Blog 04.26.2021

Literary Know-How Inspired By The Chinese Masters Of Poetry

How does one teach poetry? Some say that an aptitude for writing great poetry cannot be taught, but we can study the basics and read up on the art of poetry, certain techniques, and all sorts of writing.

Poetic Lessons from the Chinese Masters

  • Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping’s translation of The Art of Writing: Teaching of the Chinese Masters (1996) is a must-read book for anyone with the slightest poetic interest.
  • So, where do we begin? With the imagination!
  • Lu Ji (261–303 AD) wrote an essay called The Art of Writing, where he described writing as a spiritual and cosmic practice. He also writes about practicality and experience, of writer’s block, and of inspiration. He suggests that the poet must “Make it new.” Ezra Pound, almost assuredly, obtained this as his mantra from Ji.
  • So, how do we make it new? We have to try to be as original as possible while writing. This is a quality that children have in spades: they are not filled with clichés. Parents and teachers must encourage the young writers in their lives never to lose their unique ability for creativity.

Different Types of Poetry

It’s essential to know that there are many different styles of poetry and The Twenty-four Styles of Poetry from the Tang Dynasty (by Sikong Tu, 837-908) is extremely influential and instructive. It details the different genres of poetry and gives examples of poems written in each style. Some of the styles include:

  • The Natural Style
  • The Carefree and Wild Style
  • The Flowing Style
  • The Descriptive Style
  • The Graceful Style
  • The Decorative and Pretty Style

Simple Tips for Beginners

  • Advice from Su Dongpo: Read and write as much as possible. Read more to become a better writer.
  • Don’t force it. All the great writers have experienced periods of writer’s block.
  • Don’t try too hard! Poetry should be fun.

(literateforlife.com)

Why Write Poetry?

  • It helps to encourage originality and concentration.
  • Writing poetry is a wonderful and effective way to get thoughts down on paper.
  • It’s a positive mode of expression.
  • Poetry encourages early literacy skills.

(Ancient Chinese calligraphy)

Some Stages of Writing (according to Lu Ji)

“A poet stands between heaven and earth and watches the dark mystery.” –Lu Ji

  • “The Impulse”
  • “Meditation”
  • “Process”
  • “The Joy of Words”
  • “Making it New”
  • “Ordinary and Sublime”
  • “Revision”

This may all seem a little complicated at first, but the main lesson is that poetry and writing should be something that is enjoyed, that is original, that has rhythm, and that takes work. Nothing happens overnight and no poem is complete after the first draft. So, go ahead and scratch through what you’ve written, and don’t worry about making mistakes. This is progress! After all, this is why pencils have erasers.

For more information on the text The Art of Writing discussed in this blog, Lu Ji and why poetry is important for children, consult the links below:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/801549.The_Art_of_Writing
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lu-Ji
https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/why-poetry-matters.html#:~:text=Poetry%20helps%20build%20early%20literacy,It%20really%20does!&text=Poetry%20encourages%20kids%20to%20play,they’re%20doing%20the%20same!

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