Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Shell" by Shinkichi Takahashi (Translated by Lucien Stryk)

Back in the 1970s, when still living among the cornfields of Illinois, I remember listening—spellboundto my father-in-law’s bold 
resonance when reading us his translations of Shinkichi Takahashi’s contemporary Zen poems. Four decades later that voice 
blent with a Japanese poet’s vision moves me stillstirring the cycles of life and death while I paint the wavy image of a conch. 
And inspiring me to weave that painting into a video combining both their spirits with my own.
                                                                                                                                      -- Suzanne




Nothing, nothing at all
    is born,
dies, the shell says again
    and again
from the depth of hollowness.
    Its body
swept off by tide—so what?
    It sleeps
in sand, drying in sunlight,
in moonlight.  Nothing to do
    with sea
or anything else.  Over
    and over
it vanishes with the wave.


Dan’s father, the American poet and translator of Buddhist 
literature, Lucien Stryk (1924-2013),* was instrumental in 
bringing this highly unorthodox Japanese writer (already 
locally renowned for poems melding experimental
freedom with traditional Zennist thought) to the attention
of the English-speaking world in Triumph of the Sparrow 
(Grove Press), a comprehensive volume of the 
Zen-inspired poetry of Shinkichi Takahashi (1901-1987).  

Lucien visiting Takahashi in the latter’s Tokyo study (1970). 

*See "Featured Post" (top left of this page) for a video based on two of Lucien's original poems.