, , , ,

Dear poets & friends,

On behalf of the dVerse team, we are wishing you all Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year!!! This is our last post for 2022 and we will go into a holiday break for the next 2 weeks. dVerse will officially resume on Jan. 2, 2023 with a Haibun prompt.


One doesn’t have to practice Zen Buddhism to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of Zen poetry. Looking deeper with understanding will enhance any experience and Zen poetry is the perfect conduit. Zen Poetry is any contemplative piece that shares a moment of awareness as a result of deep meditation.

Zen (Japanese) or Chan (Chinese) literally means meditation and Zen Buddhists believe that meditation is at the center of the journey to enlightenment. “Zen lies beyond the details of words and letters, outside mental conditions, in the inconceivable, in what ultimately cannot be grasped.” From Sources of Japanese Traditions, Wm Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene, George Tenabe & Paul Varley, 2001 Columbia University Press, pg 307.

Most schools of Buddhism cite particular scripture to support their specific form of practice. In contrast, Zen Buddhism rejects such authority, encompasses many diverse practices and cites ancestral lineage as its authority. The Zen school claims direct ancestral lineage passed in unbroken succession from Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, to today. Teachings are passed from master to disciple, often without words.

Zen disciples strive to live a pure life. There are 5 moral precepts that are practiced but wisdom and enlightenment carry more emphasis. With wisdom and enlightenment the 5 precepts should be easily followed.

Zen came from India to China in the 6th century and on to Japan in the 8th century.

Zen Chinese monks were the first to write poetry as an extension of their meditation. Therefore the earliest Zen poems were written in the Chinese style of the time, quatrains with lines of equal length, often the lines parallel each other. The first Japanese disciples studying in China continued the tradition of Chinese style writing and brought it home to the Japanese monasteries.

By Wang Tai (?701-761), Translated by Witter Bynner. Zen Poems, page 40.

By Bai Juyi (772-846), Translated by Ching Ti. Zen Poems, page 84.

Ten Poems by Otagashi Rengetsu (1791-1875)

Translations by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Joan Halifax

Autumn Moon
Fearing my past is exposed
to the moon,
I keep looking down
this evening.

Water in an Old Temple
Leaking from the rock
in an old temple,
water barely trickles –
the voice
of the lingering dharma.

Brush Doodling
Just playing
not doing
anything special –
the drawn traces
of an ink-soaked brush.

Snow on Water
I see it dust
the river wind
then vanish –
fragile snow over water
disappears from my sight.

Firefly in the Field
Even if a thought
of the firefly grass
it may light up as a firefly
in a remote field.

like white clouds
from beginning to end –
a thing of mystery
is this heart.

Longing in the Wind
I await my beloved
who is not yet here.
The moon in the pines
and voice of the wind
provoke my longing.

Evening Plum Blossoms
The perfume of plum blossoms
reaches even the sleeves
of my ink-dyed robe –
my aching heart
penetrates the evening.

My Wish Under the Moon
How I wish
to die in autumn
not to be lost,
even in darkness.

Death Poem
My wish is to see
a cloudless moon
above the lotus flower
in my next life.

Over time, Zen poetry has evolved into what it is now – free verse with no  common form.    Zen poetry can be written in any style, any language. What is clear however, is that it is written with an economy of words and nature-focused imagery.    Zen poetry requires the poet to be aware and in the moment, connected to all that surrounds him. 

The challenge for today is to write zen poetry, with a focus on attaining moments of enlightment – or true clarity of mind — by emphasizing singular experiences.  

Sources:   here and here.  Photo from here.

To join us for Thursday’s Meeting the Bar, here’s how to join:
See you at the poetry trail. ~Grace~