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on 25 July 2011
Rhetorics has been the backbone of Western poetry for centuries. Poets and sophists met each other often going out on the razzle in Athens, in Rome, in Constantinople until they were declared personae non gratae, that is, disliked gents by Saint Agustine, for instance, and so the Christian Church, Catholic or Orthodox, highlighted that there was a nexus between poetry and the evil genius. It was never the case under the umbrella of Buddhism and Taoism and so Zen meditation practice has been the backbone of poetry for centuries in China, Japan, Korea or Vietnam. Meditation and attention were linked together, not in Europe, not in Westen culture where many poets have been minstrels or preachers. Jane Hirshfield knows very well the Zen poetic tradition in Asia and in California and the first essay in her book Nine Gates: entering the mind of poetry correlates poetry and the mind of concentration. The first lecture summarized in this new book is on Hiddenness as the foundation of poetry, that is Mysticism and what is meant by ineffable experiences in life, that pivot point of said and unsaid. It is a joy to be hidden, but it is a disaster not to be found. Zen poets are read and suggest the readers how to find out what they are looking for. The second lecture deals with the issue of uncertainty, and so divination, what poets do and economists do. Beyondism is the religion of gamblers and scientists, also of politicians and business men and women. They may learn a lot if they get used to read poetry more often. The third lecture discloses the role of surprise in good poetry. It is the domain of Satori as the sliding door to nirvana, Epiphany celebrations in Christmas anniversary, or Enlightment and Illuminati, many of them sinnister-looking characters after the Inquisition or Royal Crown morale standards. So poets were considered shadowy masterminds behind events, but rarely the power behind the throne. "Poetry reminds of the useless of the useful, it reminds as well of the usefulness of the useless" (Hirshfield says in p.60). This is a symptomatic statement made a few weeks ago by the International Monetary Fund, both have expertise on this, and, why not?, prime ministers and credit rating agencies.
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