Spring Night (After Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)

Well, it seems I’ve been inspired by one of my favorite poets, Robert Okaji.


Spring Night

(after Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)


Dogwood petals sigh in spirals, blessing my recline.

Spring darkness rests on hollow muted hills

while moonlight strikes the owls awake,

their hoots slipstreaming through ravines.


Unlike Robert, I named the birds and took liberties with the tree petals. I’m writing a new rhyming picture book right now, so this detour was a welcome respite. Feeling a little spring-feverish. Ahhh—ahhh—Cheers!


36 thoughts on “Spring Night (After Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)

  1. Lady Fancifull says:

    That is lovely, Jilanne. I guess the restraint nd compaction the haiku imposes means every word has earned its place. I particularly liked the feel of the verbs in each line, they felt like the striking of a gong, reverberating through the line

  2. FictionFan says:

    Great stuff Jilanne – I think your liberties caught the feel of the original even if you played a tiny bit with the words, and created something lovely. And I don’t see how a literal translation could ever work for poetry…

  3. Marsha says:

    Your poem brought a lot of memories to the surface, all of them pleasant. I love the dogwood petals sighing in spirals. Actually, it’s all savory. Thanks for sharing!

          • Marsha says:

            I did like his site, so I will go back. I was working on an article about using photos to inspire poetry, but you used him, and he used a similar poem translated from Chinese, I think. Have you ever used a photo as an inspiration for poetry, or how do you get inspired most often?

          • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

            I don’t use photos or images, usually. There’s a marvelous artist by the name of Marcy Erb who has a regular image-inspired-by-poem site. You should take a look at her work. I get inspired by reading poetry, news articles, nonfiction artifacts, trivia, etc. So many ways to get inspired, I can’t attribute my inspiration to any one thing. There’s also so much going on inside my head, things often just bubble to the surface.

          • Marsha says:

            Love it. I read several of Robert’s poems. They are very esoteric. I think I need a degree in English to understand many of the nuances. Maybe history and science as well. There is a lot of depth to the ones I read. πŸ™‚

          • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

            Yes, he’s really quite wonderful. I think poems can be “understood” on many levels. Sometimes people think there’s a “right” way to understand a poem, but they’re really floating out there to be “understood” in whatever way the reader understands them. If they evoke a response, you don’t really need to understand where the response is coming from. He wrote the origami crane poem for me without knowing that it was for my mother-in-law’s memorial. And it was perfect! It’s in my post about her memorial last year. But not every poet or poem speaks to everyone. Just like not every work of fiction speaks to everyone. I love cultures that understand how powerful poetry or the written world in general can be, how vital it is to the lifeblood of a society. Perhaps it springs forth most strongly from cultures that are oppressed. I am struck by how many writers have been jailed or killed for speaking out against regimes, via poetry or allegory or other forms of art. In the U.S., it seems that this aspect of art has been subsumed largely by pop culture.

          • Marsha says:

            Yes, and that has not always been the case in the United States. It’s only been in our lifetimes, I think. Your observation is so true about cultures, and even extends to pop culture. I remember a documentary of Paul McCartney’s visit to Russia, and the discussion of the profound effect he had on their culture, and on ours, really. And I remember the anti war songs during the 60s, and what emotions they aroused. But we have protection of free speech here, and even though it is not perfect, we can’t underestimate its effect on art.

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