Poetry by David Hinton
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.