The Poetry of Zen

The Poetry of Zen

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by Sam Hamill
     
 

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A Zen poem is nothing other than an expression of the enlightened mind, a handful of simple words that disappear beneath the moment of insight to which it bears witness. Poetry has been an essential aid to Zen Buddhist practice from the dawn of Zen—and Zen has also had a profound influence on the secular poetry of the countries in which it has flourished.

Overview

A Zen poem is nothing other than an expression of the enlightened mind, a handful of simple words that disappear beneath the moment of insight to which it bears witness. Poetry has been an essential aid to Zen Buddhist practice from the dawn of Zen—and Zen has also had a profound influence on the secular poetry of the countries in which it has flourished. Here, two of America’s most renowned poets and translators provide an overview of Zen poetry from China and Japan in all its rich variety, from the earliest days to the twentieth century. Included are works by Lao Tzu, Han Shan, Li Po, Dogen Kigen, Saigyo, Basho, Chiao Jan, Yuan Mei, Ryokan, and many others. Hamill and Seaton provide illuminating introductions to the Chinese and Japanese sections that set the poets and their work in historical and philosophical context. Short biographies of the poets are also included.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 "A major collection."—Booklist

"The poets in this superb collection pay attention to the wonders of the natural world, the signs of precariousness of life in all living beings, the little changes that comprise each day, and the small details that are often missed by those who are less observant."—Spirituality & Health

“These evocative poems capture the ephemera of nature with uncanny starkness.”—Buddhadharma

"There is no need to be mystical or religious to enjoy this writing."—The Bloomsbury Review

"This is a book to enrich our life and our practice, a collection that encourages us to be mindful, to keep at it. Read it, and sit."—Tricycle

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590304259
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
02/13/2007
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,075,682
Product dimensions:
4.27(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.55(d)

Meet the Author

Sam Hamill is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and translations from the classical Chinese and Japanese, ancient Greek, Latin, and other languages. He has been a recipient of fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. He lives near Port Townsend, Washington.

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Poetry of Zen 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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WhiteCloudCrane More than 1 year ago
The Poetry of Zen is a neat, extremely compact selection of poetry from China and Japan in the Zen tradition. Readers of Asian poetry in translation will be dismayed, however, to find the use of the Wade-Giles Romanization system in the Chinese translations. Like many people who began reading Chinese poetry in the '60s, I grew up reading translations in this older style and bought The Poetry of Zen hoping to segue to some contemporary translations in the Pin-Yin form. If reverting to the older Wade-Giles system is not a problem for readers, the book does offer a representative selection of poems over the course of approximately 150 pages (there are additional pages of notes). The selection is well balanced, playing classically beautiful couplets (Meng Hao-Jan's "A Night on the River") against irreverent or off-color verses (Ikkyu's "My Hand is Lady Mori's Hand.") The poems are short, and not too heavy on haiku. The number of explanatory notes is just right, and makes for pleasant, but optional, reading. Readers will have to decide for themselves how these translations fare when compared with earlier versions or even with contemporary translations, such as those by the inimitable Red Pine. Li Po (now known as Li Bai), one of the greatest of world poets, is represented in three short poems, including one of the most famous, "Questions Answered," which perhaps is a little flat compared with some earlier translations. Still, this is an attractive book to own, if not comparable to the classic translations of Waley, Watson, et. al. It is an appropriate gift book, perhaps for a lover or close friend with a sense of humor. Certainly, it makes a neat introduction to the shorter forms of Asian poetry. But for long-time readers of Zen verse in translation, the use of Wade-Giles makes this seem like a walk down memory lane. How unlike Zen spirit, always bright and sly and slightly subversive!