Sunday, January 15, 2006

An Empty Purse

Though bitter, juniper berries are food
For immortals, and cirrus flushed with morning
Light. But people are common things,
These tangles of trouble my only life:

A frozen well each morning and no stove,
Cold nights without quilts … In fear
Of shame an empty purse brings, I hold
In mine this one coin I keep, peering in.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


I am going to be unemployed soon.

The first time I was unemployed, it was for a period of 6 months. After completing my National Service and with no working experience it was extremely tough to get a job. I felt so useless, a good-for-nothing.

The second time was for a period of 3 months. Although by then I had a couple of years of working experience, I still found it hard to get a job. To be frank although the second time was shorter than the first time, but for some reasons I felt deeply depressed, even suicidal at times.

The third time was for a period of 7 months. I resigned after my operation in May. Although it was a minor operation I took about 2 months to recover. It was an unforgettable experience. And 5 months later, I tendered my resignation. Luckily for me, I was too busy preparing for my examination (October), new house (November) and wedding (May). No time to be depressed.

But this time I have only my blogs and my poetry forum to keep me occupied. I am going to be unemployed again soon.

(Updated on 5 April 2006)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Still a wanderer farming at the Southern Capital,
Spirit-wounded, I can’t stop gazing north out windows.

But today, I take my wife out in the skiff. Drifting,
We watch our kids bathe in the bright, clear river.

Butterflies tumble through air, one chasing another.
Sharing stems, lotus blossoms float in natural pairs.

Tea, sugar-cane juice – we bring along what simple
Things we have, our clay jars no less than jade.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


I will be featuring some poems from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu in my next few posts. All poems in this book are translated by David Hinton. What is interesting about his approach was that although he tried to remain faithful to the content of Tu Fu’s poems, he have made little attempt to mimic the formal characteristics of the originals.

His translations read more like contemporary poetry, i.e. the way Tu Fu might have written them if he is alive today. Personally I welcome this approach because I’ve read translations that followed strictly to the formal characteristics of the originals and I think they sound forced and too artificial.

(Updated on 10 January 2006)