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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry by Du Fu
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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry (edition 2008)

by Du Fu, David Young (Translator)

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483360,338 (4.09)4
Member:kirsenem
Title:Du Fu: A Life in Poetry
Authors:Du Fu
Other authors:David Young (Translator)
Info:Knopf (2008), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
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Du Fu: A Life in Poetry by Du Fu

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I've read several other translations of Du Fu (or Tu Fu, depending on the book) and this is my favorite. The poems here seem much more immediate and accessible. I enjoyed them so much I looked to see if David Young had any more translations, and was surprised to see I had his book of Petrarch's Sonnets! Also bought The Clouds Float North: The Complete Poems of Yu Xuanji, which are also lovely. Then I bought Mr. Young's Field of Light and Shadow: Selected and New Poems, and am enjoying them very much also. Thought maybe I was too old to just "find" a writer like that! ( )
  unclebob53703 | Nov 7, 2017 |
Du Fu was a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty. Du Fu had contacts at the Imperial Court but was not talented enough to get a prestigious post or any long term employment. During his life time China was almost constantly under attack or at war. Many of the poems are about trying to provide for his family during war time, the families of the conscripted soldiers and being separated from family and friends. Many of the poems are about nature and imperial politics. These poems are beautiful, simple and accessible; they give you a real sense of the man and his life in the 700s. Highly recommended. Here's a poem about his son:

Thinking of My Son

Here it is spring weather, Pony Boy,
and still we are apart
you must be singing with the orioles
happy in the sunshine
while here I am dismayed
to see how fast the seasons change
I can't be there
to watch your growing mind--
I think about the little streams
the mountain paths we'd visit
the wooden gate, the village
among the ancient trees
I start to fall asleep
imagining I see you
as I lean against this railing
the sun warm on my back ( )
1 vote VioletBramble | Jun 18, 2010 |
Du Fu (712-770) lived during the Tang dynasty, a period which the translator David Young states “was perhaps the greatest age for poetry that the history of civilization has known”. In this book, Young puts Du Fu’s poems in chronological order and at the beginning of each block of years, e.g., “Early Years in the East, 737-744", he gives a précis of Du Fu’s activities during this time, as well as what was going on politically in China. The result for this reader was a fascinating glimpse at an ancient era but more importantly, at the evolution of a man’s life and his contemplation about that life.

Du Fu was, in his younger days, exactly what you would expect of a young person: ambitious, a bit cocky, fond of wine and the good life. But already there is a difference in his voice which sets him apart from 'ordinary' young folk. He looks at daily life around him, incorporating both the world of nature and the world of people. Sometimes his voice is deeply personal and yet he has the distance, the separateness, of a philosopher.

As I progressed through his poems, I felt tremendous compassion for this man, for the vagaries of his life, for his forced exiles and escapes as Tibetan forces attacked the Empire making life so dangerous and uncertain. Across centuries he made me feel his love for his son, Pony Boy, and his wife - unusual for a poet to write a poem for his wife, usually it is for a courtesan or a lover - and his two daughters. I felt his joy in his cottage with the thatched roof and the bamboo he planted there. I understood his frustration with the wars and politics. I delighted in his friendships and how dearly he loved certain individuals. When his hair turned white and he became an ill old man, I ached that his death was on a boat on the Yangtze river, once again shifting and moving, never able to settle, no quiet and peace available for a sick old poet.

His poems are beautiful. They moved me profoundly. Read in sequence as Young placed them, they represent the record of a man’s life, of a time long gone, and reach over that long span of years to touch me with a common humanity. His economy with words and yet his mastery of an image, of a mood, impressed me, particularly as you could see this skill growing with him as he aged.

Between 759-762 he wrote “Rain on a Spring Night”:
"Congratulations, rain
you know when to fall

and you know quite well
you belong to spring

coming at night, quiet
walking in the wind

making sure things
get good and wet

the clouds hang dark
over country roads

there’s one light from a boat
coming downriver

in the red morning
everything’s wet

flowers all through Chengdu
heavy and full of rain."

I will be dipping into this beautiful book over and over. ( )
16 vote tiffin | Apr 20, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375711600, Paperback)

Du Fu (712–770) is one of the undisputed geniuses of Chinese poetry—still universally admired and read thirteen centuries after his death. Now David Young, author of Black Lab, and well known as a translator of Chinese poets, gives us a sparkling new translation of Du Fu’s verse, arranged to give us a tour of the life, each “chapter” of poems preceded by an introductory paragraph that situates us in place, time, and circumstance. What emerges is a portrait of a modest yet great artist, an ordinary man moving and adjusting as he must in troubled times, while creating a startling, timeless body of work.

Du Fu wrote poems that engaged his contemporaries and widened the path of the lyric poet. As his society—one of the world’s great civilizations—slipped from a golden age into chaos, he wrote of the uncertain course of empire, the misfortunes and pleasures of his own family, the hard lives of ordinary people, the changing seasons, and the lives of creatures who shared his environment. As the poet chases chickens around the yard, observes tear streaks on his wife’s cheek, or receives a gift of some shallots from a neighbor, Young’s rendering brings Du Fu’s voice naturally and elegantly to life.

I sing what comes to me
in ways both old and modern

my only audience right now—
nearby bushes and trees

elegant houses stand
in an elegant row, too many

if my heart turns to ashes
then that’s all right with me . . .

from “Meandering River”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:56 -0400)

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