LLA Reads Spotlight: CROW WITH NO MOUTH

At Louisville Literary Arts, we all love to read. But our interests in literature are as varied as hats on Derby Day. Some of us gravitate toward poetry, while others prefer an epic novel. A few of us love reading creative nonfiction. In this space, we recommend recent books we've read, and hope that you'll find something just right for your reading list.

NOTE: The following review contains excerpts with explicit language

Adam recommends: CROW WITH NO MOUTH by Ikkyu; translated by Stephen Berg (Copper Canyon Press, 2012)

​​Genre: Poetry

Japanese Zen master and monk Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) attained satori upon hearing the call of a crow. Headmaster of Daitokuji, the great temple in Kyoto, for only nine days, he then denounced the explicit hypocrisy of his fellow monks. “He invited them to look for him in the sake parlors of the Pleasure Quarters.”

These poems are simply irreverent:

Fucking flattery, success, money. I just sit back and suck my thumb.

They are gorgeous:

your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness

And crude:

a crazy lecher shuttling between whorehouse and bar this past master paints south north east west with his cock

Complex and visceral, compelling and sexual:

she'd play with it almost anywhere day and night touch it with the deepest part of herself

And these poems are, in fact, quite thoughtful and generative of thoughtfulness in the reader.

Poetry, and much of canonical literature, is so often associated with the polite and the safe. Yet Baudelaire, Beckett, Genet, Chaucer, Jelinek, Joyce, Rabelais and others greatly valued by the literary world remind us, as does Ikkyu, that life and poetry are far more than comfy and “revelatory” meditations upon the majestic flight of some bird or other.

If you would like us to consider recommending your book, please contact LLA Reads editor Alice, who will let you know how to get your book to our readers.

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