Friday, October 06, 2006

Ikkyu, Meet Glenis

After the WordPlay show last Sunday, the first this season in which co-host Glenis Redmond could participate, I was struck by the eerie coherence of the event that had unfolded. It certainly wasn't planned; insofar as there had been a plan, it involved reading poems over music. I'd chosen some poems by the fourteenth century Japanese poet Ikkyu, an unconventional Zen monk, that I planned to read over flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal's lovely Japanese Melodies. Ikkyu's work, though, includes erotic poems. Did I mention that Ikkyu was unconventional? Here's one, in John Stevens' translation:

A Woman's Sex

It has the original mouth but remains wordless;
It is surrounded by a magnificent mound of hair.
Sentient beings can get completely lost in it
But it is also the birthplace of all the Buddhas of the ten thousand worlds.

A man's erotic poetry celebrates the feminine - the Goddess in woman - so Ikkyu's poems actually resonated, I thought, with the poems Glenis read, some of her own, some by other strong women poets. Listen to it and see what you think.

(The poem is from Ikkyu, Wild Ways, translated by John Stevens, published by White Pine Press, Buffalo, NY, 2003.)

(Cross-posted with minor edits at WordPlay)

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