Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu by Ikkyu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the John Stevens selection and translation of poetry from Ikkyū’s Crazy Cloud Anthology. Ikkyū was what might be called a mad sage of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. He once showed up at a temple in his vagabond rags and was turned away, when he came back the next day in the ceremonial robes that revealed him as a preeminent monk and was subsequently treated like royalty, he took the robes off and told the abbot that it was apparently the robes that were honored and deserving of a meal. Ikkyū was known not only for his rejection of dogmatic and highfalutin approaches to Buddhism, but also for his love of sex, brothels, meat eating, and poetry. Much of the poetry touches on those two subjects (disdain for dogma and pretension and love of pleasure,) though there are also poems that explore nature and the kind of imagery one might be more likely to expect in Japanese poetry.
Ikkyū mostly wrote in quatrains, using a Chinese style of verse. Though Ikkyū was no more dogmatic about following poetic protocols than he was following monastic precepts, and often went with the flow.
I read the Stephen Berg translation, Crow with No Mouth several years ago. I would put this one on par with that one. There are actually several translated selections from the Crazy Cloud Anthology poems that are available. If you are interested in Ikkyū’s poetry, this is as good a place to start as any. It should be noted that while some of the poetry is around sexuality, it’s not particularly graphic but more suggestive.
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Ikkyū’s Poetry: The John Steven’s Wild Ways Selection / Translation