Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Intoduction to A Patch of White Mist
Mend-Oyoo’s poetry is firmly rooted within his Mongolian heritage – a heritage that is simultaneously embedded within and distinct from the entire universe. Hence, from the very opening poem In Search Of Myself the poet engages us not only with a superb lyricism but also a profound philosophy that has obviously been garnered over many decades of reflective study.
Meditation allows him, no, impels him, towards an empathetic identity with the whole of creation. This relationship encompasses the winds on his beloved steppe – where he led a nomadic life - as well as being ‘worn away with the rocks’ and journeying ‘to heaven with the last old man who can intone epic tales.’ In his affinity he crosses boundaries that may be viewed as an impediment to lesser mortals, and even now, in his mature years, he continues his quest to discover his own unique position, the raison d’etre for his existence.
I exist in unnumbered places, I go everywhere,
wandering and withering away in my search for embodiment.
(In Search Of Myself)
Such persistence, such courage, is not given to everyone - most would simply settle for a philosophy by which to exist comfortably within the world, and quite possibly a limited world at that. The poet’s deep involvement with Buddhism fuels his philosophy and from this life-long involvement he draws his strength. This strength lends an urgency to Mend-Oyoo’s poetry in his chronicling of his pursuit of selfhood that is so lucidly and lyrically expressed that he has indeed
…I sewed my poem-children with a perfect silken thread.
(Song Of The Moon)
Despite achieving an acknowledged eminence in many fields including, as is evident here, being a distinguished poet, his humanity is evident in his love of his family and willingness to engage in the simplest of tasks to give even the youngest of them great pleasure.
….for my grandson Bilgüüdei I have cut a felt fox.
Mend-Oyoo’s position as the President of the Academy of Poetry and Culture necessitates that he travels throughout the world, engaging in conferences and projects which impact upon world literature yet, as he so endearingly indicates,
Far from home, I am suffering, missing my wife’s tea.
His travels began many decades ago when he moved from the steppe to the capital and spent years becoming used to a noisy city. His adaptation to a totally foreign life to that of his boyhood may be regarded as complete when one hears his mobile phone constantly ringing, his office crowded with visitors from Russia, England, Korea, America, in fact from all points of the compass. However, his heart remains faithful to the old ways learnt on the blue-haze steppe, including veneration of his ancestors. Despite all his achievements the modest Mend-Oyoo knows that to leave behind one’s heritage is to court disaster.
When the sorrowful horse fights against its homeland,
When the dark mirage runs away towards the plain,
Then, even the human child's freedom is hindered.
(When The Sorrowful Horse Fights Against Its Homeland…)
The rich tapestry of poetry which Mend-Oyoo weaves will live long in the mind of the Western reader. His exploration of the intimate connection between the personal and the universal is expressed with delicate perception and an undoubted gift for language. An added bonus for Western readers is that the book is an informative, introductory insight into the Mongolian psyche – a psyche which embraces the topography not simply of Mongolia or even the universe but of the world beyond this world, an ‘otherness’ which travels with the poet as surely as his nomadic ancestors.
by Ruth O'Callaghan