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

American Poetry, Poetry

Molly Peacock – What If, When We Said I Love You, There Were A You To Love?

In order to really love, Thich Nhat Hanh proposes, we need to consider the elements of true love: benevolence, compassion, joy and freedom. But what about the more fundamental problem of selfishness? Can we ever love wholeheartedly in a way that puts the wellbeing of the other person - our beloved or a stranger -… Continue reading Molly Peacock – What If, When We Said I Love You, There Were A You To Love?

American Poetry

Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poem on Loss and Kindness

Victor Hugo's claim that 'Those who do not weep do not see,' is echoed here by poet Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem Kindness. Sorrow and grief will soften and open up our hearts, priming them for kindness and compassion in a way that's never quite possible before the experience of a devastating loss. Our… Continue reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poem on Loss and Kindness

Irish Poetry, Poetry

When Human Beings Found Out About Death – Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney wrote this heartbreaking poem in memory of his friend Donatus Nogwa in 1995. The story follows an Igbo legend about the loss of innocence and the overwhelming strength of the concept of everlasting death whose spell can't be broken even by great chiefs or great loves. Wicklow, the place mentioned in the poem's… Continue reading When Human Beings Found Out About Death – Seamus Heaney