In the Spirit of T'ao Ch'ien

In the Spirit of T'ao Ch'ien
Charles Rossiter, Editor

One of the poets in this book speaks of “First Breath” and “Last Breath.” Here are American poets who have “breathed in” the breath of such Chinese poets as T'ao Ch'ien, Han Shan, and Wang Wei. And here they breathe it back out again where it mingles with the breath of America.

Jonathan Chaves
Translator and Professor of Chinese


Sam Hamill
Michael Czarnecki     
David Budbill
Charles Rossiter

From the Introduction:

T'ao Ch'ien (365-427 C.E.) is a major figure in the Chinese poetic tradition whose influence on subsequent generations cannot be overstated.  After holding several official posts he abandoned a traditional government career for the life of a reclusive gentleman farmer.  His poems, expressed in natural language, reflect on ordinary daily occurrences and express a deep connection with nature.  Despite their accessibility and seeming simplicity, they are deeply philosophical.

The poems in this collection share characteristics with T'ao Ch'ien and other poets of ancient China.  They are plain spoken, clear, generally short, and readily understandable.  These poems explore the poets' states of consciousness and relationship with the natural world as they seek a self-understanding, as well as a connectedness with all that surrounds them.  These poems document human relationships, and the comings and goings of other people in the poets' lives.  When these poets address issues in the wider world, they see through the smoke and mirrors of officialdom and are critical of social injustice.

Like T'ao Ch'ien's poems, those collected here reflect a viewpoint on life and society from outside the mainstream.  Poetry is at the center of each of these poets lives, yet, unlike many contemporary American poets, none holds an academic position.  Although the poets live in varied circumstances, all five share the lifestyle of the Chinese mountain recluse when one considers what that lifestyle entails.  As David Hinton, poet and translator of T'ao Ch'ien and other major Chinese poets describes it, the “mountain recluse” lifestyle generally included “a relatively comfortable house, a substantial library, family, friends,” as well as a political dimension, “for the wisdom cultivated in such a life was considered essential to sage governing.”

From the book:

Sam Hamill

Mountains and Rivers Without End

After making love, we are like
rivers come down from mountain summits.

We are still, we are moving,
calm in the depths of danger-

two rivers entering the sea
slowly, as if nothing matters:

quietly, but with great power
merging in deepening waters.

Michael Czarnecki

In The Spirit of T'ao Ch'ien:
a Sequence of 15 Poems


Hilltop covered in thick fog
nearby trees barely in view.

No sunrise over eastern ridge
only slow lightening of sky.

Cat meows, wanting food in his dish
homemade bread toasting on wood stove.

Would you understand if I said
right here, the center of the world.

David Budbill

An Old Dog Headed for the Park
Glad to Have Another Day
(Montreal, 3/18/07)

Two mornings now we've watched
                  an old dog
walk past the windows of our B&B,
                 out in the cold air,
out in the new snow, headed for
                 the park,
yesterday with the man,      
                 this morning with the woman.

He's old,
                 he's overweight,
he moves real slow,
                 he waddles along
wagging his tail
                 the whole way.

Charlie Rossiter

Cold Mountain 2000:
Han Shan In the City
                    (4 poems from a series of 51)

I'm here in the city
but there's something wild and unknowable
about where I live.
Crooked alleys and dark shadows
make the way uncertain.
If I choose to go inside
there's no way you'll ever find me.


First Breath Last Breath

When a baby boy is born
     and the midwife
            holds him up
     as he takes
            his first breath,
Place him over
     the Mother's face
             so when the baby exhales
     his first breath on Earth
             the Mother breathes it.

And when the Mother dies
     her middle-aged son
             the baby grew up to be,
     by her side
              his head next to her head,
Follows her breathing with his breath
     as it becomes shorter
             and as the dying Mother
     exhales her last breath
             her son inhales it.

In the Spirit of T'ao Ch'ien
is an 84 page hand-sewn paperbook  with spine - $16.00.


To order through mail click here.     


From the US      

From Canada      

From Other Countries