Selected Poems of Su Tung-P’o


We first became interested in Su Tung-P’o when we were thinking about what it means to be broke. Being broke is, in fact, an age-old dilemma which forces one to be creative to survive. The wonderful Chinese poet Su Tung-P’o lived in the eleventh century and made and lost many fortunes during his long life. After describing his budgeting method, he says:

I figure I’ll still have enough money left to last us a year or more, and after that we’ll think of something else. Running water digs a ditch — there’s no need to worry about things ahead of time. So you see I don’t really have a single care on my mind.

We’ll think of something” is an attitude we love because we believe that even when there’s “nothing”, there’s something. Su Tung-P’o’s stunningly beautiful poetry reminds us of that daily; when the poet was stripped of everything, he wrote poems about all he witnessed around him. They’re perfect for early morning reading, and for the English language reader, we recommend Burton Watson’s fine translation.

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