Just Published: from Ratnagarbha, an in depth essay of comparative mythology in the spirit of Joseph Campbell, comparing the foundational cosmic mythos of Buddhism, Platonism and Gnosticism. A fascinating look at how ancient stories about the origin of the cosmos have influenced different civilisations.
A journey into the scruffy outer zones of Cambridge, with camera in hand. Click below…
Contemporary composers who are strongly influenced by Buddhism are not often featured in the music press, but there are several very talented figures working currently. Here are four to note:
Akashadeva – David Earl
Coming up on the 15th of February at Poetry East, the London Buddhist Centre, an exploration of Auden’s great poem of political fears and disenchantment: ‘September 1st, 1939’, with Ian Samson who has recently published a book dedicated to an in-depth exploration of the poem.
But what would that great poet of political engagement in the twentieth century have made of the current state of the world? Would it have brought out the ambivalently committed English socialist of the earlier years, or the Christian humanitarian Auden of maturity? Would he have understood that modern right wing populism is not quite the same thing as the fascism that he knew, and proceeded to dissect the differences and similarities with prophetic brilliance?
A partial answer to these impossible questions is provided for me at any rate by the still pertinent introduction to Faber’s 1979 selection of Auden by Edward Mendelson:
” In Auden’s unbroken vision of history, the ancient discontents survived in contemporary forms, but so did the ancient sources of personal and literary vitality. Modernism, disenfranchised from the past by its own sense of isolated modernity, could bring literary tradition into the present only as battered ironic fragments as in Eliot or by visionary heroic efforts like Pound’s to ‘make it new’. For Auden, it had never grown old. A laconic old English toughness survived in his poetry as did an Augustan civility…. Modernism tended to look back toward the reigns of a native aristocracy, too often it found the reflected glory of ancient tradition in political leaders who promised to restore social grandeur and unity through coercive Force. Auden’s refusal to idealize the past saved him from comparable fits of mistaken generosity. His poems and essays present the idea of the good society as, at best, a possibility never actually to be achieved, but towards which one must always work.’
Optic Nerve is a Blakean project based in South London. Largely self-funded they are producing fascinating videos about poetry and contemporary music. Especially the black mountain poets and the Objectivist poets of 20th century America. And from Britain material on Elaine Feinstein – her ‘Song of Power’. I also highly recommend the interview with ‘the last living Objectivist’ Carl Rokosi in the ‘current projects’ section. There is much excellent work here in progress much of it needing funding to continue…
Urthona goes zen for our next issue due out next summer. American Zen. Buddhism and in particular Zen have had a profound influence on on American arts and literature over the last 100 years. We plan to cover:
* Buddhism and American poetry from Ezra Pound to Jane Hirshfield. And the Beats of course.
* Zen and Abstract Expressionism.
* Interview with a contemporary master of Zen brush painting.
Eversden wood is an ancient managed woodland in South Cambridgeshire. Rather than carpets of bluebells as in Hampshire or Somerset the insouciant flowers hide between ferns and saplings.
High summer approaches. For me this time of year is very much associated with that most aetherial of birds, the swift. I’m waiting eagerly for them to arrive. Remembering sitting in the garden at peace on summer afternoons; looking upwards into depth upon depth of blue, where the screaming swifts are seen looping through the sky in their great, unhindered gyres. So sad that their numbers have declined in recent years, not enough people have proper wooden eaves under which they can make their nests anymore.