I found my ventures into verse, however, often plunged me into a river of melancholy whose risks far outweighed any benefits gained. By the time I finished college, I had almost completely given up poetry, instead majoring in Comparative Literature and Spanish (where I'd simply read other people's verses, and then analyze it in prose :). While prose can often be more cerebral, and even admittedly dry, it was easier to manage than the wild waters of poetry.
I've therefore let my love for the lyrical languish for quite a few years. For some reason, however, verse has welled up in increasing measure in recent months. I suppose it's because after three years of living in China, I am progressively thirsty for beauty: while the Middle Kingdom has some intensely charming places, the Chinese concrete jungle nonetheless devours everything in its wake. I find myself progressively starved for ways to escape the consumerism, construction, and brash business skyrocketing around me. There's a part of me that screams for more, and I suppose my old friend poetry is inviting me back to conversation. Hopefully now I'm a little more mature and grounded, and riding the raft of rhyme won't throw me overboard quite as harshly as it did before :).
Thankfully, Chinese lends itself incredibly well to poetry. Chinese has a very limited number of sounds, which means each one is used for many different meanings. After only a few weeks of studying Mandarin, we already knew almost all the sounds. While this makes spoken Mandarin quite ambiguous (even native speakers often resort to drawing the written character to try to clarify which word they are using), the strong auditory overlap is fun phonetic fodder for the novice poet. No more lame rhymes of "heaven" and "seven," or "girl" and pearl." I have OPTIONS galore to rhyme in a new way every time! Little did I know when we moved here that Chinese can be the poet's best friend :).
So, without further ado, here is my first attempt at a Chinese poem. I don't pretend to wax eloquent on a deep topic, or to explore the depths of reality in verse. In fact, I don't even know if this tiny little poem is grammatically correct :). I'm simply delighting in using rhythm and rhyme for the purpose of amusement in another language.
The poem is chock full of "-ow" (as in "how") sounds in Chinese--out of four sounds in each line (each character represents one sound), almost 50% of the characters in this poem end in the sound "-ow." Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! :)
我要饮料. I want a drink.
我要小猫 I want a kitten.
我要空调 I want A/C.
哪是最好？ Which is the best?
我不知道! Well that beats me!