Dane Cervine is a canny, thoughtful student of Zen, who has brought his poet’s skills to bear on the Mumonkan, or The Gateless Gate, a collection of 48 koans. A classic of Zen literature, these koans are paradoxical conundrums employed to free the mind of preconceptions and mental habits that inhibit enlightenment. Each koan has been paired with a poem that riffs upon the original, bringing it to life in the here and now. Like the short, enigmatic puzzles he contemplates, Cervine’s poems are witty, provocative, and mesmerizing.
In Polishing the Moon Sword, this collection’s compelling second movement, Cervine offers us prose poems based on Japanese and Chinese folk tales. Every culture in every age produces a literature of moral instruction, fables, parables, aphorisms, and proverbs—tales that instruct, warn, and transmit the spirit of a people. Cervine serves up stories about demons, lovers, poets, soldiers and musicians, all rendered in a plain, demotic American English that perfectly captures the poetic and emotional essence of the originals. Like a key, Cervine’s poems open these tales to reveal their richness, humor and grace. This is a glorious, fulsome, volume sure to satisfy poetry lovers, students of Zen, and anyone who finds pleasure in a good story well told.
—Gary Young, author of Even So – New & Selected Poems
Dane Cervine talks with the old Chinese poets and koan teachers as if they are in a bar together; his work is a song, a conversation, a dance. His prose poems on folk tales are small, compelling worlds; you step into them, and you walk about, and look about, wondering and happy.
—John Tarrant, author of Bring Me The Rhinoceros (& Other Zen
Koans That Will Save Your Life)