I haven’t engaged with any of Richard Berengarten’s poetry for some time and I’m glad to say that my re-encounter has been a pleasant one. These poems have a wide cultural background aside from the obvious Chinese connection and I’m straightaway reminded of Berengarten’s technical abilities as these are very skilfully put-together poems and strict forms suit his kind of poetry. He’s old-school and I don’t mean that a criticism but these poems, although concerned with mortality, a constant theme in his work, are full of life and musical vigour. Each villanelle is prefaced by an italicised quotation translated into English from Tao Yuanming as indicated in the postscript:
My gaze drifts over the west garden
Where the hibiscus blooms – brilliant red
Now this thatched cottage is my hermitage,
Following quiet woodland paths seems best.
Against oncoming night, why rant or rage?
When young I was half-blinded in…
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