I like Zen poetry. I don’t really know what that phrase means for sure—Zen poetry—but I totally dig haiku, and have thoroughly enjoyed Korean Zen poet Ko Un‘s Flowers of a Moment in fits and starts since I found it on the Bargain Books rack at the U bookstore.
My rhythmic rhyming friend Jinglebob would not call this poetry. It’s form is formlessness, I suppose. Spacing, punctuation, subject matter—unpredictable. The poet finds unexpected hints of universal truths and shared emotion in mundane occurrences and natural surroundings. Beauty in simplicity—a sentence or turn of phrase set apart from its surroundings to make you see in a new way.
Gibberish you say? My “review” or this “poetry”?
I wonder what makes Ko Un a poet. Is anything lost in the translation from Korean to English? Or is it like a photographer acquaintance of mine, who, when I asked why he was considered a pro when both of us shoot dozens of photos to get one perfect shot, said something like, “The difference is, I know when I’ve got it.”
Whereas I generally had to wait until the prints came back to know if the film contained anything worthwhile…
Perhaps that’s the difference: perhaps the poet knows before he shares his poetry which words, which images will resonate, and throws the rest away. Whereas I’m just guessing.