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What Book!?: Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop Paperback – April 30, 1994

5.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This enigmatically titled anthology offers numerous delights and valuable evidence that great poetic variety, from haiku and witty two-liners to page-long discourses, has by now given distinct expression to Western Buddhism. The immigrant Buddhist teachers of the past century would indeed be amazed to see the range here. Yet, Gach's collection is also a disappointment, confused in its presentation and insufficient in its documentation. The goofy title, chosen out of admitted "laziness," is slim in implication?Gach misses the pun on "wat," Thai for Buddhist temple. The subtitle is worse, since this is not a collection about the Buddha as such. The collection also omits some classic poems like Gary Snyder's "The Blue Sky" and Jack Kerouac's "Mexico City Blues." Nor are the selections explained historically, linguistically or geographically. While the book's lighthearted presentation and eclectic inclusions will make it a valuable companion for devotees and sympathizing "night-stand Buddhists," Gach settles for scattershot idiosyncrasy and offers only casual insight into Buddhism and poetry.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The movement of Eastern religions to the West has been one of the most remarkable phenomena of the 20th century. Beginning in the mid-1950s and continuing into the late 1990s, the influence of Buddhism (along with other Eastern religions) has been evident, perhaps most strongly in the arts and particularly strongly in contemporary American poetry. Here is an enormous anthology of poetry celebrating that phenomenon. Gach has collected poems from a broad variety of sources?almost too broad?selecting works by greats like Allen Ginsberg, Mary Oliver, and Gary Snyder and mixing them with poems by children, elders, first-time poets, and Buddhist teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton. Add poems by composers/performers Laurie Anderson, John Cage, and Yoko Ono, and the result is a splendid, flavorful and aromatic stew. One could argue that the book is way too long and that the editor has included too many mediocre poems. But the freshness and authenticity of even the most inexpertly written pieces is appealing. Highly recommended.?Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Parallax Press; First Edition edition (April 30, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938077929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938077923
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on September 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am the editor of this anthology.
CORRECTION: The title is not WHAT BOOK - the title is WHAT BOOK!?
Exclamation mark, question mark.
And an UPDATE: it received the American Book Award this year. This is the greatest honor.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of the joys of Buddhism is that there are so many ways to get the dharma.

This is a collection of poems that helps you do that. Or, if you aren't Buddhist, it is a collection which looks at life from a point of compassion and wonder. There is a fair amount of reference to Buddhist themes, but you can look them up or just work from context. Definitions are not essential to understand the point.

Two of my favorites include: "A Father's Poem" by Sara Harsone about how to find the time to be yourself when so much of your life has to be for your children. And, "Ecolog" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti about finding unexpected, life changing beauty in fish (Who knew?)

The only complaint I have is that the transposition to Kindle used a method which did not leave all the poems in the same font and size everywhere, making the text of some of the poems too small (have to turn to portrait view and increase font. Then decrease it for the next poem. occasionally having to mess with the margins.)

The poems are pretty eclectic, but well chosen. This is a collection you can return to repeatedly and get something new each time.
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These are poems that capture that shimmering moment in time and allow it to illuminate our lives. They are the poems, mostly small, that come from perfect attention - the result of a moment, rendered timeless.

The book also comes with some wonderful tips for writers from Allen Ginsberg.

The single problem: I could find the Beat, but where's the Hip Hop?
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Even my friends who think poetry is boring and ponderous and Buddha a smiling statue (thanks probably to some stodgy professors 20 years ago) couldn't put this book down when they spotted it on my coffee table. With a sly sense of humor and enormous knowledge of his subject, Gary Gach has taken a single (and often misunderstood)theme and compiled a "panorama" of examples that give life and texture to Buddha and Buddhism.
What he has done is kind of like a hundred talented photographers, using radically different techniques, having their crack at one single image or subject, each in his or her own way. Uniting dozens of other voices, Gach has given texture and spirit to his subject.
What surprised me the most is that this book never gets old -- I read it over and over again, sometimes a page, sometimes a poem at a time.
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Format: Paperback
Surfing with the greatest pleasure through Gary Gach's gathering, I find not only a first mapping of the Buddhist presence in our writing, (Buddhist, and non-Buddhist alike), but a needed picture of where poetry itself has gone during the period he covers. If the tag for the book is "from beat to hiphop," the work inbetween gives a version too of the extent to which the doors of poetry and perception have been opened - verbally, visually, mentally - to permit a wealth of possibilities to enter and replenish.
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