THE ORCHID BOAT by Kenneth & Ling Chung -- Eds. Rexroth

THE ORCHID BOAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

However you may feel about Rexroth, you can't fault his sense of timing and this is a tour de force example -- an anthology of Chinese women's poetry from 300 B.C. to the present. In this case, the opportunity is well taken -- it is a fascinating and beautiful tradition and certainly one of the most revealing mirrors of the female in all world literature. Partly this is because of Chinese women's isolation as a class, an oppressed class, and restriction as poets: they wrote for themselves and their lovers and friends, about their own strictly delimited experience, and consequently they became masters of a certain style of sensibility. Another reason is that, owing to the particular circumstances of their oppression, most of the women who wrote (courtesans, Taoist priestesses, only later literary ladies in the Western sense) were leisured in an environment of almost inconceivable aesthetic and sensual opulence. There are peasant songs from the earliest periods, a couple of revolutionary pieces (more might have been interesting, but it is enough to get the idea), and in the modern period a collection of university poetesses, all collected and arranged with a historical emphasis (the translations do not attempt to convey much variety of style, even from classic to modern modes). Oddly, the most proud, intense sense of sex seems to have coincided with the greatest subjugation. With biographical notes, brief historical survey, bibliography, and a helpful chronology of the dynasties.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: McGraw-Hill