862403 70339463 300x198 Buddhist poetry: A fantastic collection called What Book!?

Wanted to diverge very slightly today from my usual topic to mention a small gem of a poetry book I came across recently called What Book!?: Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop%name Buddhist poetry: A fantastic collection called What Book!?. It’s been a while since I was so bowled over by a collection of poems, finding myself smiling mysteriously on buses and trains as a certain line resonates, striking through to the very heart of things. Gary Gach, poet and translator, has done a fine job of culling the best from the distinctive expression that the Western Buddhist tradition has given to the Buddhist philosophy. There are the obvious inclusions like Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Ginsberg. But also some more unusual entries for a book of this theme: Derek Wallcott’s Love after Love makes the list, and the language poet Clark Coolidge. Anyway, I highly recommend this. Slim enough to fit in the pocket but punching well above it’s weight.

Fitting perhaps to quote Nina Wise’s poem, included here, about the late and much missed H. W. L Poonja.

To Papaji

I looked for you all my life
by 747, bullet train, camel back, by foot;
snatched fractured glimpses
that burrowed beneath my skin.

I looked for you everywhere,
in bhavans, mountains, monasteries, stones,
fretted koans, ate sweet rice,
drank yak tea, and bowed.

I looked for you all my life,
then found you in the chant
of the tangerine man pushing
his wooden cart of the thick skinned sweets
down dung-smoked roads.

I looked for you everywhere
then found you in the eyes
of the peanut boy, perched cross-legged
in his once white kurta, stirring
warm-weather snacks in a roasting pan.

I looked for you all my life,
then found you in the upturned palm
of a white-maned man, propped in a deluge
of car horns and fumes, his plastic legs
upright beside him.

I looked for you everywhere,
then found you in the rough tongue
of a wattled white cow, royalty
in the road, sliding a banana peel
quick from my offering hand.

I looked for you all my life,
then found you in the high whine
of a mosquito breaking into my netted sleep,
close as a lover, whispering:
Sweet nothing, sweet nothing.

You asked me, Who are you,
the one who is looking; who looks?
and I traced my name in a field of dots
as it disappeared into always.

So this is love, my memory sang,
The lane so narrow two cannot exist,
you said. Chasms opened.
Hearts leapt

into the molten place where light embraces
form and what matters waits patient
as a a mountain expecting a slow train,
its cars dismembered in an accident.

Reassembled, I made my way
to the peak to view the lay
of the land: beginnings, endings,
seasons, weather moving.

Back home, slippers, dog at my feet,
an open window, I find you in the breeze
that caresses my face with a whisper:
Sweet nothing, sweet nothing.

Visit Nina Wise’s site here.

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