American Muse: Kenneth Rexroth

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“Hojoki”

A thing unknown for years, 

Rain falls heavily in June, 

On the ripe cherries, and on 

The half cut hay. 

Above the glittering 

Grey water of the inlet, 

In the driving, light filled mist, 

A blue heron 

Catches mice in the green 

And copper and citron swathes. 

I walk on the rainy hills. 

It is enough.

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In order to give readers a fuller appreciation of the mood that Rexroth has created in his poem, I have placed below the opening lines of the original “Hojoki,” translated as “The Ten Foot Square Hut.” Written in 1212 by Japanese Buddhist monk Kamo no Chomei, it captures the essence of “mujo,” or the transience of things.

“The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.”
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