issue 23 Summer 04
15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 24 | 25 | 26 | current

Open World

The Collected Poems 1960-2000
Kenneth White
Polygon 2003,

Kenneth White has described his three-fold approach to writing using the image of an arrow: his essays are the feathers, giving direction; his way-books are the shaft, dynamic exploration of the world; and his poems are the arrow-head, the point of it all. The publication of Open World marks 40 years of productive arrow-head honing.

This wonderful, highly recommended poetry collection is well named, offering a prescription for a wide-open engagement with the world around us.

This pool of water
holding rock and sky
traversed by the wing-flash of birds
is more my original face
than even the face of Buddha.

White's poems abound with fresh air, salt air, gulls and gannets, but also many pointers to open-minded thinkers, such as Eckhart, Duns Scotus, Pelagius, Han Shan, Basho, and Schopenhauer. Western Buddhists will find endless inspiration here - the Dharma is generally implicit but occasionally explicit:

where goes the world?
to the white
where goes the white?
to the void
where goes the void?
the void comes and goes
like the light.

White convincingly encourages us to get out into the wild world, engage with the chaos of it all, love it more, and converse with what is intelligent - from grey heron to Heraclitus, from boulder to Buddha. As he says: 'the world is always more open than we think'.