean maybe it really starts as a physical condition.  And that’s why so many religious disciplines cultivate a wide variety of physical regimens to help open the Path to novitiates and other seekers.

By understanding Enlightenment as more of a physical than mental state I don’t intend to denigrate it.  Far from it.  Only to suggest that it may be easier to attain in literal fashion -- as a physical lightening of the load we carry through life.  You can simulate this feeling by first carrying around a 20 pound weight in your backpack and then suddenly you remove it and right away you feel a surge of energy throughout your entire body frame.  It's like a jolt of oxygen enriched air in every breath you take.  (Achieving this same sensation without the benefit of 20 pound weights or oxygen mask, that's the challenge we all face.)  This too entails mastering detachment of a certain sort, a loosening of the normal physical bounds.  

A Dream of Blue House Street

I'm trying to resume the more regular practice of translating Chinese poetry.  It's such a great way to start the day.  Clinical studies have proven that a stanza of lyrical truth provides more stimulation than a cup and a half of the strongest dark roast.

Today's translation is of a poem by the Tang poet Du Mu.

Dispatched from the Heart

Down and out
By rivers and lakes
A bottle of wine in hand

A slender girl
With a narrow waist
Light in the palm of my hand

Ten years is
A long time to nap
Even to dream of Yangzhou

Laying claim to a place
On Blue House street
Is only a meager reward






Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A FedEx Package from JPMorgan Chase

October 1st -- for immediate release.

 It was a long summer but today I feel as if fall has finally arrived.  And with it my mood has lifted too.  Melancholy took root in my soul in June and then spread out in crabgrass-like fashion, growing with abandon all summer long; but suddenly it seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks, withered overnight, and in strange counter-cyclical fashion, I find myself invigorated this morning, welcoming autumn with a strong sense of promise -- the prospect of a fresh start in my front and back yard after all.

I want to take the occasion to announce the launch of 1000 new ships.  I am re-engaging with the world effectively immediately.  Take particular note that this blog is being rechristened as part of the effort.  Henceforth this blog -- which up until now primarily served as a dumping ground for all the poems I otherwise didn't know what to do with -- is being reshaped as an online journal, my day book in fact, where you will continue having the chance to read my most personal thoughts, although now recast in prose form.  It's all still at no cost to you, I should add.

The fact of the matter is that I'm not writing so much poetry these days.  The depression pretty much killed that off, at least for now.  If there's ever a change in the status of poetry and my soul, I promise you'll be one of the very first to know.

* * * * *

Just as I was in the midst of writing this post, the door buzzer rang.   It was the FedEx delivery man summoning me downstairs for a package.  So mid-sentence I lost my train of thought and went downstairs where I found waiting for me an envelope from JP Morgan Chase.  Now usually, I'm thrilled to receive a package and am all in favor of tearing them open right away, eager for the thrill and excitement.  It could be a million dollar check, after all, albeit not very likely.

But today was different.  I was so engrossed in what I was thinking about, I hurried back upstairs, set the unopened envelope down beside my computer, and immediately resumed writing.  That's how important it was for me to get the Lampoetry blog relaunched.  If you're curious to find out what's in the envelope (as I am now, quite frankly) you'll just have to come back for more Lampoetry tomorrow.