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March 24 , 2010

The Poetry of Zen


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Narrow Road to the Interior

Here is the most complete single-volume collection of the writings of one of the great luminaries of Asian literature. Basho (1644–1694)—who elevated the haiku to an art form of utter simplicity and intense spiritual beauty—is best known in the West as the author of Narrow Road to the Interior, a travel diary of linked prose and haiku…

A Zen poem is nothing other than an expression of the enlightened mind, a handful of simple words that disappear beneath the moment of insight to which it bears witness. Poetry has been an essential aid to Zen Buddhist practice from the dawn of Zen—and Zen has also had a profound influence on the secular poetry of the countries in which it has flourished. Here, two of America’s most renowned poets and translators provide an overview of Zen poetry from China and Japan in all its rich variety, from the earliest days to the twentieth century. Included are works by Lao Tzu, Han Shan, Li Po, Dogen Kigen, Saigyo, Basho, Chiao Jan, Yuan Mei, Ryokan, and many others. Hamill and Seaton provide illuminating introductions to the Chinese and Japanese sections that set the poets and their work in historical and philosophical context. Short biographies of the poets are also included.

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