The Bitter Cold Year by Tao Yuan-ming – translated by Dan Veach

Bitter cold, the twilight of the year
Clutching my coat, I seek out the sun on the porch

In the south garden, nothing green is growing
In the north woods, branches bare and dry

Tilt the bottle, not one drop remains
Look in the kitchen, not one wisp of smoke

Books and poems lie scattered beside my chair
But the sun is sinking, no time now to read

My retired life is not like the Agony in Ch’en
But bitter words are heaped on this worthless head

Where can my heart find comfort, then?
Rely on the ancients–worthy were those men
Tao Yuan-ming was China’s first great lyric poet, and a beloved grandfather figure for the great Tang and Sung poets: Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, and Su Tung-po. Though less well known than his “grandchildren,” Tao may well be China’s greatest and most personally engaging poet.

Dan Veach is the founder of Atlanta Review and author of Elephant Water. His translations from Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon have won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Independent Publisher Book Award. Editor of Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq (Michigan State University Press, 2008), Dan has performed his poetry worldwide, including Oxford University, People’s University in Beijing, the American University in Cairo, and the Adelaide Festival in Australia.