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.