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Lotus Moon: The Poetry of Rengetsu (Companions for the Journey) Paperback – April 1, 2005
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John Stevens' introduction at the beginning is concise and to the point, explaining Rengetsu's poetics and introducing us to a marvelously self-determined religious woman who made it through an incredibly tough life full of sadness and hardship and supported herself though her artistic pursuits in ceramics and calligraphy. Much can be gleaned in these few pages on the vibrancy of the Buddhist tradition in late Tokugawa Japan (vs. theories that it was moribund and decadent) and of its empowering potential for women (vs. recent overarching charges that Buddhism is misogynistic and sexist), not that such issues are overly emphasized here per se. More to the point is the interaction of Buddhist ideals and aesthetics, of which the whole book is an invaluable showcase. I still can't decide whether it appealed more to the side of me fascinated with Buddhism or the side of me moved deeply by Japanese literature, but why quibble? The total effect transcends such limiting discriminations.