Everyone has a favorite poet from childhood, right? Mine is 李白, Li Bai in Mandarin (Lai Bak in Cantonese). I mean, sure, I have other favorite poets, but he wins just because I know the most poems written by him.
Because I admire his poetry so much, but didn’t know much about him as a person–my parents were more into the arts than gossipy history–I was delighted to find that there was a book written about him recently by noted author Ha Jin.
(I ended up buying the ebook version since it was taking me too long to read the library copy and I had to keep returning it and forgetting where I was.)
One of the things I was most tickled to find were poems in the book that I had written out in my youth as part of my Chinese lessons. My mom taught me and my sister Chinese/Cantonese after we moved to Canada. She was a teacher in Hong Kong and since neither she nor my dad wanted us to lose our heritage, it fell to her to give us lessons in reading and writing.
Here’s one of the poems with lovely imagery. Yes, that’s my writing in my old workbooks, circa late 70s, possibly 1980/1981.
And the continuation of the above…there are 3 parts.
Another nice thing about this book is that Ha Jin talks about Li’s contemporaries, and poets who pre-date Li whom he admired. In mentioning those other poets, Ha Jin shares some of their more well-known poetry, some of which are my favorites, too! This one below is an example; he only gives the translation but I immediately knew which it was and found it in my notebook:
Another favorite in the book is this one by Wang Han:
One interesting thing I noted is that both the ebook version and the print version are missing a word.
And that word is 回, which means to return. I know because I have it in my handwritten text. (And besides, I can recite this poem in my sleep…and I have!…so I know exactly how many words it contains and what the words are.)
Do you have a favorite childhood poet or poem? Let me know on Twitter!