Poetry Friday – “Moonlight” from A Pentatonic Moon & Poem about the Moon Guitar

It’s Poetry Friday and thank you to this week’s host Robyn Hood Black for an interesting article about the Poetry Friday science anthology!

Coincidentally continuing the science theme, I’m dedicating my Poetry Friday post to the lunar eclipse that happened earlier this week.  I stayed up late to witness the shadow crossing over the moon and the full eclipse was a fuzzy orange blur to my naked eye.  It was a really cool experience, especially since full lunar eclipses are rare; we’re lucky that this is the first of four expected within the next couple years.  So in today’s post I’m sharing two poems referencing to the moon:  “Night Thoughts” by Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai and my original poem about the Chinese moon guitar, “The Face of My Ruan” from my new picture book Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments.  Please note that I discuss these poems a little more in depth in a couple guest blog posts linked below.

The first poem I learned by heart from my parents was a poem written over one thousand years ago in China by one of the country’s most famous poets, Li Bai (701-762).

Here is the poem in Chinese:



Here’s my translation (co-translated with C.L. Jiang) of the poem into English:

“Night Thoughts” by Li Bai

Before my bed I see moonlight so white
I think it is frost on the ground.
I raise my head to look at the moon so bright
I bow my head, yearning for my hometown.

If you look closely at the original Chinese poem, the phrase “bright moon”  (明月) appears twice, first time in the first line and second time in the third line.  After much discussion with my co-translator, I made a conscious decision not to repeat “bright moon” but to change my translation fit the context for a Western reader.  I substituted “white” for “bright” because I thought “white” would make more visual sense for “frost on the ground.”

Read the rest of my analysis at my guest post in celebration of National Poetry Month at Emily Kirsten Anderson’s Blog.

My translation of “Night Thoughts” and a recording of the choral music I composed using the English text was published as part of A Pentatonic Moon at Interfictions.

The Cover for the Book Summoning the Phoenix

Now I’d like to share a poem from my picture book Summoning the Phoenix about the ruan, also known as the moon guitar.

The Face of My Ruan

My ruan has two eyes
the shape of birds
while I pluck
a melody.

My ruan has a nose
of four strings
up to the flower
carved at ruan’s top.

My ruan has no mouth,
only my arm
a chord
in harmony.

Though the poem itself doesn’t directly address the moon, illustrator April Chu does include the moon in her stunning artwork of the above poem:


You can read a little more about my thoughts about this poem in my interview at The Ink Splat.

And in honor of National Haiku Day (which was yesterday), here’s a bonus third poem I wrote today about the lunar eclipse:

yellow moon sickles,
glows, reborn like a phoenix
into a blood moon

I love including haiku in my blog posts.  You can also read my write up in prose and in haiku about the first of four book parties celebrating the launch of Summoning the Phoenix in the San Francisco Bay Area.  If you live in the area, you are invited to three more book parties in three more weekends!

Thank you for reading!

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