Tag Archives: Li Bai

World Poetry Cafe Radio Show Proudly Presents Tommy Tao from Canada!

World Poetry Café  with hosts Ariadne Sawyer , Vivian Davidson, Israel Mota  and tech master: Mehdi Latifi were honoured to present the talented translator and mentor to so many : Tommy Tao.

In his own words: “For the talk on air, I can comment on my thoughts on the joys and tribulations of poetry translation, on Li Bai, and on the poetry of Florence Yeh (Chinese Candian poet who writes in classical style Chinese) whose poetry I have translated and published in the book entitled Ode to the Lotus . That book has recently been chosen by a professor at Yale University as a text book for a course on Women and Literature.

For the poem, I might as well use Li Bai’s Let Us Drink, as attached, since we are doing this one again for the WORD.” On September 29th at the Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, BC, Canada at the Poetry Tent, 4:30-5pm. Please come out to support us, Li Bai’s poem will be read in eight languages in our World Poetry Woven Word Tapestry Poem . Li Bai lives!

E-poem by : Dream to the Ultimate Dream by Corazon Wong Canda, welcome music by: Valerie Cardill. To hear the show: CLICK HERE!

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Tommy Tao is a lawyer and writer. He has more than 30 years of voluntary service to the community. Among other things, he has served as President of the BC Chamber Orchestra Society, Vice-President of the Chinese Canadian Writers’ Association, and Trustee of the Vancouver Public Library. He received the Community Service Award in 2000 from his fellow lawyers of the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association.*

Tommy came to Canada in 1968 and graduated from the UBC Law School in 1981. He has been practising law in Vancouver since 1982. Since 2000, he has taken up the hobby of translating poetry from Chinese to English and vice versa, and has received the 2005 Liang Shih-Chiu Literary Award for poetry translation in Taiwan. His poetry translation has been published by the Renditions Magazine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2007, a collection of his English translation of the classical Chinese poems of Florence Chia-Ying Yeh, entitled Ode to the Lotus, was published by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. in Vancouver, BC, and the book is collected by many public libraries in the Lower Mainland of B.C. as well as university libraries in North America and China. He has done poetry reading at the Vancouver Public Library, the Richmond Public Library, and at a concert of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Chan Centre of Performing Arts in May, 2011.

Let Us Drink
Li Bai (701 – 762)

Have you not seen, Huanghe’s torrent falling from heaven and rushing to sea,
          never to return?
Have you not seen, shining mirrors in mansion halls grieving for greying hair:
          silk black at dawn, snow white at dusk?
With abandon spend your joy, should life go your way.
Let not the golden chalice sit idle, staring at the moon
Heaven has given me talents. They will be put to use
Cash all spent? They will come back again.
Grill some lamb; roast some beef; have some fun!
Three hundred goblets shall be downed at once
Maestro Shen, good Danchiu, let us drink, do not stop.
Let me sing a song for you; lend me your ears, please.
Pompous ceremonies, exquisite delicacies: for these I do not care.
To be drunk forever is my wish, never more to wake.
Saints and sages through the ages: all lonely are they;
Only a good drinker is remembered by his mates
When the Prince of Chen dined at Jubilation Hall, [1]
Splendid wine, ten thousand a jug, cheered them all.
How can the host say he is out of money?
Wine for all, right away, let me order more!
My dappled stallion, my silver fox fur: tell the boy to trade them
          for the finest wine.
Let us drink then, you and I, and drown the sorrow
          of a thousand years.[2]

Translated by Tommy W.K. Tao


[1] The Prince of Chen refers to Cao Zhi (192 – 232), talented poet and son of Cao Cao, Prime Minister and subsequent King of Wei and the great villain of Chinese history and tales of the Three Kingdoms.

[2] T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909-1962, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:
               Let us go then, you and I,
            When the evening is spread out against the sky
            Like a patient etherised upon a table;


            We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
            By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
            Till human voices wake us, and we drown.