Notes to the Poems

1. "Farewell" * Chia Tao was a famous Buddhist poet of the Middle T'ang Dynasty.

2. "Dreaming of Li Po" * Chiang-nan is the area south of the Yangtze River, especially southern Kiangsu. * The "net" in which Li Po was caught is jail. He was arrested and later exiled to Yehlang, a waste region of Chiang-nan near Kweichou, for alleged association with a person seeking to set up an independent administration at Nanking. * In ancient times, human sacrifices were made to the river gods, the flood dragon, or the dragon-king * "Heaven's net" is a reference to Chapter 73 of the Tao te ching:  "The net of heaven is cast wide / but despite its wide meshes, nothing is lost." * Li Po (701-762) and Tu Fu are held by Chinese to have been two of the three greatest poets of China. Wang Wei is the other.

3. "Canyon Creek on Buddha's Birthday" * "Canyon Creek" is a tributary of the Dungeness-Graywolf River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The watercourse drains north through Sequim Prairie and empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Jamestown, a Klallam Indian settlement. * "Buddha's Birthday" is marked on April 8 by the Buddha Bathing Festival. During the festival, images of the Buddha are paraded, decorated, and sprinkled with holy water.

4. "For the Poet of Pablo Creek" * "Trident" refers to the offensive weapons system of the Navy's Trident Submarine Base at Bangor, Washington, and its fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. * "Northern Tier" was a firm seeking to build an oil port in Port Angeles, Washington, and an oil pipeline under Puget Sound to Minnesota. It took seven years of activism by local people to defeat this fantastic plan. * The Queets and Calawha Rivers flow through the rain forest of Olympic National Park.

5. "Wei City Song" * "Wei City" is located on the Wei River roughly 500 kilometers east of Xi'an (Ch'ang-an) and some 1,000 kilometers from Yang Pass. * Another title for this poem is "Seeing Off Yuan Erh to Anhsi." Anhsi was near Turfan, which was threatened by invaders from the north. * "Yang Pass," or Yanqkuan, was the last pass separating friendly territory from the less secure region around Anhsi. It is not a mountain pass, but a "gate" in the desert at the end of the Great Wall.

6. "On My Way to Denver in a Coat and Tie, I Think of Master Red Pine and the Example He Inspired" * This poem was occasioned by a drive to Denver to take temporary work as a journalist. * "Red Pine" is the pen name of Bill Porter. * The poem is fanciful hagiography, and Red Pine himself told me that he had no recollection of the "sandalwood fans." * "Mimi," an American dancer in Taiwan and a neighbor of Red Pine at Bamboo Lake, is the originator of "White Girls in Asia." * Han Shan was a hermit and poet of the T'ang Dynasty who lived in the Heavenly Terrace (T'ien T'ai) Mountains of today's Fukien Province. [See The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Red Pine translator, Copper Canyon Press, 1983] * "Red dust" is a Buddhist term for the world of the senses.

7. "Summer Day at South Pavilion, Thinking of Hsin Ta" * Meng Hao-jan was a major poet of the High T'ang during the famous reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung (712-756). * "Hsin Ta's" name (Hsin the Elder) appears four times in Meng's poems, but he is unidentified historically.

8. "Sailing to Keystone: Salute Abaft" * Finn Wilcox's best-known work is Here Among the Sacrificed, with photos by Steve Johnson, Empty Bowl Books, Port Townsend, 1984.

9. "Words--for XN" * This is one of many documentary or "action" poems written by activists and supporters of China's Pro-Democracy Movement during the 1989 mass demonstrations in Tienanmen Square. A number of the poems were faxed to Hongkong and then to Taipei where they were translated by poets of the international community.

10. "Pawtracks on Seven-Star Mountain" * Pawtracks  was Tim McNulty's first book of poetry (Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, 1978). * "Seven-Star Mountain," or Chihsingshan, is named after the seven principal stars of the Big Dipper. * "Mang ts'ao": Miscanthus sinensis is a tall common grass in Taiwan with long serrated leaves and plumes also known as razor grass and mare's tail.

11. "On Failing to Meet the Recluse of West Peak" * Ch'iu Wei, a T'ang Dynasty poet and good friend of the poet Wang Wei, is still paid homage for his filial devotion to his stepmother. He had a long official career and died at age 96. Sadly, only fifteen of his poems survive. * A "li" is about one-third of a mile.

12. "Sakura"  * "Sakura (no hana)" is Japanese for "cherry (blossoms)."

Mike O'Connor | Acknowledgments
Contents | Mudlark No. 7