The Poets

August 11, 2011

Of an Angel

Of an Angel

I never thought that mortal eyes
Could peer upon an angel’s face
Much less see one from vault’d skies
Descend in splendid grace
But there she was, in pleasant light
Approaching from a heav’nly height
Her beauty, ah, what word can say
I never will forget that day

She hardly bore a seraph wing
Nor were there cherubs harping by
But heaven glowed from her like spring
Like Solis there on high
Her aura was of such a hue
That human eyes could scarce view
But blesséd were my eyes it seem’d
Who looked on her as on a dream

Her movements were as words with me
With tones seductive and sublime
I fell into a swoon, a glee
And lost all sense of time
For she was heaven’s very seat
A flower seldom seen, and sweet
A lovely Naiad by the dell
With titan strength, yet ever frail

She held with her a certain air
A scepter-soul, though hardly mean
Like Nefertiti pure and fair
A true and noble queen
Yet neither crook, nor even flail
Did in her royal hands prevail
No what prevail’d, and this is true
A royalty I never knew

Around her head a laurel loop’d
The fragrance of it- ah, divine
And hair above her right eye droop’d
Beneath the emerald twine
Her gown wav’d gently by a breeze
That rippl’d round her like the seas
And as she pass’d me gently, meek
An oblique smile rais’d her cheek

Her auburn flesh was flesh of youth
Her eyes- viridian and clear
Her manners held a hidden truth
Celestial and dear
I pined inside to touch her frame
To speak with her, to know her name
But I bewitch’d sat stunn’d and daz’d
At all she was, and was amaz’d

Affection for her fill’d my soul
As gracefully she pass’d me by
To joy she mov’d my heart from lull
And she mov’d toward the sky
An angel?– yes, she was indeed
A creature of that heav’nly breed
Whose presence chang’d my every way
I never will forget that day


Of the Poem:

Poetic Parameters

Stanza: Octet (i.e. 8 lines per stanza)
Meter: Mixed (all lines except the fourth are in
tetrameter, the fourth consists of six syllables)
Rhyme Scheme: ababccdd

A Brief Note

This poem was inspired by a moment I had last year while sitting poolside … a woman, so beautiful, so delicate, came walking in and completely obliterated my ability to pay attention to anything else- a ballad I wrote last year about her expresses this well:

Their choir filled the maple tree
Their fluting, too, the fir
And though they sang so beautifully
All I could hear was her

Her appearance was incredible, and my heart instantly was drawn to her. She seemed something divine, something angelic- hence the poem’s title, Of an Angel.

August 02, 2011

Bei Dao*

Zhao Zhenkai (1949 to date)

On August 2, 1949 Zhao Zhenkai was in Beijing. His pseudonym Bei Dao literally means "North Island," and was suggested by a friend as a reference to the poet's provenance from Northern China as well as his typical solitude.

Dao was one of the foremost poets of the Misty School, and his early poems were a source of inspiration during the April Fifth Democracy Movement of 1976, a peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square. He has been in exile from his native China since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

His books of poetry include The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems(New Directions, 2010); Unlock (2000); At the Sky's Edge: Poems 1991-1996 (1996), for which David Hinton won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from The Academy of American Poets; Landscape Over Zero (1995); Forms of Distance (1994); Old Snow (1991); and The August Sleepwalker (1990). His work has been translated into over 25 languages.

He is also the author of short stories and essays. In 1978, he and colleague Mang Ke founded the underground literary magazine Jintian (Today), which ceased publication under police order. In 1990, the magazine was revived and Bei Dao serves as the Editor-in-Chief.

In his foreword to At the Sky's Edge, Michael Palmer writes: "Anointed as an icon on the Democracy Wall and as the voice of a generation by the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989, and thereby also fated to exile, Bei Dao has followed a path of resistance that abjures overt political rhetoric while simultaneously keeping faith with his passionate belief in social reform and freedom of the creative imagination."

His awards and honors include the Aragana Poetry Prize from the International Festival of Poetry in Casablanca, Morocco, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a candidate several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was elected an honorary member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. At the request of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, he traveled to Palestine as part of a delegation for the International Parliament of Writers.

Bei Dao was a Stanford Presidential lecturer and has taught at the University of California at Davis, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Beloit College in Wisconsin. In 2006, Bei Dao was allowed to move back to China.

*Biography from

As of April 9th, 2010