Chia Tao’s “Abode of the Unplanned Effect”

At its worst Chia Tao’s poetry, at least as collected in When I Find You Again It Will Be In Mountains, strikes me as formulaic, even repetitious. After all, how many poems do you need to read with “Farewell” or “Mourning” in the title? There’s certainly considerable emphasis on the sorrow that inevitably accompanies life.

At its best, as in

ABODE OF THE UNPLANNED EFFECT

The grass-covered path
is secluded and still;
a closed door faces
the Chung-nan Mountains.

In the evening, the air’s chilly,
but the light rain stops;
at dawn, far off,
a few cicada start.

Leaves fall
where no green earth remains;
a person at his ease
wears a common white robe.

With simplicity and plainness
his original nature still,
what need to practice
calming of the heart?

though, Tao’s poetry embodies what I most admire in poetry — what Sam Hamill in a cover note describes as “the cold, lean Chia Tao.” The poem adheres to those qualities that early Imagists found so admirable.

The poem gives the impression of consisting of nothing more than simple observations. Much of the imagery could probably be captured with a movie camera, even the sound of the cicada in the distance.

At first even the last stanza seems simple observation until we realize it’s really the poet’s commentary on the nature of The Way, just as surely as words like “simplicity” and “plainness” are commentary on the nature of this man.

One thought on “Chia Tao’s “Abode of the Unplanned Effect”

  1. This poem is very beautiful to me. It’s beautiful in a way that few imagist poems of the Modern era are. Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” is likable and so is Amy Lowell’s “The Pike.” But many of the Modern Imagist poems are too sterile for me. A poem like this one really makes me feel connected, real.

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