interpretation of vii Chinese symbols on a grave

Charles Olson used to do something similar with Catullus’s poems: from the sound of the word he would take its sonic familiar in English & compose a poem, which would often be gibberish. i do not know his reason for this, or i forget, i suppose it was an exercise in rhythm & scansion; a prompt. it must have been difficult for him to bypass that he could read Latin poetry & understand the meaning. i would liken these poems to Olson’s self-prompt, but on a much more visual level: as i cannot read Chinese it is an imagistic or even imaginative interpretation of the physical symbol.
there is a graveyard close by where i walk the dog & often go. this one time with the idea struck i sat for over an hour looking at the symbols & letting them become these imagistic bundles, they work as a good exercise, something to get you thinking & transforming.
if anyone can read Chinese, as the grave i used is in the photo above, i’d rather not know the meaning, i already have a good idea what it says, it is a grave after all. interesting how something totally unrelated can become otherwise.

 

interpretation of vii Chinese symbols
on a grave

i
balanced atop a ㅁ cut stone
no bigger than a kimchi box
ㅇㅇㅇ stones of like size big as onions
as comfortable as
a singing bowl perched
on a pin cushion

ii
a man sat at
a plastic table
arms crossed
before an empty bookcase
– possibly frowning

iii
his polar woman
bold enough to spread
her hands, legs too
at a table made
of endangered wood

iv
a clear route to the peak of
an impossible mountain
but nobody takes it

v
a length of rope
its fibrous helix bulging
like veins in tension up an arm
– pegged to thin air

vi
a child wearing a samurai costume
closed up in the 4 walls
of himself like this: ㅁ
-just the one leg for balance

vii
the unknown staring back at us
without knowing who we are
or what we need

21 Comments Add yours

  1. pseudonymous says:

    I sat here for a while trying to come up with something to say that would reflect how much I loved this poem but all I came up with was this.

  2. Studying Chinese characters/words then working with sonic or syllabic familiars… I never would have thought of that in a million years!!! Thanks for mentioning it. My poetry has been unimaginative mudcrete-ing for a couple of weeks now, and this is the very thing that will get me flowing again. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

    1. Can’t wait to see what you come out with. You may be in a more favorable position than me if you can read them i have only sight, that is imaginative interpretation of yhe physicality. With Korean i could use sound & vision, something i may try.

      1. Kamsahamnida Unni… “Can Sam knee Dad? You knee?

    2. The Japanese phrase watashi no namae wa Danieru desu, “my name is Daniel.” can be kinds/sorta sounded out like “what actually knows lamb eye was damn near you, desk! LOL!

      1. What a shy no name a warden erhu (as in the Chinese lute) does you

      2. Saranghaeyo… Say run, gay… oh!! 🙂

      3. A lot of fun to be had

      4. Lots to figure out and refine but a GREAT idea, and I am so glad I have been following your blog. I have learnt so much!! 당신은 위대한 선생님입니다!

      5. That sentence is so formal i feel like i am much older than you. Haha.

      6. I mean it with great respect! 🙂

  3. Very imaginative, the wonder of Chinese characters is that each character has profound art in itself. I know the meaning, but I will respect your desire to not know, though you are correct that it is basically honorifics and what you would expect.

    Here is a database of Chinese Seal script and calligraphy you could write poetry to:

    http://www.amtb.tw/mobao/mobao12.htm

    The license is free to reprint, so you could put it on your website as long as it is respected.

    1. There is a beauty. I can write Chinese a little, though very badly of course i have a book to learn Chinese with Korean. I thank you for not telling it is a silly thing but i worry it will affect me in writing future poems if i know.

      1. You’re welcome, also I strongly recommend you check out the link I gave you, it is a source of great art and inspiration for your blog.

      2. Will do. Not at my computer now on my phone so I’ll look properly tomorrow.

  4. robert okaji says:

    A creative exercise, Daniel, and you’ve made some stunning interpretations. Much food for thought!

    1. Cheer Robert, thought these mind be up your street. They are influenced by something, but work remains to be done, those they feel very much figured out by the poet.

      1. robert okaji says:

        Funny, but I’ve been examining some basic Chinese/Japanese characters and have written a poem touching on them, tho not in as interesting a way as you have.

      2. I hope to read them soon. At first i thought using a grave for creative purpose was interesting but then using the characters as a springboard that divagates from death seemed even more poignant a statement in the face of death.

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