November 15, 2007

Writers Institute, November 13

I finally got to a couple programs offered by the Writers Institute of SUNY at Albany as part of their China Semester. The afternoon program paired up the Institute's Don Faulkner with Chinese author & scholar Da Chen. Don gave a brief summary of the Tang Dynasty as the Golden Age of Chinese Poetry & introduced the 3 great poets from that era, Li Po, Wang Wei & Tu Fu. Da Chen played the bamboo flute & talked about the importance of singing/chanting & calligraphy was to the poets. He translated & discussed 2 of Wang Wei's poems, "Floating Down the Han" and "In the Mountains." He also demonstrated calligraphy by writing out Wang Wei's poem. There were students from Schenectady High School in the audience & one student got to take home the poem as a souvenir.

Later in the evening there was a reading by 2 young Chinese-American poets. Leslie Chang's work was the quieter, more meditative, more influenced by traditional Chinese poetry of the two. She read 5 poems she described as "exploded sonnets" from a series, as well a number of poems about being in China, mentioning Suzhou, where I had been in 2004. Lisa Chen's work was more like what one often hears at open mics, often political, strident, funny & sexy. She leaned towards making up "facts", as in "Some Things You May Not know About Chinese" & "Your Great Grandfather Worked in an MSG Mine" (in South Dakota). In one poem she made up answers to the the questions on an INS (or whatever they are called now by this zenophobic administration) form.

Check out the Writers Institute programs at