Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kenneth Rexroth

"Kenneth Rexroth", number 120 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

In this miniature, Aitken Roshi cries out praise for one of his contemporary poets, Kenneth Rexroth. Till I did a little research, I didn't have a clue who this Kenneth Rexroth was. Turns out he was influential in the beat poetry scene and a prolific translator of Japanese and Chinese women's poetry.

He was friends with Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Ledgend has it that Jack Kerouac hit on Kenneth's daughter causing a rift between Kenneth and Jack. He spent time in the Marblemount region of the North Cascades, the same area so influential in the poetry of Synder, Whalen and Kerouac. An organizer of the infamous Six Gallery poetry reading of October 13, 1955.

In trying to educate myself about Kenneth Rexroth, I found the Wikipedia article on him to be quite helpful.

I found a small sampling of Kenneth Rexroth's poems on line at Bureau of Public Secrets.


This world of ours, before we
Can know its fleeting sorrows,
We enter it through tears.
Do the reverberations
Of the evening bell of
The mountain temple ever
Totally die away?
Memory echoes and reechoes
Always reinforcing itself.
No wave motion ever dies.
The white waves of the wake of
The boat that rows away into
The dawn, spread and lap on the
Sands of the shores of all the world.

As the full moon rises . . .

As the full moon rises
The swan sings
In sleep
On the lake of the mind.

"... But surely he'll be rediscovered." Thank you, Roshi. Kenneth Rexroth has been rediscovered.

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.

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