in the very act...


In a bitter wind
a solitary monk bends
to words cut in stone

        (Trans. Sam Hamill)


The image the poem creates is quite real – a moment of connection. A monk, on a harsh winter’s day, bends to read words, and the words – transcending time – meet the eyes of their reader. Words wait for us – not to give them meaning – but for us to understand ourselves. Hamill’s translation empowers each line – wind, bends, solitary, stone – giving the words more than strict denotation might allow.

Buson, refusing to explain details of location or circumstance or content, is focused on revealing the connection between the individual and the object, and it is that connection that is of great worth. A wonderful paradox – the scene is reminiscent of the frozen, unfinished actions of various figures painted on Keats’ famous urn. In Buson’s work, readers witness the be-ing of the moment – out of time. A monk is bending, an artisan is carving, the reader, reading. The poem ends before the monk reads the message. The words the poet imagines remain invisible to us – enlarging their possibility.

At any given moment – the very act of that moment – changes the universe.


Dennis said...

Sam – How do you do it? How do you unpack so much meaning from so little? I’m blown away. I read your commentaries and just repeat over and over, “Yes! I didn’t see that, but now it’s so obvious.” Clearly it’s all in there, I just wish I had the wisdom to see it myself. For now I’ll just keep learning at your feet.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for reading, Dennis. Buson is a great one.