In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu by Red Pine

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Red Pine
Copper Canyon Press
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In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu

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Book review

"Wei Ying-Wu was undoubtedly one of the great T'ang poets, yet his work is much less well known in the West than that of Li Po, Tu Fu, and Po Chu-i. Now Red Pine (the lovely pen name that the American poet and Chinese scholar Bill Porter assumes for his translation work) celebrates Wei's life and achievement in a big new anthology, In Such Hard Times...Reading him is like listening to Mozart, there's something healing about the calm profundity with which he spins pain and disaster."—Los Angeles Times

“[Translator] Red Pine’s out-of-the-mainstream work is uncanny and clearheaded.”—Kyoto Journal

“Red Pine’s succinct and informative notes for each poem are core samples of the cultural, political, and literary history of China.”—Asian Reporter

Wei Ying-wu (737–791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty, ranked alongside such poets as Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Strangely, though, only a handful of Wei Ying-wu’s poems have ever been translated into English.

True to his reputation as one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese, Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translates 175 of Wei’s poems and demonstrates why he is “one of the world’s great poets.” Presented in a bilingual Chinese-English format, with extensive notes and an informative introduction, In Such Hard Times is a long-overdue world premiere.

A courtyard of bamboo in the snow at midnight
a lone lantern a book on my table
if I hadn’t encountered the teachings of inaction
how else could I have gained this life of leisure

Wei Ying-wu (737-791) is considered one of the great poets of the T’ang Dynasty. Born into an aristocratic family in decline, Wei served in several government posts without distinction. He disdained the literary establishment of his day and fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world.

Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) is one of the world’s leading translators of Chinese literary and religious texts.

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