Friday, August 6, 2010

Quotes from "The Art of Writing", Part II, "Worthwhile Advice"

More quotes from The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters, translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping. Although these were written a long time ago, they hold true even now for we writers today.

From the "Poets' Jade Splinters", edited by Wei Qingzhi (unknown date, but definitely before 1244 BCE)

"Advice for Beginners", from Comments on Poetry by Hou Shan
It's better to be clumsy than clever, better plain than affected, better crude than weak, better eccentric than vulgar. This is true for poetry, as for prose.

"Don't Try too Hard", by Xu Yanzhou
Huang Luzhi said to Guo Gongpu, "Why do you try so hard when you write poems?" This is to the point---a good lesson for beginners.

"Convey the Idea, not the Name", from Forbidden Meat (Note: Yeah, that's the actual name)
Su Dongpo says, "Good painters paint the spirit, not the form. Good poets convey the idea, not the name." Here is a poem by him:

"Comparing a painting to the object
is how a child judges paintings.
If you think your poem is the last word on a subject,
it shows you're not a poet."

"Three Ways to Steal" , from Varieties in a Poetic Garden. (This is one of my favorites)
There are three kinds of plagiarism in poetry writing. The clumsiest thief steals the words. Cheng Ju's line "The light of sun and moon is heavenly virtue" is from Fu Changyu's line "The light of sun and moon is transparent."

The second kind of plagiarist steals the idea. Consider Shen Chenqi's lines"
"The remains of summer flee from a small pond.
Coolness returns to the tips of tall trees first."

Now consider the original lines by Liu Hun:
"Ripples arise in the pool.
Autumn comes to tall poplar trees."

The third type of theft doesn't leave much trace. Wang Changlin's lines go:
"With two carp in my hand
I watch wold geese fall into distance."

The original lines by Qi Kang are
"My eyes see of migrating cranes.
Holding up my zither, I wave."

And one more...

"Read More and Write More" by Su Dongpo
The secret of writing lies in reading more and writing more. Many writers worry about writing too little, yet they are too lazy to read. Whenever they write a poem, they want it to be the best one around, but it is impossible for such writers to achieve this. By constantly writing you will learn to diagnose faults and diseases in what you write, and you won't have to wait for others to point them out.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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