David Hinton’s music is subtle, modulated, and does not slacken with either contemporary or classic. He has listened to the individual tone of each poet, and his craft is equal to his perception.

Rosmarie Waldrop, Citation for The Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

David Hinton

David Hinton has translated several volumes of ancient Chinese poetry, as well as translating the very popular modern Chinese poet in exile, Bei Dao. His honors include fellowships from the Witter Bynner and Ingram Merrill Foundations and from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a winner of a Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from The Academy of American Poets. David Hinton lives in East Calais, Vermont.

cover image of the book Mountain Home

Mountain Home

China’s tradition of “rivers-and-mountains” poetry stretches across millennia. This is a plain-spoken poetry of immediate day-to-day experience, and yet seems most akin to China’s grand landscape paintings. Although its wisdom is rooted in ancient Taoist and Ch’an (Zen) thought, Hinton has breathed new life into this work with his beautiful translations. The rivers-and-mountains tradition treats a remarkable range of topics: comic domestic scenes, social protest, travelogue, reclusive sages, and mountain landscapes shaped into forms of enlightenment. But throughout, these poems articulate the experience of living as an organic part of the natural world and its processes. And in an age of global ecological disruption and mass extinction, this tradition grows more urgently important by the day. Mountain Home begins with an introduction that explains China’s vision of wilderness as the fundamental cosmological model of reality. The poems follow the rivers-and-mountains tradition from its origins in the 5th century C.E. through the Sung Dynasty (13th century). The development of this tradition is traced in concise introductions to each of the nineteen poets translated. As wilderness is the heart of Chinese poetry, this group includes virtually all of ancient China’s greatest poets.

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cover image of the book The Selected Poems of Tu Fu

The Selected Poems of Tu Fu

by Tu Fu

Translated by David Hinton

Tu Fu (712–770 C.E.) has for a millennium been widely considered the greatest poet in the Chinese tradition, and Hinton’s original translation played a key role in developing that reputation in America. Most of Tu Fu’s best poems were written in the last decade of his life, as an impoverished refugee fleeing the devastation of civil war. In the midst of these challenges, his always personal poems manage to combine a remarkable range of possibilities: elegant simplicity and great complexity, everyday life and grand historical drama, private philosophical depth and social engagement in a world consumed by war. Through it all, his is a wisdom that can only be called elemental, and his poems sound remarkably contemporary:

Leaving the City

It’s bone-bitter cold, and late, and falling
frost traces my gaze all bottomless skies.

Smoke trails out over distant salt mines.
Snow-covered peaks slant shadows east.

Armies haunt my homeland still, and war
drums throb in this far-off place. A guest

overnight here in this river city, I return
again to shrieking crows, my old friends.

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cover image of the book The Late Poems of Wang An-Shih

The Late Poems of Wang An-Shih

by Wang An-shih

Translated by David Hinton

Wang An-shih (1021–1086) was a remarkable figure—not only one of the great Song Dynasty poets but also the most influential and controversial statesman of his time. Wang rose to the position of Prime Minister, where he instituted a controversial system of radically egalitarian social reforms in an effort to improve the lives of China’s peasants. Wang then left politics and retired to a reclusive artistic and spiritual life of self-cultivation.

Wang spent those later years practicing Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism and wandering the mountains around his home, and that Taoist civilization of the rivers-and-mountains realm shapes his poems. His writing has won him wide acclaim across the centuries in China and beyond. Here he enters English for the first time, where his deeply ecological approach is sure to resonate with fans of Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, and Hayden Carruth.

Dawn lights up the room. I close my book and sleep, dreaming of Bell Mountain and full of tenderness.

How did you grow old living with failure and disgrace? Never leave that cascading creek: cold, shimmering.

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cover image of the book The Rose Of Time

The Rose Of Time

The Rose of Time: New & Selected Poems presents a glowing selection of poetry by contemporary China’s most celebrated poet, Bei Dao. From his earliest work, Bei Dao developed a wholly original poetic language composed of mysterious and arresting images tuned to a distinctive musical key—a music that has continued to develop in innovative ways through five collections of poetry published by New Directions. Selections from each of these books are included here, as well as a section of new, never-before-published work. This bilingual edition opens with a prefatory note by the poet recalling his past life as a concrete mixer and blacksmith, and closes with a brief biographical note by the editor, Eliot Weinberger. Bei Dao is a seminal poet who has been translated into some thirty languages, and his public admirers have included such international writers as Mahmoud Darwish, Susan Sontag, and Tomas Tranströmer.

in the mirror there is always this moment this moment leads to the door of rebirth the door opens to the sea the rose of time

—Bei Dao

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cover image of the book The Selected Poems Of Wang Wei

The Selected Poems Of Wang Wei

by Wang Wei

Translated by David Hinton

Wang Wei (701-761 C.E.) is often spoken of, with his contemporaries Li Po and Tu Fu, as one of the three greatest poets in China’s 3,000-year poetic tradition. Of the three, Wang was the consummate master of the short imagistic landscape poem that came to typify classical Chinese poetry. He developed a nature poetry of resounding tranquility wherein deep understanding goes far beyond the words on the page—a poetics that can be traced to his assiduous practice of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism. But in spite of this philosophical depth, Wang is not a difficult poet. Indeed, he may be the most immediately appealing of China’s great poets, and in Hinton’s masterful translations he sounds utterly contemporary. Many of his best poems are incredibly concise, composed of only twenty words, and they often turn on the tiniest details: a bird’s cry, a splinter of light on moss, an egret’s wingbeat. Such imagistic clarity is not surprising since Wang was also one of China’s greatest landscape painters (see cover illustration). This is a breathtaking poetry, one that in true Zen fashion renders the ten thousand things of this world in such a way that they empty the self even as they shimmer with the clarity of their own self-sufficient identity.

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cover image of the book The New Directions Anthology Of Classical Chinese Poetry

The New Directions Anthology Of Classical Chinese Poetry

A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Beginning with Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915), the anthology includes translations by three other major U.S. poets––William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder––and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. It is one of the first general anthologies ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by multiple translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves. A playful and instructive study into the art and tradition of Chinese poetry, this anthology gathers some 250 poems by nearly 40 poets, from the anonymous early poetry through the great masters of the T’ang and Sung dynasties. It also includes previously uncollected translations by Pound; a selection of essays on Chinese poetry by all five translators, some never published before in book form; Lu Chi’s famous “Rhymeprose on Literature,” translated by the eminent scholar Achilles Fang; biographical notes that are a collage of poems and comments by both the American translators and the Chinese poets themselves; as well as Eliot Weinberger’s excellent introduction that historically contextualizes the influence Chinese poetry has had on the work of American poets.

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cover image of the book The Mountain Poems Of Hsieh Ling-Yün

The Mountain Poems Of Hsieh Ling-Yün

by Hsieh Ling-Yün

Translated by David Hinton

During the last decade of his life, living as a recluse high in the mountains of southeast China, Hsieh Ling-yün (385-433 C.E.) initiated a tradition of “rivers-and-mountains” (shan-shui) poetry that stretches across millennia in China and beyond, a tradition that represents the earliest and most extensive literary engagement with wilderness in human history. Hsieh’s work, all but unknown in the West, chronicles nothing less than the aesthetic and spiritual discovery of wilderness, reading like dispatches reporting back to the human world. These poems were extremely popular in Hsieh’s own time, and established him as one of the most innovative and influential poets in the history of Chinese poetry, as well as the precursor of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism. Like China’s grand landscape paintings, Hsieh’s poetry invests realistic descriptions of landscape with the philosophy of Taoism and Buddhism, shaping them into forms of enlightenment. As such, Hsieh’s work presents undeniable difficulties for the reader. It is an austere poetry, nearly devoid of the human stories and poetic strategies that normally make poems compelling. Instead, with their grandiose language, headlong movement, and shifting perspective, Hsieh’s poems capture the day-to-day development of the mirror-still mind that sees its truest self in the vast dimension of mountain wilderness.

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cover image of the book The Selected Poems Of Po Chu-I

The Selected Poems Of Po Chu-I

by Po Chu-I

Translated by David Hinton

Po Chü-i (772-846 C.E.) is the quintessential Chinese poet. For although clear thought and depth of wisdom inform the work of all major Chinese poets (as opposed to the complexity and virtuosity often valued in the West), Po makes clarity itself his particular vision. Po Chü-i rose from humble beginnings to high government office, but he was always a recluse at heart and spent many years in relative seclusion. Although some of Po’s most famous poems are those of social protest, many of his finest are private and meditative. Trying to live fully in the moment, he could invest the most commonplace experience with remarkable depths––depths which can only be called spiritual, for they reflect Po’s deep interest in Taoist philosophy and his life-long devotion to Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist practice. Throughout the twelve centuries since his death, Po has been acclaimed as one of China’s greatest poets. But in spite of his preeminent stature, this is the first edition of his poems to appear in the West.

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cover image of the book Forms Of Distance

Forms Of Distance

by Bei Dao

Translated by David Hinton

An exile in the West since the events of Tiananmen Square, Bei Dao is widely considered China’s most distinguished poet. In this new collection, he goes beyond the poetry of exile and reaches a new level of maturity and synthesis in a series of kaleidoscopic images of the end of the twentieth century. These poems, a conflation of history and personal happenstance, are explorations of individual, emotional, physical, and cultural distance that speak to an international readership in an ever more divided world. Bei Dao’s poems are translated with new sharpness and intensity by David Hinton, highly regarded for his versions of the chinese classics (The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, The Selected Poems of T’ao Ch’ien), who comments in his Translator’s Note: “Bei Dao’s work recalls China’s ancient masters: clear resonant images set in sharp juxtapositions. But his are decidedly modern clarities, adrift on the terrible mystery of today’s world-historical forces.”

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David Hinton’s music is subtle, modulated, and does not slacken with either contemporary or classic. He has listened to the individual tone of each poet, and his craft is equal to his perception.

Rosmarie Waldrop, Citation for The Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

Translator and scholar Hinton ensures that Western readers will experience this supreme collection of Chinese rivers-and-mountains (shan-shui) poetry at the deepest possible level.

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