Versions of Zen MastersBook - 2008
"We need poets like this. Mr. Berg relentlessly describes what we would often prefer to forget but can't allow ourselves to forget."-- The New York Times Book Review
Certain poems of Zen masters, including work by Ikkyu, Basho, and Dogen, have haunted and nourished readers from around the world for centuries--and Steven Berg for fifty years. Driven to know "what these people thought, believed, felt," Berg rewrote existing translations to create provocative, energized, and multilayered versions.
These are not new poems, nor are they old poems. These are explorations into the deeper resonances of Zen masters, expounding on the simple themes of the minute and overpowering. This is Zen poetry to the core, nodding to the poets who came before while breathing new life into the forms and meanings.
"Deathsong, by Hakuin"
Punch your fist mind of a fist through this black wall al-
ways in front of you always the next step you can't
take as you walk into it through it but can't
because it's who you are but can't be do not want
to be nothing but the place where you were are won't
be slam this fist of a fist into the wall that
isn't even here built of the billion nows yous
which when it finally is you finally face it you
pass through like a raw black breath
Stephen Berg is the founder and co-editor of The American Poetry Review and author of numerous collections of poetry and translations. He lives in Philadelphia.