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The Poetry of Zen

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EDITED AND TRANSLATED By SAM HAMILL AND J. P. SEATON
BOSTON AND LONDON: SHAMBHALA, 2007
208 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1590304259, PAPERBACK

Reviewed by Joe Gawrys

“Nothing’s worth noting that is not seen with fresh eyes,” Bashō says. Sam Hamhill and J. P. Seton’s The Poetry of Zen is a surprising, delightful new anthology of Zen.

The first surprise is the poets the book includes. The first, Lao Tzu, is perhaps not too much of a stretch since, as the authors say, “Zen is Taoist Buddhism,” or “Zen is Buddhist Taoism.” But, I never expected the Confucian poet Tu Fu or the Shingon poet Saigyō. The authors cast a wide net, including “poets not often associated formally with Zen institutions, or even Zen practice.” Indeed, they argue persuasively that there are even modern non-Buddhist American poets like Denise Levertov who express a Zen sensibility, though the book itself includes only Chinese and Japanese poets. Hamill and Seaton, in a very Zen way, refuse to be limited to Zen.

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