Madly Singing in the Mountains by Po Chü-I: Reading and Meditation

June 19, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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Madly Singing in the Mountains, Po Chü-I


It is often the case that our strengths are also failings, and that on the flip side of our failings there is a strength. There is in all of us, perhaps, a “special failing”, a gift we cannot avoid even though it seems at odds with the stuffy decorum of the world. “Madly Singing in the Mountains” is a poem of double exile. The narrator has been banished, but he also banishes himself because of the embarrassment of his special failing. 

What is your “special failing”? What laudable compulsion do you follow, even in the fear of becoming a laughing-stock to the world? Or what laudable compulsion do you not reveal, because of that same fear? For the poet, there is joy in writing verses, joy that could be infectious if it weren’t for the exile the poet imposes on himself. For others, the joy may be painting (well or badly, it matters not), or singing (well or badly, again it matters not), or running through the sprinkler, or playing frisbee barefoot, grass between the toes. Spread your joy abroad. Sing madly in the mountains.

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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