Summer 2023 • Vol. XLV No. 1 PoetryJune 14, 2023 |

A Letter to Tao Qian

The Kenyon Review · A Letter To Tao Qian I wish to tell you but lose the words —  more than a millennium later, on another continent, in another language, I know adversity strengthened you. Today we possess antibiotics, cars, cell phones; scientists use infrared scanners, check a wildfire that has charred 341,735 acres. When you picked chrysanthemums by the bamboo fence to the east, then gazed at mountains to the south, at birds homing at sunset, you turned in three directions, centering yourself; though you omitted north, I posit mortality as you sipped wine. Today we have no spell that lessens loss; a neighbor’s backhoe beeps as it excavates a slope. Sifting your words, I dig at this site where pines scent after rain; a black swallowtail lands on Russian sage, bending the stalk; as it imbibes nectar and sways, I sway; light slants all that we do.

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Arthur Sze’s latest book is The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). He is the recipient of a 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation and also of the 2021 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His expanded edition of translations of Chinese poetry, The Silk Dragon II, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in the spring of 2024.

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