Saturday, October 3, 2009

Northern Lights

In replying to Joseph (Naming Constellations) today concerning Hafiz, I did a little research on the internet...what a tool. This time a little disappointing however. Indeed, now I don't know if I love Hafiz or Daniel Ladinsky. He is the latest and most accessible translator. I read a criticism of my source book on the internet that points out that the translation is so free that it is arguably not Hafiz' work. The critic is harsher than that. I have toned it down. That is the trouble with translation.

I have studied I Ching for nearly forty years. All my material is of course translated work. I have a dozen or more, including works by Thomas Cleary, which are later Chinese interpretations from the Buddhist school, the Confucian school, the later Taoist Alchemical school, and another spare hard hitting merchant's school. Cleary translated these commentaries. I consider myself a scholar, but I am hardly that if it is required that I understand the original Chinese text rather than understanding about it.

Now I must live with the idea that I have patterned myself after Daniel Ladinsky, thinking he was Hafiz. I am not sure I care. My voice is an honest voice. This is true with I Ching. It is also true in the poems I have written over the last year.

Northern Lights

I see you lying
on the snow to see the lights,
splashed across the sky
in the ice and stars
and later, at noon beside
you in the still air
are crystals, tiny,
bright as starshine in your hair,
in the bright white cold.

February 15, 2009 10:22 AM


  1. Beautiful stillness. Is it truth? I went looking for it tonight and found the rain.

  2. I love this post....
    and that patterning can be truth even with a different name
    Thanks Christopher

  3. Exactly. Your work is your own, and your voice is pure, regardless of a name of another that you studied. You learned from it and it inspired you. And we all benefit. Goes around and comes around, huh.

  4. Jozien, thank you. The lady who I stood witness for as she married my truck driving friend (and hers of several years now), she said after touching me that I need a massage badly. Yes! Nearly always:)

    Erin, around here the rain comes peacefully most of the time and creates a gratitude, at least in me, that a I came looking for in Oregon. The green of Western Oregon is why I moved north. We all live in temperate northern rain forest that has been cleared away. That requires much rain.

    I won't tell you that all the Oregon rain is like this, but much is. It comes from the Pacific in a fairly direct line but must get past low mountains. This effort often steals so much energy that it reaches us as gentle falls of rain.

    I lived on the Oregon coast for a few years, was married there. The raw ocean storms had their own massive charm, some reaching hurricane force without being hurricanes. These will reach into the Portland ares as slightly less massive storms. And sometimes in the winter a pattern is set up of storm after storm that can create floods of the rivers. My houses have never been on flood plains.

    Linda, of course. This doesn't in fact lessen Hafiz. In correcting me, this new information changes Daniel Ladinsky from competent translator to great poet in his own right, running jazz riffs off of good source material, just as happens in music, just as I do with Rachel, and Rachel with me.

    Techno, that is a very kind thing to say.

  5. This is a beauty, regardless of its inspiration.

  6. then
    we are each
    a collection of imitations
    draped mannequins
    with this thread
    that hat
    worn coat
    broken shoes
    from here and there
    this one and that
    against hope
    accidental inspiration
    will deliver novel configuration
    to elusive (illusive) creativity

    what is inimitable?

    what is original?

  7. Appearances

    You think you can watch her, benevolent
    as she lies splayed out across
    the snow bank watching
    streams of green
    ribbon over
    the sky.
    You think the moment is all zen.
    You imagine the air freezing to crystals
    fills her hair with ice beauty
    shards of glass all tangled
    with eyelash
    white on black.
    You think she waits to breathe in magic,
    the wonder of the night, so
    blind to her reluctance
    unaware of her delay
    to step inside
    the house
    and face
    that man, drunk and heavy-fisted
    red-faced with jealous whisky
    wasted body roaring
    for a brawl.

  8. {{{Ghost}}}



    Thank you

  9. I couldn't be happier than I am at this moment, gifted with two poems suggesting I ought to get real...

    No, I don't think so.


  10. When I found the rain, Christopher, it was gift. It's all a gift, after all.

    Thank you, thank you a hundred times over for what you wrote at my place today. I expected harshness and judgement and I received more gifts. I am a lucky girl. I would have reached up and pulled you hard on the shoulder, kissing you square on the cheek, with a big smooching noise and all, for what you wrote. Thank you. I'll hold that near to me. No regrets. No going back in time. No changing a thing. Love is not something to hide from.

  11. There is harshness and judgment enough in the world. I will not add to it if I can avoid it. It seems that the most important persons in your world have also not given that to you. Not the way you wrote it. I suspect you have a part in that. We all raise each other on this planet. No one got the main manual so we have to make it up as we go. We take guidance or not. We try this and that. That your children are excited for the two houses instead of at war with one of you or all the other ways this can go, that means something about you, my dear. You are one of the good ones. Believe it.

  12. Apologies for causing disruptions! :\

    But translation really does require an artistry all its own; if you don't have the skill with the original words, you're still re-creating nuance, and that can be much harder. With poetry is hardest of all. So now not only have you taught me more about Hafiz, but also this Daniel guy... I'll add him to my List of Cool People as well. :) And then I'll just have to go learn medieval Persian or whatnot for the source.

    Re: Northern Lights - gorgeous!

  13. Joseph, you didn't disrupt, you improved things. Now I am aligned with realities a little better. I agree with you. Earlier translators have wanted to keep Hafiz' form as well as his words if possible. It appears he wrote ghazals. Ladinsky has dispensed with that. The critic I read felt that the poems were more his own work than translations of Hafiz.

    Whatever. I fell in love with an image of a sufi master following his master who ordered that he write at least one poem a day, and then taking a cheeky attitude about things quite often - being in love with God in a juicy way, and teasing everyone about it.

    That image is what I try to follow. It probably isn't the "real" Hafiz and might not even be the "real" Ladinsky.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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