Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Zen Poetry

by Lucien Stryk
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 176
  • Publication Date January 23, 1995
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3407-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9824-2
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

This superb anthology, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind to appear in English, is the work of an American poet and a Japanese scholar. Their collaboration has rendered translations both precise and sublime, and their selection, which spans 1,500 years, from the early T”ang dynasty to the present day, includes many poems that have never before been translated into English.

Ranging from Chinese poetry of enlightenment and death to the quintessential Zen art of haiku, from the celebrated poems of the Japanese masters to an impressive selection of poems by Shinkichi Takahashi, Japan’s greatest contemporary Zen poet, this collection offers us the profound wealth and scope of Zen poetry in all its beauty and clarity.

Excerpt

Part One
Chinese Poems of Enlightenment and Death
NOTE: Most of the following Chinese masters and laymen, sixty in all, flourished during the Southern Sung dynasty (1127–1279), but their exact dates, with some exceptions, are missing in biographical records of Chinese Zenists. Among those who can be dated, Mumon-Ekai (Rinzai sectarian and author of Mumonkan: The Gateless Barrier, one of the most celebrated collections of disciplinary Zen questions and answers), Tendo-Nyojo (instructor in Soto Zen of Dogen, who, returning home from the Continent, founded the Japanese Soto sect) and Daie-Soko (Rinzai Zen leader with a large following) stand out as brilliant figures in Chinese Zen history.


Enlightenment

Ox bridle tossed, vows taken,
I’m robed and shaven clean.
You ask why Bodhidharma came east–
Staff thrust out, I hum like mad.
REITO
Twenty years a pilgrim,
Footing east, west.
Back in Seiken,
I’ve not moved an inch.
SEIKEN-CHIJU
Once the goal’s reached,
Have a good laugh.

Shaven, you’re handsomer–
Those useless eyebrows!
KISHU
The old master held up fluff
And blew from his palm,
Revealing the Source itself.
Look where clouds hide the peak.
KAIGEN
The mountain–Buddha’s body.
The torrent–his preaching.
Last night, eighty-four thousand poems.
How, how make them understand?
LAYMAN SOTOBA (1036–1101)
How long the tree’s been barren.
At its tip long ropes of cloud.
Since I smashed the mud-bull’s horns,
The stream’s flowed backwards.
HOGE
Joshu’s “Oak in the courtyard” –
Nobody’s grasped its roots.
Turned from sweet plum trees,
They pick sour pears on the hill.
EIAN
On the rocky slope, blossoming
Plums–from where?
Once he saw them, Reiun
Danced all the way to Sandai.
HOIN
Joshu’s “Oak in the courtyard”
Handed down, yet lost in leafy branch
They miss the root.
Disciple Kaku shouts–
“Joshu never said a thing!”
MONJU-SHINDO
No dust speck anywhere.
What’s old? new?
At home on my blue mountain,
I want for nothing.
SHOFU
Over the peak spreading clouds,
At its source the river’s cold.
If you would see,
Climb the mountain top.
HAKUYO
Loving old priceless things,
I’ve scorned those seeking
Truth outside themselves:
Here, on the tip of the nose.
LAYMAN MAKUSHO
Traceless, no more need to hide.
Now the old mirror
Reflects everything–autumn light
Moistened by faint mist.
SUIAN
No mind, no Buddhas, no live beings,
Blue peaks ring Five Phoenix Tower.
In late spring light I throw this body
Off–fox leaps into the lion’s den.
CHIFU
Sailing on Men River, I heard
A call: how deep, how ordinary.
Seeking what I’d lost,
I found a host of saints.
SOAN
In serving, serve,
In fighting, kill.
Tokusan, Ganto–
A million-mile bar!
JINZU
Years keeping that in mind,
Vainly questioning masters.
A herald cries, “He’s coming!”
Liver, gall burst wide.
ANBUN
Seamless–Touched, it glitters.
Why spread such nets
For sparrows?
GOJUSAN
Clear, clear–clearest!
I ran barefoot east and west.
Now more lucid than the moon,
The eighty-four thousand
Dharma gates!
MOAN
I set down the emerald lamp,
Take it up–exhaustless.
Once lit,
A sister is a sister.
GEKKUTSU-SEI
Not falling, not ignoring–
A pair of mandarin ducks
Alighting, bobbing, anywhere.
NAN-O-MYO
How vast karma,
Yet what’s there
To cling to? Last night,
Turning, I was blinded
By a ray of light.
SEIGEN-YUIIN
A deafening peal,
A thief escaped
My body. What
Have I learnt?
The Lord of Nothingness
Has a dark face.
LAYMAN YAKUSAI
A thunderbolt–eyes wide,
All living things bend low.
Mount Sumeru dances
All the way to Sandai.
MUMON-EKAI (1183–1260)
Where is the dragon’s cave?
Dozing this morn in Lord Sunyata’s
Palace, I heard the warbler.
Spring breeze shakes loose
The blossoms of the peach.
KANZAN-SHIGYO
No mind, no Buddha, no being.
Bones of the Void are scattered.
Why should the golden lion
Seek out the fox’s lair?
TEKKAN
Earth, river, mountain:
Snowflakes melt in air.
How could I have doubted?
Where’s north? south? east? west?
DANGAI
Joshu’s word–Nothingness.
In spring blossom everywhere.
Now insight’s mine,
Another dust-speck in the eye!
KUCHU
Joshu exclaimed, ‘dog’s no Buddha,”
All things beg for life.
Even the half-dead snake
Stuffed in the basket.
Giving to haves, taking from
Have-nots–never enough.
ICHIGEN
Searching Him took
My strength.
One night I bent
My pointing finger–
Never such a moon!
KEPPO