Kundalini Splendor

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mountain Sounds (Shih Shu) (poem) 

mountain sounds carry a chill wisdom

By Shih Shu
(1660? - 1740?)

English version by James H. Sanford

mountain sounds carry a chill wisdom
an upwelling spring whispers subtle tales
pine breezes stir the fire beneath my tea
bamboo shadows soak deep into my robe

I grind my ink: clouds scraping across the crags
copy out a verse: birds settling on branches
as the world rolls right on by
its every turn tracing out non-action

-- from The Clouds Should Know Me By Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China, Edited by Red Pine

Here is Ivan's comment about the poem:

"Shih-shu" is a term that can be translated as "rock and bark poetry" -- nature poetry that often poked fun at the bustle of city life and city mind. Rather than brushed onto fine paper, shih-shu poems were scratched into pieces of bark, bamboo, or rocks.

In the early 1700s, one poet took the term as a nom de plume, making it difficult to know much about the author... other than through the poems themselves.

Somehow, I (Dorothy) find this kind of poem quite fascinating. The notion that the poet writes not for fame or glory, but for the honor of writing the poem, is truly delightful. Like the Navajo or Tibetan sand painter, he creates his work of art and then leaves it to find its way to whoever might need it (or perhaps just for the wind and "mountain sounds.")

It also recalls the ancient Tibetan termas and tertons--ancient wisdom sayings and prophecies, hidden by gods in stones and trees for later humans to discover.

In a way it also reminds me of some poets today who do not publish in book or magazine format, but post their work for all to see, free of charge. These sites, like many of the shih shu writings, are probably destined to be ephemeral, but then isn't everything?

(I found this poem on Ivan Granger's wonderful newsletter which he publishes free of charge, and sends to anyone who requests it. See his www.poetry-chaikhana for how to sign up.)

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