I’m nearing the end of my tenure as Connecticut’s State Poet Laureate (2010-2015). Holding the position has been mainly a pleasure, particularly reading at two Governor Inaugurations and visiting odd corners of our small state. About me? I’m a Zen Buddhist with a Methodist minister son and an Episcopal wife and daughter. I live not far from the shores of a small calm lake. My eighth book is This Shadowy Place, which won The New Criterion Poetry Prize for work which pays special attention to form. But I also write and publish free verse, including a type of associative poetry I call “Randomism.” This poetry type usually includes some of the song phrases floating through all Americans’ heads in the 21st Century. New poetry books I’m completing include The Zen Master Poems and The Neykhor. The latter is a book-length rhymed and metered narrative poem based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The former is greatly influenced by Han-Shan’s Cold Mountain poems as well as flapjacks, Crayola crayons and Johnny Cash. I feel I’m getting old.
Almost Nowhere in the World, as Far as Anyone Can Tell
It is pleasant, very pleasant, to sit at a wooden booth
surrounded by parrots, wheels, right-turning conch shells,
the victory banner and the endless knot,
the lotus, the treasure vase, the golden fishes--
is this not so? Is it not pleasant
to sip Tsingtao beer, or Zhujiang, or Yanjing,
and tap your fingers on the bamboo mats?
After we’ve drunk enough, there will be Buddhist Delight,
Mongolian beef side dishes, a whole host of sauces,
even some pizza and chicken wings if children are present,
as well as the small ice-cream machine, lotus paste, pears,
smiles and bows all around. It is pleasant, is it not,
to linger outside the door that opens to the parking lot
of this small strip mall beside this secondary road
and look upon the scattered cars all come to rest here
like boats in China, floating on a quiet evening tide.
-originally appeared in Poetry
©2015 Dick Allen