American Poetry

There’s No Salvation in Elsewhere

'If nothing's here, nothing's there', writes poet Stephen Dunn about the instinct to believe that happiness is a place other than where we are, over the horizon, up in the sky, on the streets of a foreign city. If you are expecting to find salvation there, he says, all you'll find are reflections of the… Continue reading There’s No Salvation in Elsewhere

Chinese Poetry

A Lifetime is Empty Like the Void – Wang Wei

Considered one of China's greatest classical poets, 8th century Wang Wei was also a painter and musician, as well as a courtier and statesman during the Tang Dynasty. His art was deeply influenced by his study of Ch'an, whose philosophy was expressed through the simplicity of the images in both his paintings and his verses. … Continue reading A Lifetime is Empty Like the Void – Wang Wei

Chinese Poetry

Do Not Pass Your Days and Nights in Vain – Shitou’s Sandokai

The Sandokai, sometimes translated as The Harmony of Difference and Equality, was written by master Shitou – known as Sekito Kisen in Japanese – an 8th century Chinese monk, and a student of Huineng and Huineng’s successor, Qingyuan Xingsi (Seigen Gyoshi). The Sandokai was written at a time when there were two opposing factions within… Continue reading Do Not Pass Your Days and Nights in Vain – Shitou’s Sandokai

American Poetry, Poetry

Between Walls – William Carlos Williams

A pediatric doctor by training, Puerto Rican-American poet William Carlos Williams advanced his poetry by scribbling lines and ideas onto the notebooks of his medical profession. What grew out of this practice was a way of writing that was strikingly humane and attuned to the American vernacular. Between Walls is a simple poem that almost… Continue reading Between Walls – William Carlos Williams

American Poetry, English Poetry, Poetry

Following the Thread, Finer Than a Cobweb – Denise Levertov

Can we detect a guiding filament in our lives, like Ariadne's thread that led Theseus out of the labyrinth? Is there a constant that runs through this perpetually-changing existence that pulls us this way and that? What is the nature of that thread and where did it come from? Denise Levertov wonders at its origins in… Continue reading Following the Thread, Finer Than a Cobweb – Denise Levertov

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Dongshan’s Hokyo Zanmai – Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Within a tradition already rich with sublime poetry, the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi stands out as one of the most profound and beautiful verses to come out of 9th century China. The poem is attributed to master Dongshan Liangjie (known as Tozan Ryokai in Japan), who was the founder of the Caodong tradition… Continue reading Dongshan’s Hokyo Zanmai – Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Irish Poetry, Poetry

David Whyte on Love and Separation

If birth is a shock that whisks us out of another existence, a life that is whole and not lacking, then we can spend our whole lives in a state of longing for something we can't quite remember, that we can't quite articulate. In his poem about this kind of division and separation, 'Cleave', David… Continue reading David Whyte on Love and Separation

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Ch’i-chi’s Little Pines

The orphan Ch'i-chi became a monk at an early age and matured during the end of the T'ang era, which was a tumultuous time in China both socially and politically. Ch'i-chi gathered a lot of recognition during his life for his poetry and writing. 'Little Pines' is a meditation on time and the mystery of… Continue reading Ch’i-chi’s Little Pines

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe

The legendary inventor of the kyozo, the custom-made building for housing sutras, Fu Ta-shih (also known as Bodhisattva Shan-hui) was a 6th century Chinese poet and lay master. Below are two translations of one of his famous short poems or gathas.    Empty-handed, I hold a hoe. Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo. Passing… Continue reading Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe