Careless Perfection

By Daniel Halpern b. 1945 Daniel Halpern
According to Lin Yutang,
both Po Chuyi and Su Tungpo
"desperately admired" Tao Yuanming,

a poet of nature who wrote a single love poem,
a poem thought by Chinese dilettantes to be
the one "blemish in a white jade."

Can a poet be faulted for calling a woman
carelessly perfect in beauty?
He chose to long for her by envying

the candle that glowed upon her
beautiful face, the shadow
that followed in her every move.

Yet the nature poet Tao Yuanming, at home
with the sudden turning of seasons,
now feared the shadow in darkness,

a discarded fan that once stirred her hair,
feared the candle at dawn. At last believed
that for beauty he had lived in vain.

Source: Poetry (August 1999).


This poem originally appeared in the August 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

August 1999
 Daniel  Halpern


An influential editor and publishing executive, Daniel Halpern is also a poet of considerable acclaim, writing poems that treat daily life—household tasks, nature, friends, pets—in fresh, accessible language. He is the author of nine books of poetry, including Tango (1987) and Something Shining: Poems (1999). Both Tango and Something Shining: Poems were praised for their formal ambition and control, as well as their revelation . . .

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Poems by Daniel Halpern

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Love, Poetry & Poets, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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