What I’m Reading


2012/06/03 I read a chapter of Dogen “The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye” edited by Kaz Tanahashi and Peter Levitt. This line sticks: “Know that the practice of zazen [sitting meditation] is the complete path of Buddha dharma and nothing can be compared to it.” (Vol. 1. The Wandering Period, pg.11.) Although I do zazen, it is often for only 10 or 20 minutes a day, if that, and once a week for 50 minutes. It completely brings me into the present and allows me to stop and enter the silence. To just sit and be still. What a gift. It seems at though there is never enough time in each day to do all the things I need to do. But if I remember to practice Zazen and carry that practice into the garden and into my work, then there is plenty of time. It is limitless.

Today I also read several poems from Small Mechanics (2011) by Lorna Crozier. She read from this book on Friday, June 1 here on the island. This was a Theatre Alive event organized by Diana Hayes (whose latest book is “This is the Moon’s Work”  published by Mother Tongue Press.) Lorna had the whole audience laughing with “My Last Erotic Poem”. However, the poems in this collection that touch me most deeply are those that explore her grief. “Even flies have a mother,/ a hard-won grief.” 

2012/05/27

While reading The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, simultaneously, I borrowed the audio recording, read by the author. What fine listening on my way to and from work. This enriched the story, as it came to life through Michael’s voice. Through first person narration, he opens up the world and stories of a host of characters travelling for 21 days by ship from Colombo to England. This voyage shaped the lives of the travellers, especially the narrator. The friendships and experiences formed him. “On the Oronsay, however, there was the chance to escape all order. And I reinvented myself in this seemingly imaginary world…” from pg. 13, The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje.

Now I’m into something completely different with Jeanette Winterson’s new book, Why be Happy when You Could Be Normal? published in 2011. I heard about the book when she was interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on Writers’ and Co, CBC.  What captured my interest was not only the fact that she was adopted but also that her mother wouldn’t allow her to have books in the house. Jeanette hid books under her mattress until her mother found them, threw them out the window and burned them all. She survived by memorizing poems and prose. She knew that what was inside her could not be destroyed.

2012/o6/ 01

This morning, I’m reading Pablo Neruda “The Book of Questions“. Note the difference between the Spanish and English versions:

“Where did the full moon leave

its sack of flour tonight?”

 “Dónde dejó la luna llena

su saco nocturne de harina?”

from The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda, translated by William O’Daly, pg. 1, Copper Canyon Press, 2001.

What is not known, loving the questions themselves as Rilke wrote, is a way to open the self to the creative process and to the mystery of one’s true nature. At work (as a health nurse) while teaching sex education, I receive many anonymous questions from teenagers. I answer the questions to the best of my ability. However, as a poet, questions about life itself or what is observed in nature are enigmatic and  more like koans that Zen students contemplate. See my blog for a poem(2002) inspired by Neruda’s questions.