Su Shi was born in Meishan, Sichuan Province in the year 1037 and died in 1101 (from Harefoot to Henry I in Anglo-Saxon terms). As poet-painter-calligrapher he is recognized as the singular figure of the Song Dynasty. He excelled at many different literary styles and wrote at least twenty-four hundred poems. At age twenty-two he passed the highest imperial examinations and for the rest of his life moved from post to post as a rootless, wandering government magistrate. Twice he was exiled. He wrote East Slope—a cycle of eight poems with a preface—during the first of these periods in 1081, while farming a plot of land on East Slope. A Daoist-Confucian-Buddhist spirit flows through these poems like a sparkling spring of thought-words, firmly rooted to earth and field. It was here he named himself Su Dongpo (Su of East Slope). His life-practice of writing can be summed up by this description he once gave of Wu Daozi's paintings: "New ideas follow the inner pattern; subtle mysteries arise outside bold unrestraint." This gorgeous, bilingual edition of East Slope is threaded together with photographic images and includes an informative afterword by the translator, Jeffrey Yang.
Jeffrey Yang works as the poetry editor for New Directions Publishing. He has published a limited-edition translation of Tang-Song Dynasty poems called Rhythm 226. His collection of poems, An Aquarium, will be published by Graywolf Press in the Fall of 2008.