jazz fest, sunburn, Canada Day, Sylvie Courvoisier, prepared piano
Photos: Lena Tan, 2017
The sky is light gray, there is a dampness on the road, a bit of wind but no rain – it is just such a day and the wild plum in the backyard is almost in bloom.
Li Qingzhao: Song to the tune of “Pusaman”
Translation and artwork: Lena Tan, 2006
Li Qingzhao (c.1083-aft.1149) was the daughter of a respected scholar and official in Song dynasty China. Her husband was often traveling on official business, perhaps accounting for the recurrent theme of aloneness in her poetry, although the loneliness of women was a common subject for this form of poetry written to the tunes of popular songs. In 1126, the Song capital fell to northern invaders and the court retreated southward to establish a new capital in Hangzhou. Li’s husband died at this time and she was left on her own to relocate her household.
Greeting cards now available at Artrageous Pictures and Framing, 1256 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, B.C.
Translation and artwork: Lena Tan, 2003
Li Bai was born in Central Asia to a family outside the Tang artistocracy. He created a
rebel persona by exaggerating his eccentricities and writing a flamboyant poetry that has been called “strangeness on top of strangeness.” He was never accepted by his contemporaries in the capital, though his prodigious talent got him an appointment in the emperor’s court, from which he was eventually dismissed for frequent transgressions on the social conventions.
The Philharmonia Orchestra (London, UK) plays In the Bleak Midwinter.
Recall the homily of Pope Francis on November 19:
We are close to Christmas: there will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. The world has not understood the way of peace.
What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?
What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers. Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters: either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for him, who would serve wealth: ‘Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests. There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!’ The men who work war, who make war, are cursed, they are criminals. A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him –
Give my heart.
Coloured pencil drawing. Available as 4″ x 6″ print mounted on greeting card.
The Fisher Price horse broke after one move too many. It was in the basement for many years, still ridable but at some risk, and I was surprisingly sad when I finally put it in the garbage can.
You will find this greeting card at Little Earth, 1020 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, B.C.
Translation and artwork: Lena Tan, 2003
(712-770, Tang Dynasty)
Du Fu came from a family of distinguished scholars and officials. In his youth, he showed a talent for poetry and calligraphy. All his life he longed to serve his emperor and country but failed to secure a stable role in officialdom, which consigned his family to a life of relative poverty. He observed the extravagance of the emperor’s court, the suffering of the people, and the ravages of war, and wrote about that in his poetry.
Du Fu is an acknowledged virtuoso in technique and language, master of the perfect couplet while innovative in style and content. Another Tang poet, Yuan Zhen, inscribed on Du Fu’s tomb: “Since there have been poets, there has never been Du Fu’s equal.”