Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Radical detachment ...

... Disturbances of Peace. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is something unmistakably late twentieth century in Hinton's love for Tao and Ch'an, and in his way with it. Sometimes he overly domesticates this ancient wisdom, making it sound like a familiar form of progressive orthodoxy, as when he congratulates Taoism for being "deeply ecological" and "radically feminist." As with Rexroth, these Chinese poets can sound distinctly New Age. Just as often, though, Hinton makes the Chinese poets sound like late Heidegger, as when he writes of their interest in "dwelling," or translates the central Taoist concept tzu-jan as "occurrence appearing of itself," echoing Heidegger's translation of the Greek physis as "things ... insofar as they originate and come forth from themselves."

This is also my one reservation about Hinton's presentation of Chinese poetry. Lao-tse relates better to Heraclitus than to Heidegger. And it is unfair these poets to use their work on behalf of any contemporary ideology.

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