- The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse
Bill Porter has been translating for thirty years under the name Red Pine. He was born in California and now lives in Washington State. Much of his interest is in classical Chinese poetry in the tradition of rivers-and-mountains (shan-shui) poetry.
In 1983, he self-published The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse, a collection of nearly two hundred poems by Shih-wu, the fourteenth-century (1272–1352) poet known as Stonehouse. Porter says, “He was one of the exceptional Zen students who became a poet. Stonehouse had a genius for poetry that is unique. I’ve always said that he was the greatest of all the Chinese Buddhist poets. And although he was a hermit, he was a Zen teacher, too, and he taught individuals through his poetry.” On one of Porter’s many trips to China, he attempted to visit the place where Stonehouse had lived as a hermit. He succeeded with the help of a military officer who
got out his machete and personally led me through the undergrowth to an old farmhouse made of rocks on the mountain. He said, “This is where those poems were written. When we moved here it used to be a little Buddhist temple.” There was a farmer living there who confirmed that this was where Stonehouse lived. The spring was still flowing right behind the hut, the only spring on the mountain.
Like the rivers-and-mountains poets, Porter lives frugally, to the south of the Olympic Mountain Range.
a clean patch of ground after a rain an ancient pine half-covered with moss such things appear before our eyes but what we do with them isn’t the same [End Page 149]
the ancients entered mountains in search of the Way their daily practice revolved around their bodies tying heavy stones to their belts to hull rice shouldering hoes in the rain to plant pines moving mud and rocks it goes without saying carrying firewood and water they stayed busy the slackers who put on a robe to get food don’t come to join an old zen monk
Eight or nine pines behind his hut two or three mounds of taro in front a mountain recluse doesn’t have many interests all he talks about are his provisions
Sunrise in the east sunset in the west the bell at dusk the rooster at dawn the flux of yin and yang have turned my head to snow over the years I’ve emptied a hundred crocks of pickles I plant pines for beams where I find room I spit out peach pits and make a peach-tree trail this is for all the bow-wary birds in the world head for the mountains and choose any tree [End Page 150]
Red Pine is the pen name used by Bill Porter in his translations from Chinese. As Red Pine, he has published such books as The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain (2000), Diamond Sutra (2001), Poems of the Masters (2003), The Heart Sutra (2004), In Such Hard Times (2009), and Tao Te Ching (2009). Under his own name, he has published the books Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits (1993) and Zen Baggage (2008). His work in this volume of Mānoa will be published in 2014 by Copper Canyon Press in The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse. He lives in Port Townsend, Washington.