Like I said before, I'm thinning the herd of my Zen Buddhism books. Even many of them are too religious'y for me now.
But I'll probably keep "Cold Mountain Poems," translated by J.P. Seaton.
I was reminded of the book when I read a story in today's Oregonian about another translator of Han Shan who lives in Port Townsend, Washington: Bill Porter, a.k.a. Red Pine.
I just ordered Red Pine's translation of Cold Mountain poems. I liked what was said about his translation approach in the Oregonian story.
Red Pine says he couldn't write an original poem if he tried. He says that for him translation is like a dance.
"It's like I see a beautiful woman dancing on the dance floor and I'm so attracted I want to dance with her but I don't hear the music," he says. "I'm deaf. I have no idea what's impelling her to dance but I want to dance with her, so I do. But I would never want to put my feet on top of her feet to dance.
"This is what most people think is translation – dancing with your feet on top of someone else's feet. That way it's literal and it's accurate but it's not because it kills the dancer. And you can't dance across the room either. You have to get close enough to feel the energy."
There is indeed a lot of energy in the Cold Mountain poems. Here's some I liked from the Seaton book.
I always wanted to get to East Cliff,
more years than I can remember,
until today I just grabbed a vine
and started up. Halfway up
wind and a heavy mist closed in,
and the narrow path tugged at my shirt:
it was hard to get on. The slickery
mud under the moss on the rocks
gave way, and I couldn't keep going.
So here I stay, under this cinnamon tree,
white clouds for my pillow,
I'll just take a nap.
I was born just thirty years ago,
but I've wandered a million miles already.
Along the River through the green grass on the banks,
out to the borderlands, where the red dust roils.
Chewed herbs, cooked up alchemical elixirs,
trying to become an Immortal.
Read all the Writings, chanted the Histories aloud,
trying to learn them all by heart...
Today I'm on my way
home to Cold Mountain.
There, I'll bed down in the creek,
just to wash out my ears.
There are some folks who're strict and straight,
but I'm not in the strict and straight cart.
Plain clothes making dancing easy,
and when the wine is gone you can
be drunk of singing!
Go for a full belly,
but don't wear your legs out looking for lunch...
When the weeds grow out of your eye sockets,
you'll rue that day...
My life's grown from old roots on Cold Mountain,
on the stone cliffs, perched, heart breathing free.
At the end no mere image ever leaves scars:
I've settled in to watch this universe flow by.
Time's light and shadows rise, a flutter of brilliance,
shining where my heart dwells.
Being, and nothingness, one dharma before me.
The tool I use shines from the Pearl of Wisdom.
When you know the use of the method
that is no method at all, then every single place