The biennial Montreal Zen Poetry Festival aims to explore the relationship between Zen Buddhism and the literary arts, including the work of both contemporary poets and translators of Chinese and Japanese verse. The focus of Zen Buddhism is an insight “beyond words,” cultivated within the stillness of seated meditation; yet, paradoxically, the ineffable silence of Zen comes to life only amidst language and dynamic activity.
guests and events
The theme of our third edition of the Montreal Zen Poetry Festival is “silence always speaks”. The festival dates are March 10-13, 2011. Zen’s paradoxical relationship with language is well reflected by the festival's participants and proposed events. Award-winning poet Jane Hirshfield (After; Given Sugar Given Salt) writes from the depths of her formal Zen practice. She will lead a one-day poetry workshop and will headline Saturday night's reading event, alongside acclaimed poet, translator, typographer, Robert Bringhurst (past nominee for the Governor General’s Award and Griffin Poetry Prize). Bringhurst's language is imbued with moments of stillness, and delves into the thoughts and images of Zen masters and East Asian poets. Christopher Patton, Zen practitioner and poet (Ox), will join us from Salt Spring Island, BC to read from his latest work.
Kazuaki Tanahashi, translator of Zen Master Dōgen, master calligrapher, and Zen teacher, will present a calligraphy demonstration and three-day workshop, highlighting the play between word and image so essential to Chinese and Japanese culture.
Zen poet Steve Sanfield (USA’s first Storyteller-in-Residence) will be harmonizing his verse with the concerto of Paul Humphreys (composer, Zen practitioner) at Friday night's event. Sanfield will also employ his captivating storytelling skills to speak of the poetry of 103-year-old Zen Master Kyozan Joshu, his teacher of fifty years.
Bringhurst will join Victor Sōgen Hori (McGill) and Steven Heine (Florida International University) to discuss the nature of poetic language within their respective domains. After receiving his doctorate in Western philosophy, Hori trained for thirteen years as a Zen monk in Japan. He is an authority on formal poetic practice within Zen kōan training, as exemplified in his book Zen Sand, a major translation project of verses studied by Zen monks.
Prof. Steven Heine has authored or edited twenty books on themes of Zen and language, including translations of poems by the influential Dōgen. Heine will be presenting the Hsiang Lecture on Chinese Poetry at McGill University in collaboration with the Centre for East Asian Research.
Finally, we will feature readings by francophone Quebec poets, including Janick Belleau and Micheline Beaudry, who write within the Japanese poetic form tanka, bringing the traditional Buddhist themes of impermanence and interdependence into contemporary poetic practice.