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The Beauty of Everything in the Eyes of Yang Mu


Published on December 14th, 2019 at 01:32 am

By Brian Yang

Yang conveys that he sees beauty in everything around him by using a lot of nature in his poetry. Yang compares many things to things in nature. For example, in “Water’s Edge”-a poem about how his experience in nature by a river or stream-he is mildly annoyed by a dandelion, he writes that the “dandelion giggles” (Yang). He paints the image of the dandelion as a mischievous sprite instead of a rampant weed. Yang views the dandelion as something more than something that inconveniences him and other people; he sees it in a different way, where the dandelion itself has beauty and has a mischievous nature. Another example of Yang shows his views of seeing beauty in everything is when he references the Golden Ratio in one of his poems. He writes in “Rabbits”-a poem about a conversation between his outer self and inner self-“by the great Golden Ratio” (Yang). By alluding to the Golden Ratio, he is using what some consider the most beautiful thing in nature. The Golden Ratio is something found amongst many natural things: like the shell of a snail or petal pattern of a flower. It is even related to the Mona Lisa, one of the icons of beauty in the artistic world. He writes about this in the context of trying to spread beauty by duplicating using the Golden Ratio. However, nature is not the only continuity used in Yang’s work to show the omnipresent nature of beauty.

Yang has a way of using loneliness to portray peace instead of the usual pain of loneliness. He paints loneliness as something of beauty as well, seeing beauty in something many people view negatively. For example, in the poem “The Star Is the Only Guide”, which is about himself reflecting on a relationship he had when he was younger, he wrote “loneliness and morning bell chimes set you ablaze” (Yang). He describes the loneliness his younger self felt setting him ablaze. This means that the loneliness is filling up the younger memory of himself with some strong emotions, namely love and longing. Yang is showing that there is beauty even in loneliness. Although it is painful for him to be alone after the relationship, he shows that it can bring out strong emotions from it. He uses vivid diction to make the loneliness he feels seem like a burning fire within. And just like a fire, it could hurt you, but it is also a beautiful thing that warms you. Further into the poem, he addresses the feelings and experiences again. He writes that “Such is remembrance, in your Monte Carlo/On the sixth side of a die” (Yang). He is approaching that feeling of loneliness from a different angle this time. Because he is reflecting in this poem, he realizes that he is grateful to have had that feeling and experience. That is why he is stating that having been in that relationship was like getting a lucky roll on a dice. This time this same loneliness is beautiful not because it stirs up his emotions, but because it was able to teach him something new. The experience was valuable to him because it helped him grow as an adult.

He shows the beauty of loneliness again in “Water’s Edge”-which is about him being alone near a stream or river. In the poem, Yang is sitting alone near the edge of a stream or river and he compares it to being near people. In the last stanza, he writes “Compare four afternoons of the water's sound to four afternoons of footsteps/Suppose they were some impatient teenage girls...Well, let none of them come.” (Yang). He compares an afternoon of being around the footsteps of people to being around chatty, teenage girls. Meanwhile, he writes of the loneliness in the first two stanzas with vivid imagery of nature: a cascade of water, stilled clouds, and giggling dandelions. Once again, he makes loneliness seem very preferable and peaceful. He makes it so that he would rather be alone with the environment around him than amongst people. And once again, loneliness is not the traditional biting, painful loneliness; it is, instead, written with a tint of beauty. Many parts of these poems may individually show the beauty that Yang is trying to convey, but all together, with all the other parts, each poem has a whole different meaning regarding beauty.

Once again, loneliness is characterized in a different way in “Rabbits”. This poem is written in a style referencing another poem. The poem is referencing a part of the Chinese poem about Mulan where it includes a conversation between a male and female rabbit as they walk. The purpose was to show that someone would not be able to tell them apart if they were looking at them from a distance. In this poem, his outer self is taking the place of the male rabbit and his inner self is taking the place of the female rabbit. His outer self is contemplating the fleeting beauty of humanity and the fact that the physical body will always degrade and no longer be beautiful. But his inner self comforts his outer self by saying that beauty of each person can be preserved by having a truthful poem be written and recorded, so “Please, sit down and write something for us.” (Yang). The inner struggle is once again another way to show loneliness. He is not confiding in someone else on the topic of how human beauty deteriorates, but he is convincing himself on how everyone stays beautiful. Perhaps, it is how he arrived at the philosophy of everything being beautiful, even when it grows old or deteriorates. However, it is still better to look at the themes of Yang’s works as a whole. Again, loneliness is shown to be peaceful, because it has the ability to comfort him and put him at ease about an existential question.

Yang theme of beauty in everything is most evident in his poetry as a whole. The one that is most evident is “Rabbits”. The inner self speaks to the outer self in this poem and Yang writes: “Only that which is released from abstract originality/Is worthy and can be duplicated.” (Yang). This idea of beauty is the main topic of this poem and he is convincing himself that after he passes his own personal beauty will find a way to stay in this world. He is writing to show that even after one has lost their external beauty, it is still possible to have beauty in themselves. He is proving that no matter what, there is beauty in each person. For him, his way to preserve his beauty is his poetry, but for others it may be different things in their work.

The next poem, “The Star Is the Only Guide” looks at the beauty of a relationship and breakup. He narrates an anecdote where he is reminded of a relationship as he passes through a winding path in the rain. He recalls the pain of the break up but realizes the beauty in it. He comes to realize that this relationship was able to help him understand more about the universe. “In wisdom, you are the encounter that breaks open my understanding with the elusive fleeting of the universe” (Yang). Even in breakups, he sees beauty in them. He describes the entire reflection with vivid imagery of nature: rain on a winding path and leaves falling around them. He creates a pristine image to show that even though there was a pain in the breakup, it is something that has beauty. He sees that the being in the relationship and having the breakup was able to help him understand the universe and expand his knowledge.

The last poem, “Water’s Edge” does the same as the others as well. Throughout the poem pristine imagery of nature is used: “cascade of flowing water”, “stilled cloud”, “wind-pollinated flowers”, and “water's sound” (Yang). His use of these phrases help the reader form a picture of a tranquil environment he is in, where he is mildly annoyed at flowers and decides to take a nap when he realizes it is more beautiful compared to the walking of people. Of course he is putting something down in this comparison, but it is important to realize that he is accepting the pollen despite it annoying him. He realizes it is part of something bigger and it in entirety is beautiful.

In one of his collections, Yi Shen The Skeptic Notes on Poetical Discrepancies, beauty is shown in an underlying meaning. The poem itself is about a skeptic trying to unravel the knot of religion and to make sense of it, but a critic believes otherwise. The critic writes that some may interpret the work as Yang trying to “supplant traditional ‘religion’ with his own "religion" of poetry built on the Romantic notion of beauty and truth” (L. Wong). This is quite ironic since Yang is intending to be a skeptic of religion instead of building up a new one. However, if we take the critics interpretation, once again, we see that Yang is trying to spread this idea of beauty being omnipresent. The critic states that his poetry is built on Romanticism, which is focused on the subjectivity of the individual. It is evident that throughout his poetry he is influenced by his own ideas of beauty and truth. And although it was not the main emphasis of the collection, Yang is still trying to convey this idea. Another author writes this of Yang: “Yang holds a positive attitude to his society” and “Yang Mu is able to see the benefits of transcultural interactions” (L.L.M.Wong). These two quotes collectively show that Yang is able to appreciate the cultures of his own and others’ society. There is nothing that he is shying away from because he does not like it. He sees that other countries have beauty in their own culture; therefore, this also shows that he is able to see the beauty in every culture as well. Yang shows his philosophy in his works no matter large or small.

In conclusion, Yang shows his audience his philosophy of the world. He sees everything in a positive light, seeing the beauty in everything. He can identify and describe everything in ways that show their glamor no matter what it may be: from breakups to questioning the lasting presence in the world. And through all of the poems he writes, he is trying to convince his audience to see the world in this light as well. Some of the poems he has written include, “ The Stars Is the Only Guide”, “Rabbits”, “Water’s Edge”, and more. Through these poems some commonalities occur. Most use nature to paint a vivid image or to compare to something. Other parts of the poems also use loneliness as a contrast to the brightness of his ideology. However, he shows that even the contrasting loneliness has a property of beauty in one way or another. From reading his works and understanding his message, we should conclude that not everything in life is as terrible as it may seem.

Works Cited

Wong, Lisa Lai-Ming. "The making of a poem: Rainer Maria Rilke, Stephen Spender, and Yang Mu." The Comparatist, vol. 31, 2007, p. 130+. Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A178676293/LitRC?u=paci91811&sid=LitRC&xid=9838a814. Accessed 13 Nov. 2019.

Wong, Lisa. “Lisa Wong - (Un)Tying a Firm Knot of Ideas: Reading Yang Mu's The Skeptic.” Connotations, Mar. 2002, https://www.connotations.de/article/lisa-wong-untying-a-firm-knot-of-ideas-reading-yang-mus-the-skeptic/.

Yang, Mu, et al., “Three Poems.” Asymptote, Asymptote, https://www.asymptotejournal.com/poetry/yang-mu-three-poems/.

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