WHAT IS POETRY?
Yang Wan-li’s poem ‘What is Poetry?’ asks the question from the Buddhist and Taoist influenced perspective of Sung Dynasty China (the poet lived in our 12th. century – a little younger than Geoffrey of Monmouth, a little older than Gerald of Wales). It is also timeless.
Now, what is poetry?
If you say it is a matter of words,
I will say a good poet gets rid of words.
If you say it is simply a matter of meaning,
I will say a good poet gets rid of meaning,
“But”, you ask, “without words and without meaning
Where is the poetry?”
To this I reply: “Get rid of words and get rid of meaning,
And there is still poetry.”
From Yang Wan-li Heaven my Blanket: Earth my Pillow: Poems from Sung Dynasty China New York & Tokyo: Weatherall, 1975 (Translated and introduced by Jonathan Chaves)