Keith Holyoak is a poet and translator of classical Chinese poetry, as well as a professor of psychology at UCLA. Born and raised in Canada, he has lived in Pacific Palisades for over twenty years. Holyoak’s work has appeared in literary magazines in the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Austria and New Zealand. Credits include The London Magazine, Envoi, Orbis, Flaming Arrow, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry NZ, Measure and Literary Imagination. In 2007 his book Facing the Moon: Poems of Li Bai and Du Fu was published by Oyster River Press. Holyoak’s own poetry has been influenced both by the great poets of the Tang dynasty and his travels in various regions of China, including Tibet. His spoken-word CDs, set to classical Chinese music, are available through Broken Electric Records. For more samples of Holyoak’s poetry, see www.keithholyoak.com.

Idling Alone (Li Bai)

       Drinking wine,
night caught me unawares.
       Fallen flowers
fill the folds of my gown.

       I stagger up
and step on the moon in a stream.
       Birds fly home,
most everyone has gone.

translation, Keith Holyoak

Where to Live (Du Fu)

West of the Flower Washing Stream,
       not far downstream from the bridge,
the master has chosen a quiet spot
       here in the woods by the river.

Living apart from the city crowds,
       the world loosens its grip;
murmuring of this clear water dissolves
       the sadness that burdens a stranger.

Countless dragonflies play in the air,
       dancing up and down;
a pair of wild ducks out in the stream
       swim and dive together.

You could take a boat downstream,
       thousands of miles to the east­
or else forget the boat, and live
       here by this stream forever.

translation, Keith Holyoak

Climbing Above Rongbuk Monastery

       A golden spire
draped with prayer-flag rainbows
       and Qomolangma
burnished by summer snows

       Point the way upward
beyond the human world­
       the air gets thinner,
the end of the earth draws close.

       Nothing but ice,
and rock, and wind, and sky­
       life colors have vanished,
even the green of moss.

       Gasping for breath
I crawl on hands and knees­
       between bare stones
a purple blossom grows.

Keith Holyoak Moonday poetry reading

© 2008 Keith Holyoak


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