Review:Magnolia & Lotus
Selected Poems of Hyesim
Translated by Ian Haight and T’ae-Yŏng Hŏ
Chin’gak Kuska Hyesim’s Buddhist poetry survives from 13th century Korea and arrives in this present translation, which includes tightly-phrased imagistic poetry that draws its spiritualism equally from nature and social settings. This collection offers layers of meaning, both from the Buddhist unfolding of significance and from the pairing of the introductory notes with the text of the translated poems.
The opening notes are instructive in how poetry seeks to embody meaning through image and metaphor instead of through direct statement. For example, Haight explains how the boiling tea kettle is a frequent metaphor for meditation in Hyesim. With that one bit of information, the deceivingly simple poems take on new layers. Many water images appear in the nature poems: flowing, frozen, and misty. It’s an easy leap to see water as states of consciousness. “Tea-Spring” brings these images together:
Old moss conceals pine roots–
From a granite hole, a spring gushes its spirit-fountain.
Opportune refreshment is not easy to find–
in this place, I’ll try to brew tea.
Translation in poetry is not transliteration; it is always a creative act, and especially so given the distance from Hyesim’s time and language to contemporary English. The end notes reveal this distance: one poem contains a “six-eyebrowed monk” about whom the translators say “the meaning of ‘six-eyebrowed’ is unknown at this time.” This and other notes offer insight in the meaning of meaning, in terms of both translation and the nature of the universe.
For our November/December issue, Tracy Morris, a poet from Detroit, shares “How Not to Cry.” Tracy says of her work:
My writing is innately personal; my way of communicating with loved ones who have made their transition, sharing stories about loved ones still with me, and creating word sketches of people who touch my heart on a daily basis. It’s my hope that my work inspires others to do the same.
The broadside features Tracy’s poem set against the backdrop of English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner’s Rain, Steam, and Speed.
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Whatever tools we have we will employ to preserve our memories, the poem among the best of mediums, especially in the graceful hands of Cindy Hunter Morgan. There is no doubt the poems in this chapbook are born of the purist memories – and memory is a fickle motion, that, once stored away, is only fresh once whether it sits for days or decades. After that, it must be repackaged, becomes a memory of a memory and soon, distortion warps it sideways. So when a memory is extra-precious, it is sad to recall it knowing it will never be so sharp again. Thus art. Thus Apple Season.
At first touch, this little book is immediately personal, loved, a hand-made treasure chest. Inside, the poems weave a container as ethereal as any thought, but as reliable as any equation. There is no chance these poems will give out under the weight they carry in memory. So potent are these poems, Apple Season goes beyond the physical weather – each poem in this collection is its own apple and the season is eternal for the reader.
“Hay Season” (p. 15) first appeared in the July 2011 issue of The Michigan Poet . Since then, Cindy Hunter Morgan’s poems have charmed us again and again. It’s with great pleasure I offer this review of her superb work.
This is a full spectrum collection – complete in color, tone, speed, and emotion. As vibrant as fresh blood on snow, as soft as a pine forest floor under foot, as loving as body heat on a cold night, Dombrowski’s poems gather the earth’s beauty, wicked or otherwise and binds that beauty with words strong enough to hold it together. Love poems abound despite the hunted and shot truths. Solemn jokes echo death. Sex and babies and crying. Words unbattered in their old age. Chris is a survivalist poet, one who takes up pack, rod, knife, and knowledge, delivers us from unintentional evils, builds for us a fire mirror, and asks us if we should love to recall our shortcomings and revel in our potential.