Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk

Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk

Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk

Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk


Lucien Stryk has been a presence in American letters for almost fifty years. Those who know his poetry well will find this collection particularly gratifying. Like journeying again to places visited long ago, Stryk's writing is both familiar and wonderfully fresh.

For those just becoming acquainted with Stryk's work, "Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk" makes an excellent introduction. It includes his early essay, The American Scene Versus the International Scene, written shortly after his service in the Pacific during World War II, and Digging In, his first published poem, as well as some of his best-known pieces on Zen and Zen poetry. Among the latter are Beginnings, Ends, Poetry and Zen, I Fear Nothing: A Note on the Zen Poetry of Death, and his introduction to the great haiku poets, Issa and Basho. Selections of his most recent work include The Red Rug: An Introduction to Poetry, and an imagined conversation among all four leading haiku poets called Meeting at Hagi-no-Tera.

Porterfield's informative collection includes essays about Stryk's work as well as his own prose and poetry. As the volume makes clear, writing poetry is for Lucien Stryk a sacred act. It is both escape and communion, inseparable from life's daily activities."


Lucien Stryk is a prominent figure of American arts and letters. He has been writing steadily, strongly for nearly five decades, so that the body of his work, both poetry and prose, is large. His Collected Poetry (1953-1983) appeared in 1984, although since then he has published two other volumes of poetry. His prose, however, had yet to be compiled. Originally, I had hoped to include all of Stryk's prose, but as I worked, and as this book grew, considerations of length compelled me to make some difficult decisions. I chose not to print his reviews, some of them quite lengthy, nor the articles he wrote for the Chicago Daily News in the 1960s, nor any of his short stories, composed early in his career. There were, in addition, numerous miscellaneous pieces -- short introductory essays to books of poetry, commentaries on various writers, even contributions to reference works of poetry -- that I did not include.

I also needed to be selective about which of the many interviews that have been conducted with Stryk to use. Because interviewers quite naturally asked him similar questions, some repetition is inevitable. The two interviews I ultimately chose, however, contribute something fresh to one's understanding of poetry and of Stryk's work.

I like to think of this book as one a reader can wander around in, if he or she chooses, stopping here and there, drawn to this essay or to that interview as the desire or need dictates. The book has a loose chronological structure, but more than attempting to establish chronology, I wanted to group pieces that by virtue of their placement might rub against each other to create light if not flame.

I would like to thank, first of all, Lucien Stryk for his patience in answering my many questions and for all his gracious help. I would also like to thank Craig Abbott for sharing the findings of the descriptive bibliography of and about Stryk's work he continues to compile. I am indebted to Stephen Berg who has been most generous in granting permissions and in directing me to material for possible inclusion. Ralph J. Mills, Jr. offered . . .

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