into a high art form. One of his most famous lyrics recalls a favorite concubine “chewing pieces of red silk / and spitting them at her lover with a smile.”
SUNG POETS (960–1279)
MEI YAO-CH’EN (1002–1060) A low-ranking bureaucrat, impoverished author of some 2,800 surviving poems, founder with his friend Ou-yang Hsiu of the new Sung style, with its emphasis on plain speech (after the Baroque excesses of the Late T’ang) and previously unsung subject matter, such as earthworms, rats, maggots, lice, and “On Hearing Some Travelers Speak of Eating River-pig.”
Mei Yao-ch’en: “Though the poet may trust to inspiration, it is extremely difficult to choose words correctly. If he manages to use words with a fresh skill and to achieve some effect that no one has ever achieved, then he may consider that he has done well. He must be able to paint some scene that is difficult to depict, in such a way that it seems to be right before the eyes of the reader and has an endless significance that exists outside the words themselves.”
KR (from “Mary and the Seasons,” In Defense of the Earth, 1956):
The mist turns to rain. We are All alone in the forest. No one is near us for miles. In the firelight mice scurry Hunting crumbs. Tree toads cry like Tiny owls. Deer snort in the Underbrush. Their eyes are green In the firelight like balls of Foxfire. This morning I read Mei Yao Chen’s poems. . .
OU-YANG HSIU (1007–1072) Major figure of his time, the complete Confucian “gentleman”: powerful politician; inventor of a new prose style; prolific author of lyrics and rhyme-prose, histories of the T’ang and the Five Dynasties, collections of ancient inscriptions, and treatises on, among other subjects, the classics, political factions, and the cultivation of peonies.
Anecdotes of Poets (18th c.): “In middle age, as Chief Administrator of the Prefecture of Ying, Ou-yang Hsiu called himself Recluse Six-One, because he owned ONE thousand books of rubbings of ancient bronze and stone inscriptions, ONE wan (10,000) of other books, ONE chess set, ONE ch’in, ONE bottle of wine, and was himself ONE old man, growing old with his five things.”
Ou-yang Hsiu: “Although it is difficult to acquire mastery in the art of writing, it