Friday, January 1, 2016

Dennis Maloney and His New Poetry Collection "Listening To Tao Yuan Ming"

Christal Cooper

1987 Words
*Excerpts given copyright privilege by Dennis Maloney and Glass Lyre Press.

The Love Story of Dennis Maloney & Poetry:
Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

       On October 3, 2015 Glass Lyre Press, LLC published Poet and Translator Dennis Maloney’s poetry collection Listening To Tao Yuan Ming.

       Maloney has published eight other poetry collections:  Wanderings, Rimrock, I Learn Only To Be Contented, Return, The Pine Hut Poems, Sitting in Circles, The Map Is Not The Territory, and Just Enough.

       Maloney is also editor and publisher of White Pine Press, which he founded in 1973.  Thus far, in its 42-year history, White Pine Press has published over 400 titles with works from the American mosaic and literature from over thirty languages.

       It wasn’t until his freshman year in college that Maloney fell in love with poetry when his English Comp teacher suggested he and his class go to the poetry reading of Robert Bly, who was reading on campus.

“This was in 1970 during the days of the Vietnam War and Robert was one of the leading poets speaking against the war. Hearing Robert Bly inspired me to start reading poetry and then to try my hand at writing.”

       Robert Bly also inspired Maloney to translate poetry, which Maloney did using his knowledge of high school Spanish and a big dictionary.  The first book of poetry Maloney translated was by the legendary poet Pablo Neruda.

       It wasn’t until years later I realized what a life changing event that it (Robert Bly’s poetry reading) was and how it changed the direction of my life and work.”
       During his college days, Maloney also encountered Gary Snyder who introduced him to the works of Tao Yuan Ming, as well as other classic Japanese and Chinese poets.

       The influence of the Japanese and Chinese poets extended to his spiritual life.  Maloney, who was reared Catholic, left the Catholic tradition at age 18 and is a practicing Buddhist in the tradition of the hermit-poets of Japan and China.

       In 1973, Maloney, in order to study Japanese Garden Design, traveled to Kyoto, Japan for the first time where he met the expatriate poet Edith Shiffert, who was teaching in Kyoto.

       “She still lives there at 99. On a subsequent visit to Kyoto in the mid 90s she introduced me to Akio Saito, one of the last in a line of traditional Nanga or Sumie painters at a poetry reading and we became good friends. He is now in his mid 80s.”

       In 2012, Maloney made another visit to Kyoto, Japan where he visited Akio.  The two men visited temple gardens and Akio showed Maloney his most recent paintings at his studio.  He gave Maloney his painting that depicts Tao Yuan Ming with a friend at his secluded home, and, in calligraphy has the preface to Tao’s “Twenty Poems After Drinking Wine.”

 I was inspired by the gift of the painting to look up Tao Yuan Ming’s sequence of poems and was surprised to find that there wasn’t a decent translation of the whole sequence in English. There are a few poems, from the sequence, in quality translations but not the whole set.”

Listening To Tao Yuan Ming is divided into three sections:  “Twenty Poems after Drinking Wine” are Maloney’s versions of Ming’s poems by the same title that Maloney wrote himself.  “I was inspired to try my hand at creating versions of the poems stripped to the core of their meaning and inspiration.”

“Letters to Tao Yuan Ming” are poems Maloney writes in response to Ming’s own poetry: “My study and involvement with Tao’s poetry lead me to start a poetic dialogue with him, which forms the second section of the book, “Letters to Tao Yuan Ming.” Some of these poems start off with lines from some of his poems and I write a response to his poem. In others, the poems are inspired by other poets. The Sung Dynasty poet Su Dong-po, a thousand years after, wrote harmonizing poems to all of Tao’s poems, which is a common practice in the Chinese literary tradition.”

And “Listening To Tao Yuan Ming”, consist of poems written by Maloney inspired by Ming’s work and spirit. 

       Tao Yuan Ming (365 – 427) was a Fields and Gardens Poet and lived in the middle of the Six Dynasties period (c. 220 - 589 CE) between the Han and Tang dynasties.  Most of his poems were written in reclusion with the themes of countryside solitude and domestic nature.

       Ming preferred writing about nature near his home such as the chrysanthemums that grew at his house’s hedges as opposed to writing about nature in rugged, remote regions or wilderness areas. 

       Tao Yuan Ming served more than ten years in the government service in both civil and military capacities. In the spring of 405, Tao Yuan Ming served in the army as aide-de-cam to the local commanding officer, which exposed him to the political corruption of the day.  He became torn between career ambitions and retreating into solitude.  When he learned of his sister’s death, he resigned, and lived the last 22 years of his life on his farm where he made and drank his own wine, supported his family (he would have five children), and wrote poetry.   Approximately 130 of his works, mostly poems and essays, remain.

       Maloney wrote the poems Listening To Tao Yuan Ming the way he has always written poetry, writing when time allows, which is usually about two times a week.

“I often carry parts of poems around in my head or write ideas on scraps of paper or in a notebook. Increasingly I use the computer to work out the details of a poem and tinker with versions until it feels done. I usually set a new poem aside for a month or two and then go back to it with a fresh eye and make final adjustments and changes.”

Once the manuscript was compete Maloney sent Listening To Tao Yuan Ming to Glass Lyre Press and it was accepted by editor/publisher Ami Kaye.

Working with Glass Lyre Press has been a great experience. Ami Kaye, has been very helpful in utilizing their online system to promote the book. Unlike traditional publishers they market via the internet and Amazon with a print on demand technology so it has been a learning curve for me.”

Maloney, who retired in 2007 as a Landscape Architect for the City of Buffalo, and Elaine, his wife of thirty years, share four children, six grandchildren, and two homes on the east and west coast: – the summer and holidays in Buffalo, New York and the winter and fall in Big Sur, California.
Feel free to contact Maloney via email at

“Tao’s fondness for wine was legendary and the first section of poems, as the preface indicates, was written on various occasions after drinking wine.”


I find the retired life has few pleasures, particularly when nights grow long.  I happen to have some good wine beside me, so I don’t let an evening pass without drinking some.  Alone with my shadow, I drain a few cups, I find myself a bit tipsy, as usual, so I write a few stanzas to amuse myself.  Over time the pages have accumulated, though in no particular order, so I asked a friend to copy them, so we might enjoy them together.

Excerpt, page 12

“A Dutch poet, Nachoem Wijnberg, that we are publishing next year kindly sent me a monograph detailing the influence of Tao’s poetry on that of Su Dong-po which inspired the poem, “All Those Nights We Harmonized.”

All Those Nights We Harmonized

Six centuries after your death
Su Tung-po wrote harmonizing
poems to all your work.  Tao.
And one thousand years later
I attempt a few of my own.

Su wrote that he couldn’t
match you cup for cup
and often drifted off
after just one cup of wine.

Snarled in government service,
he was unable to break away
and live a life like yours.
I drink nothing
stronger than tea now
but have broken free
of the official life.

Su Tung-po said your
poems were withered
on the outside
but rich within.
That coming of age
reading your poems
was like gnawing
on withered wood.
Reading them after
experience in the world,
it seems that the previous
decisions of our lives
were made in ignorance.

"The poem, “If Tao Yuan Came To Visit”, was inspired by a poem of the great early 20th century Norwegian poet, Olav Hauge, who wrote a poem inviting Tao to visit his farm in Norway."

If Tao Yuan Ming Came to Visit

Fifty years ago Olav Hauge,
the Norwegian poet said,
If you were to visit Tao,
he would show you his orchards.
He hoped you would come
in spring, when branches
are heavy with blossoms.
Relaxing in the shade, he
would offer you a glass
of cider, even though he
knew you preferred wine.

Twenty-five years ago
when I came to visit,
Hauge showed me his orchards
and the stunning view
of the fjord below.
We shared a poem or two.

He has long since ridden
the cloud-soaring crane
with its marvelous wings
to the place where you live.

But if you come to visit,
we’ll hike a trail in the redwoods,
watch the sunset over the ocean.

In the evening I’ll build a fire
in the stove to take the chill off,
and crack open a bottle
of your special wine
to drain before you ride
that crane back home again.

 “A few of the poems in section three are older poems that date back 15 - 30 years that fit within the framework of the book. These poems include “Return”, “Awaiting A Reply”, and “The Voice of the Bell”.

Here I return to listen
To the stones and the wind.

Excerpt, “Return”

Here, the snow falls
with irregular frequency.

Excerpt, “Awaiting a Reply”

And we are like pebbles
Tossed into the pond of the world.

Excerpt, “The Voice of the Bell”

The poemsHappy,” “Haein-sa Temple,” and “The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace” were written in Seoul, Korea in March of this year when Maloney was a publisher in residence for LTI Korea meeting with translators, authors, and publishers to develop further volumes for the Korean Voices Series.
“The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung” is dedicated to the Swedish poet, Tomas Transtromer, who died while Maloney was in Seoul, Korea.  Maloney’s response to his friend and respected poet was that of sadness.  A visit to The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace inspired a poem to him.

“It is one of the old Royal palaces in Seoul. I started collecting images for a potential poem but didn’t know where it was headed. During the tour they lead through the gate of longevity (an actual gate) and told us about how the prince who the king was grooming to be his successor died before he could take the throne.”

“The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace” started with notes on scraps of paper in the field and later was collected in my notebook and developed into a poem in my hotel room and cafes. When I got back home I typed it up on the computer and finalized it.”

The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace

                                           For Tomas Transtromer

The teeming life
of the street drops away
as we enter
the secret garden.
Spring blossoms,
pink and white
opened just
this morning. 

Even though we pass
through the gate
of longevity;
there is no telling
when the spirit
who took measure
for our final costume
will return for
his last visit.

We are fragile vessels,
anchoring sky to earth.
The king, growing old,
groomed the crown prince
with lessons morning,
afternoon, and evening,

but after only three years
he entered the secret,
shadowy chamber of death
before ascending the throne.

Some lessons are heavy ones.

Photograph Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1
Dennis Maloney in November 2014
Copyright granted by Dennis Maloney

Photo 2
Jacket cover of Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

Photo 3a
Glass Lyre Press web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 3b
Glass Lyre Press Facebook logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright law

Photo 4a
Jacket cover of Wanderings

Photo 4b
Jacket cover of Rimrock

Photo 4c
Jacket cover of I Learn Only To Be Contented

Photo 4d
Jacket cover of Return

Photo 4e
Jacket cover of The Pine Hut Poems

Photo 4f
Jacket cover of Sitting In Circles

Photo 4g
Jacket cover of The Map Is Not The Territory

Photo 4h
Jacket cover of Just Enough

Photo 5a
White Pine Press web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 5b
White Pine Press Facebook Logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 6a

Photo 6b
Robert Bly doing a poetry reading in 1970
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 7a
Robert Bly web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 7b
Robert Bly Web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 8.
Pablo Neruda in Italy in 1963.
Public Domain

Photo 9.

Photo 10a
Facebook logo photo for Gary Snyder
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 10b
Gary Snyder in 2007
CC By 2.0 Generic

Photo 11

Photo 12
Edith Shiffert on her 99th birthday party
Copyright granted by Dennis Maloney

Photo 13
Facebook logo photo for Akio Saito
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 14
Painting attributed to Akio Saito
Copyright granted by Dennis Maloney

Photo 15
Portrait of Tao Yuan Ming by Chen Hongshow (1599-1652)
Public Domain

Photo 16
Portrait of Man Writing In His Study
Attributed to Gustave Caillebotte
Public Domain

Photo 17
Statue of Tao Yuan Ming near West Lake in Hangzhau

Photo 18
Jacket cover of Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

Photo 19
Portrait of Tao Yuan Ming by Chen Hongshou
Public Domain

Photo 20
Portrait of Tao Yuan Ming Seated Under A Willow
Attributed to Tani Buncho in Japan in 1812
Public Domain

Photo 21.
Portrait of Tao Yuan Ming by Min Zhen in the 18th century.
Public Domain

Photo 22.

Photo 23.

Photo 24a
Facebook logo photo for Ami Kaye
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 24b and 24c
Web Logo for Ami Kaye
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 25a
Glass Lyre Press web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 25b
Ami Kaye logo photo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 26.

Photo 27.
Dennis Maloney Facebook logo photo
Copyright granted by Dennis Maloney

Photo 28
Jacket cover of Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

Photo 29
Facebook logo photo of Nachoem Wijnberg
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 30
Olav H Hauge

Photo 31
Jacket cover of Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

Photo 32
Jacket cover of Listening To Tao Yuan Ming

Photo 33.

Photo 34.
Tomas Transtromer

Photo 35.
Changdeokgung Injeongjeon Hall

Photo 36

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