Posts Tagged ‘Jane Portal’

After last week’s joyful discovery on my bookshelf I rummaged and found something else I’d forgotten about!

Book 35 – The British Museum Chinese Love Poetry, edited by Jane Portal. This is another short book of poems, this time written by Chinese poets covering a period from around 600BC (if not earlier) to the late 20th century. The poems are all on the theme of love but the nature of that love is not necessarily romantic – friendship and familial relationships also feature. As with last week’s book, the poems are written in English, and accompanied by a beautiful piece of art. Each poem has one phrase written in Chinese calligraphy next to it.

The short introduction to this book did not give me as much of an insight as in the book on haiku – that was exploring one style of poetry whereas this was giving general information about conventions covering centuries so inevitably couldn’t be too definitive. However, I personally would have appreciated more information. However, the information was fascinating – to understand the poetry, you need to understand the messages within the poems that are culturally distinct, and the introduction helped with this. For example, a fish in a poem is a symbol for a happy marriage – which I would not have picked up simply reading the work

I really connected with some of the poetry, but inevitably due to the different styles and approaches some were not so successful. However, the imagery of many was beautiful and evocative, and I think with more time spent learning the symbolism I would understand and appreciate the messages more.

I was blown away with the thought that some of what I was reading dated back to before the birth of Socrates: for written poetry to exist in a cultural tradition for so many centuries is inspiring and humbling.

Overall, I enjoyed reading these poems but some didn’t engage me as much as I’d hoped. I think part of the reason is that the meanings are hidden behind a veil – once I get to grips with that, it’ll be like opening a gift.

Happy reading,

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