One Hundred Poems from the Chinese
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One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  306 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The lyric poetry of Tu Fu ranks with the greatest in all world literature. Across the centuries—Tu Fu lived in the T'ang Dynasty (731-770)—his poems come through to us with an immediacy that is breathtaking in Kenneth Rexroth's English versions. They are as simple as they are profound, as delicate as they are beautiful.

Thirty-five poems by Tu Fu make up...more
Paperback, 145 pages
Published January 17th 1971 by New Directions (first published 1956)
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Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), American poet, literary critic and essayist, was also an interesting translator of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. Not unexpectedly, his interest in such poetry influenced his own poems, and, necessarily, his own poetics strongly influenced his translations. An interesting side note in this connection is that he "translated" a book of poems, The Love Poems of Marichiko , by "a young Japanese woman", which convincingly reflected the feelings of a then contempo...more
Rexroth has here rendered, not C, but CXIV poems from the Chinese, into an English at home with Pound in his block of Chinese cantos--flanked, those, by the fifth decad and dambed Adams ones, and thereby excepting in relation to the present volume, of course, any political or economical affinities; which is to say, this too of course, that Rexroth's isn't the stuff of Kung transposed to verse. ... The points being: isolation, and elegant compression, but which latter this reader must qualify as...more
Alice Urchin
Did not expect to love this as much as I do. I have a Chu Shu Chen addiction now.
Rexroth held court at the University of California in Santa Barbara for some time, so his influence spread not only among an entire generation of poets (and photographers and sculptors and potters and songwriters and so on), but also among many of my closest friends in the religious studies department. Because most of us had little or no background in Mandarin at that time, these translations were important to us for giving artistic expression to the blend of Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist sens...more
I took an Asian Poetry course during my undergrad years (in my university's East Asian Studies department). As our initiation into Chinese verse, our class was asked to read a Penguin Classics translation of Li Po and Tu Fu. From this assignment, I took away the impression that classic Chinese poetry does not suit my taste well: I found it orderly to a fault, weighed down with end-stopped ideas, rather static nature imagery, Confucian doctrinairism, irritating sentimentality about the hearth of...more
For me reviewing poetry is a difficult thing. I’ve had this book for years and finally pulled it down off the shelf. I didn’t even realize that all the poems here are so very old. Thirty-one of the hundred are from the poet Tu Fu who lived in the T’ang dynasty back in the 700s. And yet, he could have been writing today in so many of them. In all of the poems, Tu Fu’s and others, the seasons, love and loss pay a huge roll. There as several from the Sung dynasty (the remaining poems from the 10th-...more
Matt Morris
Read my review of this & other books at
I will just give it stars for the poets and poems I enjoyed. I didn't like much of Tu Fu (except Jade Flower Palace and To Wei Pa, a Retired Scholar). I liked Mei Yao Ch'en, Ou Yang Hsiu, Su Tung P'o (mostly his moments of melancholy or humor). I liked Lu Yu's I Get Up at Dawn. Hsu Chao's The Locust Swarm was delightfully creepy, google for it immediately. I'm somewhat frustrated that I can't find more poems by that author or information about him or her. Yet. I enjoyed Chu Shu Chen too.

I raise the curtains and go out
To watch the moon. Leaning on the
Balcony, I breathe the evening
Wind from the west, heavy with the
Odors of decaying Autumn.
The rose jade of the river
Blends with the green jade of the void.
Hidden in the grass a cricket chirps.
Hidden in the sky storks cry out.
I turn over and over in
My heart the memories of
Other days. Tonight as always
There is no one to share my thoughts.

—Chu Shu Chen
Still in the Tu Fu poems, which are beautiful and manage to catch the incised quality of Tang poetry without stiltifying it. But, I only wish Rexroth and New Directions had included facing originals and used Pinyin instead of the defunct and misleading old Wade Giles system of transliteration. Particularly in regard to lexicography, a universal system, like Pinyin, is indispensible to Western acolytes of the Chinese language.
This is full of lovely imagery, ideal for for cold rainy days. I don't understand a lot of the poems that Rexroth claims to be sublime, but maybe when I'm older I'll understand. I find some of the lines with explicit philosophical recommendations or theses to be overbearing, but they are balanced by the powerful descriptive lines that are offered neutrally and win you over immediately.
xiv loneliness

a hawk hovers in air.
two white gulls float on the stream.
soaring with the wind, it is easy
to drop and seize
birds who foolishly drift with the current.
where the dew sparkles in the grass,
the spider's web waits for its prey.
the processes of nature resemble the business of men.
i stand alone with ten thousand sorrows.

~tu fu
I know this is classic poetry and considered in some circles more exalting than Whitman, but by the end it seemed monotonous. The river, the mountains, the seasons, oh my.
Jun 17, 2013 Aran rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Organization was somewhat clunky--notes at the end were quite illuminating. Would've been more useful to see them on same page as poem.
This is a must-read book. The Chinese poems are warm, human, and indelible. Rexroth's translations are limpid and economical.
My first fully translated collection. Nice straight forward poems. Repetitive topics, but touching nonetheless.
D. Smith
It's always good to revisit this classic in Am. Lit. and see again how much it influenced a generation of poets.
Not sure how anyone could not like this 5 stars worth. Not only very decent poetry, but a mini history lesson as well!
This book rocked my world when I was young and working hard on my poetry.
Ojo Taylor
Used this for text settings of a song cycle. Beautiful.
Jana Denardo
Lovely book of poetry from the T'ang and Sung dynasties
May 05, 2008 Doggy marked it as to-read
I'm curious about the translation.
Michael Hinsley
A gifted translator.
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Kenneth Rexroth was an American poet, translator and critical essayist. He was among the first poets in the United States to explore traditional Japanese poetic forms such as haiku. He is regarded as a chief figure in the San Francisco Renaissance.
More about Kenneth Rexroth...
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