Don Brennan, Dan Brady and I met weekly at La Boheme Cafe in the Mission several summers ago. We had decided to translate Chinese classical poems. Soon our small group more than doubled in size when friends heard about our endeavor. After a few productive sessions the group slowly turned into a social gathering and nothing of any significance was produced. We disbanded when the summer was over.
Once in a while I would look at a Chinese poem and decide to translate it. It’s a healthy mental exercise, keeping in mind the compact nature of each Chinese character and trying to find its concise equivalence in English. This week, one line in a Su Shi’s poem reminded me of a line in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. When put side by side they complimented each other. Now I have arranged lines from various poets of the west to dialogue with Su Shi’s lines. The straight translation has morphed into a poem that is not quite Chinese or English, not East, nor West, but maybe an interesting meeting of minds.