David Hinton is a marvelous translator who has for years now been dusting off classical Chinese poetry, giving wonderful poems a fresh idiom and a newly clean surface. He's just published CLASSICAL CHINESE POETRY: AN ANTHOLOGY, from Farrar Straus, and it's splendid, just as his previous volumes would have led us to expect. I could quote this book half the night, but here's a poem that feels especially apt to me as I'm getting a little wound up about the NBA next week. It's by Wang Wei, and it dates from the 8th century.
I'm ancient, lazy about making poems.
There's no company here but old age.
I no doubt painted in some former life,
roamed the delusion of words in another,
and habit lingers. Unable to get free,
I somehow became known in the world,
but my most fundamental name remains
this mind still here beyond all knowing.