using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 67 |summer 2006 hubris, grievance, grief” in relation to the world of “jasper, feldspar, quartzite,” the “secretive, / rackety, domestic” workings of the heart in relation to the “calm exis- tence of things as they are.” Embracing both of those worlds as aspects of a sin- gle reality, Hirshfield negotiates between them, finding in the English language a meeting-point between thought and real- ity, human desire and things as they are. The human world, as portrayed in these poems, is largely that of samsara, a nexus of desire, aversion, and their emo- tional offspring. In contrast to the more common literary practice of depicting mental states through dramatic situations, Hirshfield most often chooses to isolate her subject and address it directly. Thus in “To Opinion,” she reifies that mental state and gives it her full attention: Many capacities have been thought to define the human – yet finches and wasps use tools; speech comes into this world in many forms. Perhaps it is you, Opinion. Though I cannot know for certain, I doubt the singing dolphins have opinions. This thought, of course, is you. A mosquito’s estimation of her meal, however subtle, is not an opinion. That’s my opinion, too. To think about you is to step into your arms? a thicket? pitfall? When you come rising strongly in me, I feel myself grow separate and more lonely. Even when others share you, this is so. Here “opinion” is identified with dis- cursive thought. To think about Opin- ion is to have an opinion about it. And thoughts in the form of opinions con- struct a separate self, which feels lonely even among its like-minded cohorts. As the poem progresses, however, Hirshfield recalls a line from the Buddhist priest Myoe (1173–1232): “Bright, bright, bright, bright, the moon.” And that invo- cation of pure being in turn reminds her of “whole minutes” during the previ- ous evening, when Opinion temporarily “released” her: “Ocean ocean ocean was these instances, as in her poem to Opin- ion, Hirshfield illuminates the role of lan- guage and dualistic thought in fabricating a self separate from nature. “We think we think with a self,” she observes in a poem addressed to Speech: “That also, it seems, is mostly you – / sometimes a spider’s thread of you, / sometimes a mountain.” To situate the “human” primarily in thought and speech is, of course, a risky enterprise, and at its most insistent, it can also seem a rather bloodless one, more suited to the seminar than the precincts of lyric poetry. At their most rarefied, Hirsh- field’s exact distinctions can seem merely fussy, her fine perceptions somewhat pre- cious. But on balance, After offers as lucid and vivid an exposition of the dharma as any recent book of prose or verse. In con- trast to many contemporary writers on ancient Buddhist themes, Hirshfield dem- onstrates a gift for finding fresh similes to express those themes, as when she por- trays a sneeze as a “dissolver of self and its zeals,” to whom we “bow ... as news- paper bows to the match.” And though her intellectual acuity and verbal brilliance sometimes usurp the foreground, they are more than balanced by her earthy domes- ticity and her attention to what she has called the lives of the heart. In these richly varied poems, those lives take multiple forms, but they find their most expansive and compassionate expression in a poem addressed to Hirshfield’s friend and fellow poet, the Polish Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004). “You studied Shaky- amuni’s teachings,” she recalls, “because he also could not turn his face from suf- fering, / though for you liberation required / a soul – singular, real, believing beyond any proof that it will last.” Having paid her respects, both to Milosz’s awareness of suffering and his steadfast Catholic beliefs, Hirshfield concludes her own poem by quoting and freely translating the last line of the Heart Sutra: Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha “Gone now, released one, far past returning, freed one, suffer no more.” Here, as often in Hirshfield’s poems, language and poetic form join forces with Buddhist insight to express her most pro- found awareness and her deepest feeling. Poetry and Zen become one. the sound the sand / made of the moonlit waves / breaking on it.” It is characteristic of Hirshfield to con- trast the samsaric human world with the sentient but unreflective world of nature, a realm of necessity and undivided action, where a badger experiences hunger and cold without naming or complaining of those conditions, and the sky simply exists, without memory, hope, or grievance. When the poet, suffering from insomnia, hears a small animal crossing her ceiling, she envies its freedom from doubt and hes- itation, likening its way of being to that of cut flowers in a vase. And as she contem- plates classical tragedy, where the evolving self of the tragic hero assumes the center of attention, she observes that the movement of a school of herring, glinting in the sun, has no need of plot, and that a “tragedy of donkeys or bees” is unimaginable. What separates the tragic human world from that of donkeys and bees is primar- ily thought, and for Hirshfield, thought originates in language. “Words are not the end of thought,” she bluntly declares, “they are where it begins.” And it is no accident that some of the most original poems in After concern the intricacies of language and the ways by which such minute parts of speech as conjunctions and prepositions impose human concep- tions on nonhuman reality. In “‘And’: An Assay,” she offers a striking example: The strange wind pressed on every- thing at once – A door blew open in one room, a vase fell in another. It is not unlike the word “and”: omnipresent even unseen. Before disappears. After transforms into others. “And” – that strong rock – stays standing. Undevourable thus of connection. Even death spits it back. Calling attention to three of the most inconspicuous words in the English lan- guage, Hirshfield reminds us of the power of those words to open or impede our perception of “thusness.” Elsewhere, she subjects the preposition “to” to similar scrutiny, likening the word to a cartoon figure, its body leaning forward, its “feet blurred / with the multiple lines that convey both momentum and hurry.” In