My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Essence

Spring Essence
The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong
(1175 – 1825)
Translated by John Balaban
Cooper Canyon Press: 2000

Ho (whose name means “Spring Essence”) was an 18th century Vietnamese concubine. Writing as a male, she followed this Confucian tradition. Many of her poems are double entendres: each has hidden within another poem, with sexual meaning revealing itself as a pun. No other poet dared this as sex, is a forbidden topic in this literary tradition. Her excellence as a poet allowed her to get away with irreverence. Her exquisite cleverness and skill in composing 2 poems at once, one hidden allowed her to capture audiences and survive.

A favorite:

“The Well Spring”

A narrow path descends through brush
To the bright water of your wondrous pool.

Under a footbridge’s pale twin planks
The pure spring shunts in shimmering rills.

Tufts of sedge surround its mouth.
A golden carp glides midstream.

Finding this well, so virginal and clear,
Who would put a catfish here?

This most enjoyable poem—absorbed slowly—yields pleasure-reaping moments and many smiles. Spring Essence concludes my simultaneous 3-female poet reading project.