Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Afternoon with Lucien Stryk

A quick post for a Sunday holiday afternoon: in a comment by Greg Schwartz to the last post concerning Basho translations, he mentioned the work of Lucien Styrk. I thought I'd point out in a followup post that besides the Basho translations On Love and Barley, Stryk is known for his own poety and his two most popular volumes, The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry and Zen Poems of China and Japan: The Crane's Bill, which were translated with Takashi Ikemoto. Lover's of Issa, as I am, also delight in his sparse translations of 366 haikus, The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa.

I discovered an interview and poetry reading by Stryk at, a great audio site dedicated to the poem. It's a long program, but conveniently divided into digestible pieces. The reading, to a certain extent, is droll and perhaps a bit pedantic, but don't be fooled: the work is quite good and the insights even better. Stryk is passing the history and wisdom on to those interested.

There are more than a few insightful moments in this interview/reading. Section three, "Three Poems", opens up with one of his own poems, "The Cormorant." This is of interest particularly in light of his translation of the Basho cormorant poem highlighted in the last post. In the next section, section four, he mentions the zen idea of how one "shouldn't look at things but as things", its relevance to the poet, and how it is so much in the spirit of Basho the zen master. He reads a few of Basho's haiku in the section "A Few Haiku Translations", along with 2 by Buson.

Section 13 contains quite a few readings of Issa's work and here is a real gem from there:


Where there are humans
you'll find flies,
and Buddhas.
translated by Lucien Stryk




Charles Gramlich said...

I don't think I've heard of stryk, but that sample is dead on and cutting.

Greg Schwartz said...

Thanks for the heads up about Stryk... I just added "Dumpling Field" to my wish list. I had no idea his work was so prevalent.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, you and the poem are right on the mark.

Greg, glad you gave me a chance to highlight some of Stryk's work and I've been perusing his Issa again and it is very good.


Greg Schwartz said...

if he can do with Issa what he can do with Basho, i can't wait to read it. thanks!

grh said...

Also, Stryk's translation of the Zen poems of Shinkichi Takahashi, called "Triumph of the Sparrow". Marvelously inventive poems.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Greg, I'll be interested in your reaction to Stryk's Issa ... congrats, also, on your Sketchbook haiku ...

grh, ah, yes, Triumph of the Sparrow, I forgot. Very good, indeed.