Category Archives: Poetry

Zen Writers’ Retreat – June 24, 2017 at Atlanta Soto Zen Center

Zen Writers’ Retreat – June 24, 2017 at ASZC

Sit, walk, write, read, repeat. The silence of Zazen can unleash the thunder of creative ideas. During this one-day session, participants will intersperse zazen and kinhin practice with writing periods and readings/discussions of our raw creations developed through this process. Keisei Andrew Dietz will facilitate this sesshin/workshop. As a bonus feature, Taiun Michael Elliston Roshi will lead participants in at least one “set-breaking” exercise designed to unlock our habitual approach to words so that we can see and apply them with fresh perspective. Suggested donation to Zen Center for participation: $50 includes lunch and materials. While we are in the process of posting registration on the ASZC/Silent Thunder sites, please contact Keisei Andrew Dietz to express interest and “soft circle” your spot.

Draft schedule:

8:30am – 9:00am Assemble/Welcome & Intro (purpose and approach)

Round 1
9:00am – 9:25am Sitting meditation
9:25am – 9:30am Walking meditation
9:30am – 9:55am Writing meditation (Mu prompt)
9:55am – 10:00am Walking meditation

Round 2
10:00am – 10:25am Sitting meditation
10:25am – 10:45am Walking meditation (outdoor)
10:40am – 11:00am Writing meditation (outdoor walk prompt)

Round 3
11:00am – 11:25am Sitting meditation
11:25am – 12:00pm Word Set-Breakers (Sensei led)

Discussion & Readings
12:00pm – 12:30pm Lunch/Discussion (Zen & creativity)
12:30pm – 1:30pm Reading selections (voluntary)

Round 4
1:30pm – 1:55pm Sitting meditation
1:55pm – 2:00pm Walking meditation
2:00pm – 2:25am Writing meditation (writer’s choice)
2:25am – 2:30pm Walking meditation

Round 4
2:30pm – 2:55pm Sitting meditation
2:55pm – 3:00pm Walking meditation
3:00pm – 3:25am Writing meditation (writer’s choice)
3:25am – 3:30pm Walking meditation

Wrap Up
3:30pm – 4:00pm Reading selections (voluntary)
4:00pm – 4:30pm Discussion/conclusion

A Sense of the Whole: Reading Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End

A Sense of the Whole Jacket1A Sense of the Whole: Reading Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End
Edited by Mark Gonnerman
352pp. | June 2015 | US$28.00 | ISBN 9781619024564 (Hardcover)
Berkeley: Counterpoint Press

Buddhist poet Gary Snyder once introduced a reading with reference to whitewater rapids, saying most of his writing is like a Class III run where you will do just fine on your own, but that Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996) is more like Class V: if you’re going to make it to take-out, you might need a guide. As a collection of commentaries and background readings, this companion volume to Snyder’s remarkable creative accomplishment enhances each reader’s ability to find their way into and through this adventurous and engaging work of art.

In 1997, Mark Gonnerman organized a yearlong research workshop on Mountains and Rivers Without End at the Stanford Humanities Center. Members of what came to be known among faculty, students, and diverse community members as the Mountains & Rivers Workshop met regularly to read and discuss Snyder’s epic poem. Here the poem served as a commons that turned the multiversity into a university once again.

The Workshop invited writers, teachers and scholars from North America and Japan to speak on various aspects of Snyder’s great accomplishment. This book captures the excitement of these gatherings and invites readers to enter the poem through essays and talks by David Abram, Wendell Berry, Carl Bielefeldt, Tim Dean, Jim Dodge, Mark Gonnerman, Robert Hass, Stephanie Kaza, Julia Martin, Michael McClure, Nanao Sakaki, and Katsunori Yamazato. It includes an interview with Gary Snyder, appendices, and other resources for further study.

From the Introduction
Mountains and Rivers Without End evades simple classificatory schemes. Is it an “American epic poem” (M&R dust jacket)? A multimedia poem cycle? A contribution to American mythology? A collection of poems depicting major ecosystem types? Is it a spiritual autobiography—a pilgrim’s progress—aimed at effecting some kind of religious conversion? Is this “a sort of sūtra—an extended poetic, philosophic, and mythic narrative of the female Buddha Tārā” (M&R 158)? Or is this book a score for the kind of live performance the poet has envisioned and experimented with since 1957? Is the work a thought experiment—a creative, critical Buddhist commentary—on the place of art in human religious life? Though I will concentrate on the last of these possibilities here, the attentive reader will discover that Snyder’s creative effort entails all of the above and more.

Mark Gonnerman was educated at St. Olaf College, Harvard Divinity School, and Stanford University, where he was a Lieberman Fellow. He is currently a professor and Director of the William James Center for Consciousness Studies at Sofia University in Palo Alto. He and Meri Mitsuyoshi share householder life in San Jose, California. Visit

Kay Larson, Author of Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

kayTeaHousefrom By DAVID FORD Listen 4:07 Triad Arts as Broadcast at 8:35am and 5:44pm August 12th will mark the 22nd anniversary of John Cage’s death. Two years ago Wake Forest University celebrated the life and artistic contributions of this American maverick on what would have been his 100th birthday. Cage has been called the most influential American composer of the 20th century, and his life and art was greatly influenced by his devotion to Zen Budhism. CAGEFEST which was spread over a two month period concluded with a lecture by longtime New York Times art critic and practicing Buddhist Kay Larson. She’s written a fascinating book, 15-years in the making: Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. Kay says that for John Cage, appreciating negative space, and silence was life-affirming, but to do so meant, as he put it “getting one’s mind and desires out of the way”. One way Cage did this was by pioneering the use of indeterminacy or chance in music, Kay’s lecture was titled “Cage and Zen: The Koan of Silence” as part of Wake Forest University’s CAGEFST. August 12th will mark the 22nd anniversary of John Cage’s death. [link]

Exploring the Dharma through Poetry

Saturday, July 26at 9:30am – 4:30pm in PDT

Spirit Rock Meditation Center
5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Woodacre, California 94973
with Phillip Moffitt

To register

Bring a Friend for FREE when you register!

Awaken to the dharma wisdom that is contained in poetry and experience the power of poetry to inspire our spiritual practice. Join us for this 14th annual poetry day as we explore how poetry can help deepen our understanding of the dharma and help us meet each moment of life with awareness, intention, and surrender.

This daylong will consist of sitting and walking meditation practice interspersed with dharma discussions based on a selection of poems. This daylong is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditation students.

Young Adults (18-26) and Seniors (65+ with limited income) are invited to attend this day for $25.

Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun: Essays by Zen Master Kim Iryop

Kim-ReflectionsJACKETfront.pdfReflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun: Essays by Zen Master Kim Iryop
Written by Kim Iryŏp
Translated by Jin Y. Park

2014 | 328 pages
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8248-3878-2, $49.00
University of Hawaii Press

The life and work of Kim Iryŏp (1896–1971) bear witness to Korea’s encounter with modernity. A prolific writer, Iryŏp reflected on identity and existential loneliness in her poems, short stories, and autobiographical essays. As a pioneering feminist intellectual, she dedicated herself to gender issues and understanding the changing role of women in Korean society. As an influential Buddhist nun, she examined religious teachings and strove to interpret modern human existence through a religious world view. Originally published in Korea when Iryŏp was in her sixties, Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun (Ŏnŭ sudoin ŭi hoesang) makes available for the first time in English a rich, intimate, and unfailingly candid source of material with which to understand modern Korea, Korean women, and Korean Buddhism.

Throughout her writing, Iryŏp poses such questions as: How does one come to terms with one’s identity? What is the meaning of revolt and what are its limitations? How do we understand the different dimensions of love in the context of Buddhist teachings? What is Buddhist awakening? How do we attain it? How do we understand God and the relationship between good and evil? What is the meaning of religious practice in our time? We see through her thought and life experiences the co-existence of seemingly conflicting ideas and ideals—Christianity and Buddhism, sexual liberalism and religious celibacy, among others.

This volume challenges readers with her creative interpretations of Buddhist doctrine and her reflections on the meaning of Buddhist practice. In the process she offers insight into a time when the ideas and contributions of women to twentieth-century Korean society and intellectual life were just beginning to emerge from the shadows, where they had been obscured in the name of modernization and nation-building.

Buddhist Poetry Review: submissions

from Buddhist Poetry Review‘s website:

Buddhist Poetry Review is a quarterly online journal dedicated to publishing fresh and insightful Buddhist poetry. Our vision encompasses the full spectrum of Buddhism, and we welcome submissions from authors who write from any perspective.

Submit 1-3 unpublished poems per reading period using the submission form. Include a short, third person biography if you would like it to accompany your work. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but we ask that you inform us if they are accepted elsewhere. We are granted first electronic publishing rights and archival rights.

The reading period for the next issue will begin on January 1st and continue through February 25th, 2014. The theme for Issue Twelve will be Dependent Co-arising. Submissions do not have to be thematic, although we hope a theme will offer some helpful inspiration and provide the issue with a discernible spirit. Issue Twelve is scheduled to be published at the beginning of March 2014.


Book: John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoetics

9781441117526John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoetics, by Peter Jaeger

[from publisher’s website]

John Cage was among the first wave of post-war American artists and intellectuals to be influenced by Zen Buddhism and it was an influence that led him to become profoundly engaged with our current ecological crisis. In John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoetics, Peter Jaeger asks: what did Buddhism mean to Cage? And how did his understanding of Buddhist philosophy impact on his representation of nature? Following Cage’s own creative innovations in the poem-essay form and his use of the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching to shape his music and writing, this book outlines a new critical language that reconfigures writing and silence.

Interrogating Cage’s ‘green-Zen’ in the light of contemporary psychoanalysis and cultural critique as well as his own later turn towards anarchist politics, John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoetics provides readers with a critically performative site for the Zen-inspired “nothing” which resides at the heart of Cage’s poetics, and which so clearly intersects with his ecological writing.

Table Of Contents
Series Editors Introduction \ Preface: The Buddhist Quilting Point \ Cage – Scalapino – Davies \ Reading New Buddhist Poetry \ Further Reading \ Index Continue reading

Bones Will Crow: 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets – review

Sean O’Brien
The Guardian
Friday 8 February 2013

Long faced by the permafrost of dictatorship, Burma’s poets have deployed metaphor to ingenious effect

Novice monks look out of their dormitory window at the Pathain Monastery in Burma

The modernist phase of Burmese poetry, known as khitsan (meaning “testing the times”), emerged in the 1930s from Rangoon University and was associated with opposition to British colonial rule. Since then, poetry in Burma has retained a political significance unthinkable in the west. The odd dim schoolteacher aside, who would seek to censor poets in Britain, for example? When the military seized power in 1962, Burma became in many respects a closed country, culturally as well as politically – “a Stone Age cave sealed by stones”, in the words of Maung yu Pi in ‘The Great Ice Sheet’, leaving “a great culture, dilapidated and yellowing”. Poetry, with a long and distinguished history in Burma, is a form to which the country’s readers naturally turn. Under the permafrost of dictatorship, poets needed ways to write without finding half the words inked out. They proved as ingenious in metaphor as the times required. Continue reading

Does a Cow Go “Mu”?: An Interview with Buddhist Poet Dick Allen

16 Jan 2013

Dick AllenDick Allen is the current poet laureate of Connecticut, a position he’ll hold until 2015. Allen has studied Buddhism for over 50 years, since meeting Alan Watts one quiet autumn afternoon at Syracuse University, where Allen took the country’s first undergraduate credit course in Zen Buddhism in 1960. Allen is most drawn to “crazy Zen,” and many of his Buddhist poems are written, he says, to “Americanize Buddhism and Zen Buddhism through the use of American landscapes, American icons like Coca-Cola, and Apple computers placed alongside cloudy mountains and brooms sweeping Buddhist temple floors.”

Heavily influenced by the Cold Mountain poems of Han Shan, Allen is currently completing a 300-poem collection to be titled The Zen Master Poems, as well as a book-length epic poem,The Neykhor, based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. His poem, “After a heavy, clinging snow,” appears in the current issue of Tricycle. Continue reading

Finding Zen and Book Contracts in Beijing

Author and translator Bill Porter

The New York Review of Books
Ian Johnson

It’s a Sunday afternoon and Beijing’s biggest bookstore is preparing for a major event: the launch of a new book by a bestselling American author, who will be on hand for the occasion. Six-foot banners on the sidewalk out front announce the talk, along with posters in the windows and a big display of books in the foyer of the 170,000-square-foot store. Up on the sixth floor, a conference room filled with sixty people quietly awaits….Bill Porter.

Few people in the West have heard of Porter, a translator of Chinese poetry and religious works whose books in print—many of them published by a small non-profit, Copper Canyon Press—rarely sell more than a thousand copies each year. For most of the past decade, he says, his annual income has hovered around $15,000. Several of his books humorously thank the US Department of Agriculture—for providing food stamps that have kept him and his family going.

But Porter, who translates under the pen name Red Pine (赤松), has also published two minor classics of Chinese travel writing, Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits and Zen Baggage: a Pilgrimage to China—works that have recently gained him a huge Chinese following, thanks to a small but growing new publishing culture for foreign authors. Continue reading