Dr. Bill Long is a regular contributor to the Dispatch and serves as Ag Progress' Editor-in-Chief. He's written more than 20 books, including co-writing Family Business: Genesis 37-50 and the Family of Joseph with me. He's studied religion, history and law, led workshops and taught college-level and law school courses, and has been a pastor, professor and lawyer. Recently Bill added another chapter to his many areas of interest and expertise: Chinese Poetry.
Co-written with Eurydice Chen, 25 Classic Chinese Love Poems, Translated and Interpreted is a short read at 107 pages. And while I received a few second glances when reading the book at the lake and pool on my recent vacation, I found the book fascinating from both an artistic and historical perspective.
The Chinese have an incredibly long history; some of the poems, arranged chronologically in the book, date to several hundred years before Christ. Long and Chen include poems from different Chinese dynasties spanning 1100 BCE to the 18th century, offering comments to help ground the reader in historical context. Additionally, they tell us about each poem's author (when known) and their place in the artistic structure of the dynasty in which they lived.
They also provide background on, and analysis of, each poem, which was quite helpful as I don't consider myself a student of poetry. For example, several poems reference red beans, and Long and Chen tell us that the red bean in China is associated with the myth of a woman's tears and symbolizes lovers' longing for one another. There are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, and in many of the poems the authors literally show the reader the characters for certain words, helping us to better understand the structure of the poem and intent of the poem's original author.
Long and Chen not only help us better understand Chinese poetry; they offer a framework for thinking about love. The poems attempt to explain the "full range of the experience of loving," from wooing the other person to missing out on love, from experiencing absense or distance in a relationship to losing a partner.
Notwithstanding the curious onlookers at the pool, I finished the book with a greater appreciation for the Chinese languange, a respect for their history, and a better understanding of poetry. Order your copy today!