Art and Aesthetics · music

Writing About The Pengyang Memorial Inscription With Emotion (or ‘Triumph’)

Between 1821 and 1823, Beethoven wrote his last major work for the piano, the Diabelli Variations.  He took a simple theme furnished by his publisher, and added 33 variations. A few months ago, in the middle of my life, and perhaps overly sensitive to my mortality, I challenged myself to learn this piece. I set…… Continue reading Writing About The Pengyang Memorial Inscription With Emotion (or ‘Triumph’)

Family and Friends · music

Guest Of The Sea (or The Gecko’s Virgin Blood)

In the Tang dynasty geckos were crushed in mortars to prepare a potion, which was then applied to mark a young girl’s arm. If she lost her virginity, its red color would change. This fantastic potion was used to regularly inspect and discipline women. The poet Li Shangyin wrote: The red Shou Palace lies in…… Continue reading Guest Of The Sea (or The Gecko’s Virgin Blood)

music

The Palace of Emperor Chen – Two Poems (Or Mozart in Prague)

On one of his travels across time, Shangyin landed in Prague. It was January 1787. During a brief stint as a reporter for Prager Oberpostamtszeitung , he interviewed the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart was a little under 5 feet tall, with an unusually large head topped with a mass of carrot colored hair. He…… Continue reading The Palace of Emperor Chen – Two Poems (Or Mozart in Prague)

Family and Friends

Again to Official Pei Ming’s Abode (or On what did Atlas stand?)

We writers are the greatest of narcissists – we make a profession of consuming ourselves and then try to sell what we spit out. Books themselves, the paper kind, give me much pleasure. All my life, I haven’t cared if they were soggy and wet, dry, burnt, or new as long as I could hold…… Continue reading Again to Official Pei Ming’s Abode (or On what did Atlas stand?)

Family and Friends

Jasper Lake (or After The Formlessness, Who Gave Things Shape?)

My mother was the first of her generation to be born in America. Her father and mother escaped Russian pogroms when they were children. She was born under Sagittarius, in Brookline, Massachusetts. She didn’t know (or care) she was white and Jewish until her parents and friends learned of her Kenyan fiancé, and her mother…… Continue reading Jasper Lake (or After The Formlessness, Who Gave Things Shape?)

Art and Aesthetics · nature

Swallow Terrace Poems

As I was biking along the Shenzhen boardwalk, I looked up. The sky was a cool plastic slate that stretched from the west, where the sun blushed behind pearly screens. Around me the sounds of hip hop mixed with the tinkle of bicycle bells, the scent of jasmine and barbecued meat. Along the shore of…… Continue reading Swallow Terrace Poems

Art and Aesthetics · nature · Politics

40 Verses Of The Muddy Well

At sunrise, on a day trip to Reno, Shangyin drove past the orange groves that cover southern California. On a whim, he stopped his car and got out. Except for an old man pruning some trees by the roadside, there was no-one in sight. The man’s face was wrinkled and dark, and he had a…… Continue reading 40 Verses Of The Muddy Well

Art and Aesthetics · Politics

Given to Official Liu

One morning I woke in a sweat. Instinctively, I picked up my smartphone. Banner ads for insurance products and shampoo competed with news feeds about imminent wars and man-made disasters. Everywhere I looked it seemed the world was going up in flames.  I wanted to write something about it, but recoiled at the thought of…… Continue reading Given to Official Liu

Art and Aesthetics

Song of the Inner Palace

The Qing dynasty scholar Wang Guowei wrote of poems falling into two categories: close by or remaining at a distance. The Chinese character he uses for distance is ge(隔), whose ancient pictogram consists of three mounds, and a three legged urn. Shangyin’s poems often evoke a distance between the reader and the word, by referring…… Continue reading Song of the Inner Palace

Art and Aesthetics

Thirty Rhymes Delivered To Tai Yuanlu and Si Kong

I once dreamed Li Shangyin[1] was banished from court for speaking his mind.  He fell into a deep depression. On a dark day, he went to an oracle and asked the soothsayer to examine the turtle bones and divine his future path. The oracle looked at Shangyin and said: “My son, what is it you…… Continue reading Thirty Rhymes Delivered To Tai Yuanlu and Si Kong

Art and Aesthetics

Mr. Xie Fang Memorized and Recited My Poems

Mister Xie Fang Memorized and Recited My Poems , On a Random Day I Sent Him This Epistle After Shangyin read one of his poems to me, he calmly rested his chin on his hands and said,  “We have Beowulf, The Bhagavad-Gita, , the Bayajidda, the Sorrow at Parting of Chu Yuan, but there is…… Continue reading Mr. Xie Fang Memorized and Recited My Poems