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URTHONA Buddhist arts journal covers all aspects of contemporary and traditional arts from a Western Buddhist perspective. It is published annually in a high quality, 68 page,  glossy magazine format, and is beautifully designed.

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Urthona – the landscape: Our guardian spirits are the romantic and revolutionary writers of early 19th century London – Blake, Hazlitt and Coleridge – and the Zen poets of Japan who were similarly drawn to the open, outer reaches of mind and culture.  Our founding inspiration came from the Western Buddhist teacher Sangharakshita. More about our vision in ABOUT URTHONA above.

Scroll down this page for URTHONA editor’s blog: in depth and  insightful commentary on art, life and culture.

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URTHONA MASTER

CURRENT ISSUE 32 – Goddesses East and West.

To buy your copy go to URTHONA SHOP page.

The image of an all powerful goddess of nature is one of the most prevalent religious images of our times. In this issue we explore how the goddess has much to offer Buddhists and others, and how she represents the image of a sacred, interconnected cosmos which is the antidote to the materialism of our age. Including: Continue reading

New Collection from Buddhist Poet

Review SolitudeFrontCoverThe Solitude of Small Doors, Ananda (Stephen Parr)

Wolf at the Door, Bristol 2015, £11.52, pb, 250 pp

(To order go to Lulu.com and search for Stephen Parr

Reviewed by Ratnagarbha

Ananda’s major new collection, The Solitude of Small Doors has a distilled reflectiveness about it. We get the feeling that this is the fruit of a lifetime of reflection, observation and wrangling with the intractibles of this precious, confusing all to brief event we call human life. But human life, in Ananda’s universe, is always reflected and refracted through things, things vividly alive that speak to the poet, each in its own idiosyncratic voice. The kind of things you find in dank back yards:

ropes that parted like rotting

asparagus at the lightest touch.

(‘Sudden Pianos’)

or ‘a small gate’ that ‘hangs open’ in ‘This is the Time’ – gates open, half open, closed, giving onto strangeness, abound in this collection as the title hints.

Perhaps this ‘thingness’ at the threshold is why, early in the collection, we find William Carlos Williams referenced twice, in pointed variations on two of the most famous ‘thing poems’ ever written – the red wheelbarrow and the plums in the fridge. This wheelbarrow poem points out that interconnection is everything: so much indeed depends on the red barrow, but the barrow itself depends on:

everything else that was quietly

alive

 in that moment: freedom, sunlight, birdsong

and someone

 digging over his vegetable patch

(‘So Much Depends’)

This is a poet who is not afraid to tackle big themes. He is rarely content, as was Williams, to simply let an object speak for itself. But this is often a strength. Poetry magazines bulge with thing poems that don’t quite lift off the page. All of the work here has something to say, about life and what it means, or doesn’t mean:

the way that the in-breath and the out-breath

are the same shapes as childhood and old age

and the way sometimes for a moment we get it

and it redeems all the wrong roads we’ve taken

and the way whichever direction we face

there is the entire measureless dark, which saves us

(‘Wabi Sabi’)

A recurrent theme is the cosmos, images from astronomy abound, and are wielded to considerable effect such as ‘the great spiral in the dark, / that flows beyond Alpha Centaurus’ in ‘The Sign’. Even looking for an object in a drawer (in ‘The Search’) becomes an event, or non event, that requires the poet to roll up ‘the river of thoughts’ then ‘years, decades, lifetimes… time and space itself.’ Heady stuff indeed. What prevents this settling heavy on the poetic digestion is that many of the lyrics are quietly, gently humorous, as they plumb the black depths. Ananda reflects constantly on the ridiculousness of limited consciousness, sends himself (the poet) up, reminds himself what a fool he’s been, as in ‘How to Become a Poet’ where he finally misses ‘the last train back to civilization’, or ‘Heaven’s Gate’ where he ruefully realizes that Blake (‘Old Bill’) forgot to mention that in order to wind in the golden thread that leads to heaven’s gate, you must while hanging on ‘let go completely’.

This is a long, rich collection, the fruits of the last several years of intense poetic creativity, truly a late flowering. A book to be taken away on holiday, and savored at leisure, not too much at a time, just one or two poems, then a walk by the river, or a cup of tea. For they all remind us how to ‘walk fearlessly in the ragged lane of our lives’, and the best thing is to read, then walk off into your life, feeling richer and lighter, for this man’s honest appraisal of just how difficult it is to wake, then walk, safely though the ‘lightning of old terrors’.

 

 

 

A quest for contours in East Anglia

A Deacon Hill

Deacon Hill, at the east end of the Chilterns

It was spring and I wanted to climb a hill, but not too far away. Too much driving, surely, equals alienation. Best to stay within a day’s journey on horse or camel back. Let the crabbed soul come along for the ride. No more than one hour’s drive then. I would give in to contour lust, follow Ruskin, worshipper of the Alps, in my own humble quest for ascent.  Continue reading

Petrarch, Sonnets in translation

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Francesco Petrarca (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), commonly written in English as Petrarch, was one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero‘s letters is often credited with initiating the 14th-century Renaissance. His love sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance and became a model for lyrical poetry. They were all written to express his love for a mysterious highborn lady called Laura, who certainly never returned his affection and may not even have existed. Nevertheless his anguished sonnets to her set the standard for lyrical love poetry up until the present day. Not so well known and celebrated as Dante in the English-speaking lands, his story is fascinating and his emotions are as fresh now as they were hundreds of years ago. Here is my attempt to translate his first sonnet to Laura, in its original rhyming scheme.

Sonnet I

All you who’ve heard in wandering scraps of rhyme
The sighs on which I fed my foolish heart
When in youth’s confusion I felt the dart
Of love – I was not then what I’ve become –
Who mark the reasoned sorrows that are found
Throughout my songs, of hope and fear bred,
I pray, if ever for love your heart has bled,
Then may your pity be with pardon crowned.
But now too well I see how my good name
Has been embroiled in long lived public scorn.
Myself I must convict of foolish schemes,
And the fruit of all my foolishness is shame
With deep repentance of the knowledge born
That life’s sweet joys are merely fleeting dreams.