Friday, February 1, 2013


I'm sorry to say I knew Lucien Stryk had died  because after years on end of no one coming for his books of poems or wonderful anthologies, and lessons of zen, someone ordered one of his books of poems from our bookshop. A sure sign something was up in poetry heaven. The same thing happened today for Anselm Hollo. Yes, poets will take what they can get. But something more must also come, a little bit more of us.

Here are some of Lucien Stryk's poems from that book many poets still have in their libraries, Awakenings (Swallow Press 1973)


The Edge

Living that year at the edge
of the ravine,
sloped down to the woods, we listened

to the animals before the town
awoke, blurring
the limits of our days,

forcing its round, the needs
of others.
Near sleep, after loving, we felt

part of a stillness with the dark
and all its creatures,
holding to the edge of where we lived.


Homage To Hakuin, Zen Master, 1685-1768


Shoichi brushed the black
on thick.
His circle held a poem
like buds
above a flowering bowl.

Since the moment of my
this bowl, an "earth device,"
nothing but the dawn.


A freeze last night, the window's
laced ice flowers, a meadow drifting
from the glacier's side. I think of Hakuin:

"Freezing in an icefield, stretched
thousands of miles in all directions,
I was alone, transparent, and could not move."

Legs cramped, mind pointing
like a torch, I cannot see beyond
the frost, out nor in. And do not move.


I balance the round stone
      in my palm,
turn it full circle,

slowly, in the late sun,
      spring to now.
Severe compression,

like a troubled head,
      stings my hand.
It falls. A small dust rises.


Beyond the sycamore
dark air moves
westward —

smoke, cloud, something
wanting a name.
Across the window,

my gathered breath,
I trace
a simple word.


My daughter gathers shells
where thirty years before
I'd turned them over, marveling.

I take them from her,
make, at her command,
the universe. Hands clasped,

marking the limits of
a world, we watch till sundown
planets whirling in the sand.


Softness everywhere,
snow a smear,
air a gray sack.

Time, Place. Thing.
Felt between
skin and bone, flesh.


I write in the dark again,
rather by dusk-light,
and what I love about

this hour is the way the trees
are taken, one by one,
into the great wash of darkness.

At this hour I am always happy,
ready to be taken myself,
fully aware.


Lucien Stryk died on January 24 at St. John's Hospice on London. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.