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

Indian Poetry, Sufi Poetry

Kabir – The Moon Shines in my Body

Kabir was a 15th century Indian mystic and poet who was also a weaver by trade. His vision combined the philosophies of Hinduism and Sufism, and he is considered both a Sufi and Brahmin saint. His poetry is rooted in nature and the experience of the ordinary, through which he seeks the 'unstruck drum of… Continue reading Kabir – The Moon Shines in my Body

Japanese Poetry, Poetry

Dogen’s Waka on Impermanence

Waka is a Japanese word for poem that surfaced more than a millenium ago to differentiate the Chinese kanshi poems from the work of local scribes. A waka can have a long or short form, and the short ones can often read like haikus, a poetic embodiment of transience. This short one was written by… Continue reading Dogen’s Waka on Impermanence

American Poetry, Poetry

Mary Oliver’s Morning Poem

Like the Zen poets of China and Japan, American poet Mary Oliver's work is deeply rooted in nature and her physical and ephemeral experience of the wilds that surround her. In Morning Poem, she communicates a deep optimism about the human condition; that even in the midst of heavy suffering, we can recognize a rightness… Continue reading Mary Oliver’s Morning Poem

American Poetry, Poetry

Jane Hirshfield’s “A Carbon-Based Life Form”

New York-born poet Jane Hirshfield studied Zen at the San Francisco Zen Center and at the monastery in Tassajara for a total of eight years before going on to garner a host of accolades for her poetry writing and editorial work.   "A Carbon-Based Life Form" A person tired from happiness grows sober. Another, worn… Continue reading Jane Hirshfield’s “A Carbon-Based Life Form”

Japanese Poetry, Poetry

Muso’s Green Mountains

Muso Soseki was a Japanese monk born in the 13th century who achieved satori at the age of 30 while staying in a hermitage in the countryside. One night he was walking about in the dark and reached out for a wall he thought was there. When he realized it wasn't, he gave a great… Continue reading Muso’s Green Mountains

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Swift Clouds and the Jewel Hare

This short poem by an 11th century Chinese poet called Gen of Kohoin is written as an uncomplaining, almost joyful anticipation of death. The Jewel Hare he refers to in the last line is a classic image for the moon, after the myth of the rabbit on the moon's face.   At ninety-nine, snowy side-locks,… Continue reading Swift Clouds and the Jewel Hare

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines

Cold Mountain (Han Shan) was a Chinese poet and hermit who wrote his poetry 1,200 years ago on the rocks, trees and temple walls of the Tientai Mountains where he lived. He was a Taoist and a Buddhist and though he was never critically acclaimed as a great poet, he's become a much loved persona… Continue reading Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines

Chinese Poetry, Chinese Texts, Poetry

The Hsin Hsin Ming

The Hsin Hsin Ming, known as the Shinjinmei in Japan, is attributed to Master Sengcan (Kanchi Sosan in Japanese), the third ancestor in China. One of the earliest Zen teaching poems from China, the Hsin Hsin Ming emphasizes that the Great Way is not involved in the game of opposites, and that in order to… Continue reading The Hsin Hsin Ming