Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday: Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

by Philip Whalen

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly question
A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick
                         splashed picture—bug, leaf,
                         caricature of Teacher
    on paper held together now by little more than ink
    & their own strength brushed momentarily over it
Their world & several others since
Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it—
Cheered as it whizzed by—
& conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejars
Happy to have saved us all.

I admit that this is the only Philip Whalen poem I have read. I loved this poem when I saw it in the Shambhala Sun (thank you, Shambhala Sun, for the artwork, which I scanned from your magazine -- consider this my request for permission) and I thereupon bought the Collected Poems. The book is two inches thick and runs 871 pages.

I think I could have done with a Selected Poems.

After a respectful number of days/weeks/months/years have passed, I will give the book away. Maybe to my neighbor, a poet himself whose livingroom walls are laid in poetry books, since he greeted the book with, "Hey, Philip Whalen! Great!"  (My husband is a poet as well, but I won't allow our livingroom walls to be more than partially composed of poetry books; also, he greeted the book with a calm indifference.) For now, it sits on my "Buddhist/Writing" shelf, along with One Continuous Mistake and Momma Zen.

Once upon a time, I used to write poetry myself. Now, just the occasional haiku.  However, when I write my children's books, they often take form, in my mind and on the page, as poems. Particularly Polar Bear Night and my latest, The Christmas Magic. But more on that some other time.

Propers due:

Philip Whalen, "Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis" text and art from The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen copyright © 2007 by Brandeis University Press and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen (Wesleyan University Press, 2007) 

P.S. When my husband read this post, he exclaimed, "Don't give away the Philip Whalen! I do want to read it. I was waiting for you to be done with it." I've turned the book over to him.

Who knew how important blogging could be to marital harmony?

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