Dancing with the Dead: The Essential Red Pine

Bill Porter (Red Pine)

Red Pine is one of the world’s finest translators of Chinese poetic and religious texts. His new anthology, Dancing with the Dead: The Essential Red Pine, gathers over thirty voices from the ancient Chinese past—including Buddhist poets Cold Mountain (Hanshan) and Stonehouse (Shiwu), as well as Tang-dynasty luminaries Wei Yingwu and Liu Zongyuan. Featuring a preface by National Book Award winner Ha Jin and selected translations of Chinese poetry ranging from Red Pine’s earliest work (1983) to his forthcoming work on Tao Yuanming, the anthology is filled with insight, humor, and musicality that continues to resonate thousands of years later. 

Throughout the book, poems are accompanied by footnotes providing historical context, and each section includes a new and illuminating introduction chronicling Red Pine’s relationship to the poet—discovery, travel, scholarship. Dancing With The Dead is more than a book, it is a journey: part travel essay, part road map, part guided meditation. It is a history translated into a poem.

ISBN: 9781556596452

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Bill Porter assumes the pen name Red Pine for his translation work. He was born in Los Angeles in 1943, grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, served a tour of duty in the US Army, graduated from the University of California with a degree in anthropology, and attended graduate school at Columbia University. Uninspired by the prospect of an academic career, he dropped out of Columbia and moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. After four years with the monks …

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“For decades, Red Pine has breathed new life into some of the most profound yet humble poetic expressions of realization, many of which have been collected together in the anthology Dancing with the Dead: the Essential Red Pine Translations (Copper Canyon). Whether translating Puming’s verses on the oxherd taming the ox—a quintessential Zen metaphor of taming the mind through meditation—or the vernacular poetry of the enigmatic Buddhist hermit Cold Mountain, it is the utter simplicity of Red Pine’s translations that is most alluring. He renders the evocative essence of the Chinese into English with confident economy; there are no extra words or punctuation, nor is there want of more. Lovers of poetry as art and believers of poetry as a conduit to rarified experiences will find no shortage of pleasure or insight here.”—Buddhadharma

“Porter’s history is a dichotomy.” —The Leader