Lucien Stryk

Hearn in Matsue (1965)

That all was miniature gave him comfort
Of a sort,
And after the Lady, Ellen Freeman,

To whom he had written finally, “Do not
Disgust me,
Please—” the women were so otherwordly.

It was like a permanent exhibition
for which one
Scarcely had to be the connoisseur. In fact

He shut his eyes and took the nearest for both
Bed and name
(He had tired of his); was bowed into a house

Which brushed the river a crane’s cry from the
Daimyo’s Tower
Started fussing with the garden; pushed his wife’s

Few things around the room like chessmen; until
Pleased at last,
He braced for winter which, though wet, was very

Beautifying. He was often seen tramping from
The bathhouse,
Flesh a-tingle, all rose against the snow.

Came time to work: a cub again, he snuffed for
News in Old
Japan, and, stiff on haunches, englished along

With a nameless one or two, tales which drew
The expert’s
Touch like lacquered puzzle-boxes and, when solved,

Would gush from prospects charged with mountains
Called giraffes
Trees tense as wire, a moon which always snared

In pineboughs, and temples which could pull one
To the knees.
The fame did not surprise: it had awaited

Him like those fragrant ports of forty
Years ago
The tall black hulls of home. It fit him, and he

Wore it as he felt, deservingly. What as
Years crept by
He would not learn to bear, and ill deserved,

Was wife, friends, job, food, the too familiar
Land itself,
And now, in winter, the Siberian wind

That tore across the sea to heap him at
The brazier
For months, weak eyes pricked by dying charcoal.

It was then, remembering Shelley and his
Fading coal,
He knew how much he hated all Romance.



Lucien Stryk was born in Kolo, Poland in 1924, and came to the United States in 1927. He was educated at Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Maryland at College Park, the Sorbonne, the University of London, and the University of Iowa at Iowa City. He was a member of the faculty of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb from 1958 until his retirement in 1991, and now is Professor Emeritus there. His collections of poetry include Taproot (Fantasy Press, 1953), The Trespasser (Fantasy, 1956), Notes for a Guidebook (Swallow Press, 1965), The Pit and Other Poems (Swallow Press, 1969), Awakening (Swallow Press, 1973), Selected Poems (Swallow Press, 1976), Collected Poems, 1953-1983 (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1984), Bells of Lombardy (Northern Illinois University Press, 1986), Of Pen and Ink and Paper Scraps (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1989), and And Still Birds Sing: New and Collected Poems (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1998). Among his many edited works and translations are Zen: Poems, Prayers, Sermons, Anecdotes, Interviews (with Takashi Ikemoto, Doubleday, 1965), World of the Buddha (Doubleday, 1968), Zen Poems of China and Japan: The Crane’ s Bill (with Takashi Ikemoto, Anchor, 1973), The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry (with Takashi Ikemoto, Penguin / Swallow Press, 1977), Encounter with Zen: Writings on Poetry and Zen (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1981), Bird of Time: Haiku of Basho (Flatlands Press, 1983), On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho (Penguin, 1985), Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkichi Takahashi (University of Illinois Press, 1986), The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (with Noboru Fujiwara, Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1991), Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1993), and The Awakened Self: Encounters with Zen (Kodansha, 1995). He was Visiting Lecturer at Niigata University 1956~58 and Yamaguchi University 1962~63. Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk, edited by Susan Porterfield (Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, 1993), includes David Ewick’s ‘From “The Rocks of Sesshu” to Triumph of the Sparrow: The Japanese Sources of Lucien Stryk’s Early Poems’.

‘Hearn in Matsue’ is © Ohio University Press / Swallow Press. The poem first appeared in Notes for a Guidebook, and appears here with the kind permission of Ohio University Press / Swallow Press.

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Titles by and about Lucien Stryk
from Ohio University Press /
Swallow Press, links to

Encounter with Zen (1981)

Collected Poems, 1953~1983 (1984)

Of Pen and Ink and
Paper Scraps (1989)

The Dumpling Field:
Haiku of Issa (1991)

Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien
Stryk, ed. Susan Porterfield (1993)

And Still Birds Sing:
New and Collected Poems (1998)