PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue John McAuliffe poems and conversation Charles Dobzynski translated by Marilyn Hacker Maya C. Popa in conversation with Caroline Bird Richard Gwyn With Lowry in Cuernavaca Jane Draycott Four Poems
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This poem is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

A Poem (translated by Stephen Field) T'ien Wen

This poem was included in an anthology compiled in the Former Han dynasty, which gathered together the innovative poetic utterings of the rising South. In its entirety T'ien Wen consists of 186 questions with two lines or eight characters per query; the following translation includes only those sections dealing with astronomy/cosmogony and geography.

Part I

The Patterns of Heaven

Heaven asked, saying;1
Of the beginning of old,
Who spoke the tale?

When above and below were not yet formed,
Who was there to question?

When dark and bright were obscured,
Who could distinguish?

When matter was inchoate2
How was it perceived?

Brightest bright and darkest dark,
What was made from only these?

Yin and yang, blend and mix,3
What was the root, what transformed?

The circular and nine-tiered Heaven,4

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image