‘Spring Essence: The Poetry Of Ho Xuan Huong’

9781556591488Ho Xuan Huong was an eighteenth century Vietnamese poet. By profession she was a ‘second wife’ – something more formal than a concubine, but less than a first wife. Apparently, she was the second wife of two men (one of who, based on her poetry, she loved very much; another, based on her poetry, she despised).

The poetry is very beautiful and you see the Chinese influences (she was important by virtue of having been an early adopter of writing in Vietnamese, sort of like a Southeast Asian Dante; most poets before, had written in Chinese characters; but it’s not surprising that it still reads, to me at least, like English translations from the Chinese).

In the English translation, she is very earthy. By ‘earthy’ I mean that she writes beautifully of the natural world (though I wouldn’t call it pastoral or bucolic) and that her poems are often incredibly filthy. It’s like reading Anais Nin (some day, I’ll have to write about reading Nin in Delaware).

Three-Mountain Pass

A cliff face. Another. And still a third.
Who was so skilled to carve this craggy scene:

the cavern’s red door, the ridge’s narrow cleft,
the black knoll bearded with little mosses?

A twisting pine bough plunges in the wind,
showering a willow’s leaves with glistening drops.

Gentlemen, lords, who could refuse, though weary
and shaky in the knees, to mount once more?

 

That is one of the more erotic poems, that stays on the clean side of dirty (some of the poems have a Taming of the Shrew ‘tongue in tail’ quality or a Twelfth Night style ‘Cs Us ‘n Ts and the P comes out thusly’ affect).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s