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When Zen master Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) was appointed headmaster of the great temple at Kyoto, he lasted nine days before denouncing the rampant hypocrisy he saw among the monks there. He in turn invited them to look for him in the sake parlors of the Pleasure Quarters. A Zen monk-poet-calligrapher-musician, he dared to write about the joys of erotic love, along with more traditional Zen themes. He was an eccentric and genius who dared to defy authority and despised corruption. Although he lived during times plagued by war, famine, rioting, and religious upheaval, his writing and music prevailed, influencing Japanese culture to this day.

Stephen Berg is the Editor and founder of American Poetry Review.

Also available by Stephen Berg
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Ikkyu: Crow With No Mouth
Average rating
5 / 5
The short stick
March 5th, 2014
I don't read much poetry as the majority of it is simply too egotistical or abstract for my tastes... ...But... ...He's like the Electric Six of poetry (I hope someone understands that). Often confusingly insightful, beautifully descriptive, and simply touching, Ikkyu can also be blatantly ignorant, aggressively insulting, and downright pornographic. Approach with care; you will love him or hate him.
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