The poems below are selected from 17 Poems of Han Shan in a section called Repeating Myself, a phrase taken from one of the poems but just as much an indicator of how I think about translation - the self repeating experience in other words.

She’s a real beauty they say
hidden from view behind a curtain.
You’d compare her skin to peaches or pears.
In the east the spring mist rises,
in the west the autumn winds.
Thirty times over and there’s just the pith
with the sweetness squeezed out.


A bird has settled
in the mulberry tree.
Moving, it has a grace of its own,
singing, it sounds just right.
Is all this for me? Who else
is here to delight in the day
but the singer and the one
who dances?


Lost, the way to go.
Long, getting there.
Chirp, the birds.
Still, no one here.
Sharp, the wind.
Drifts, the snow.
Day, like night.
Years, without spring.


The days go by 
as though they were drunk
and had stumbled past.
Pushing up daisies 
you won’t see the sun.
Once your bones have dried out
even your ghost 
will get tired of waiting. 
Born again as a horse
you’d be champing at the bit
for a book to read.


Life and death
are like 
water and ice
first one thing
then another
and nothing 
to choose
between them.


Yesterday – walking along the path
among peaches and plums.
In a garden a girl
in her summer dress,
so beautiful I wanted to call out
but couldn’t speak.


I keep repeating myself
like a crazy old man.
Do I offend you always
telling things as they are?

Crossing over to death
you’ll wonder what all
these words were for

and what kept you.