The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen
by James K. Zimmerman
Finalist in The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize, 2023
The poems in The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen were inspired by the life and teachings of Dōgen Zenji, a thirteenth-century Japanese monk credited with bringing Chan Buddhism to Japan and founding the Sōto school of Zen. The writing is founded upon the presumed experience and perspective Dōgen would have if he were alive today. Essential Buddhist concepts of bare attention, full presence, impermanence, no-self, and the path to liberation from suffering play out through the “eyes of a river” – in a self-driving car, a dentist’s chair, the water’s edge, the contemplation of circularity. In a world of bare attention and full presence, there are no words; inherent in these poems is the paradox of attempting to express this experience through the medium of language.
Early Praise for The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen:
While “wanting you to not know/ anyone/ has been/ here/ at all,” James K. Zimmerman, in the persona of Dōgen Zenji, offers the reader a glimpse of enlightenment as embodied presence in situations taken, sometimes humorously, from our contemporary world. The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen elucidates the intricacies of Zen philosophy in poems spare as “a winterbreath of silence” and lush as “the rhythm/ of hands,/ gullwing,/ flutter/ of beachplum/ blossoms.” Reader, you will find here wisdom, and its sister, compassion.
—Gillian Cummings, author of The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter
As I sit now in the now with James K. Zimmerman’s book of luminous meditative poems, The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen, I find myself deeply touched by their silence and their music. Each poem embodies Buddhist teachings: bare attention, no-self, impermanence, and so much more. The poet holds moments of life in his open hands, sings them and lifts them beyond words, bringing me to deepest stillness. I treasure this unique book and shall keep it close to my meditation seat and my heart.
—Judith S. Schmidt, Ph.D, author of In the Garden of Love and Loss
In The Further Adventures of Zen Patriarch Dōgen, James K. Zimmerman takes us inside the world of emptiness of Zen practice and reveals that it is teeming with life: frog ponds, katydids, and wrens; crystals of melting ice. Zimmerman’s Dōgen encounters the modern world of the self-driving car and the dentist chair, imagines the process of frying an egg, listens to the aye yamma hew of his monkey mind. Silence harbors birdsong, sirens, sneezes. The practitioner struggles, returns, returns yet again—and is suddenly aware of something indescribable: the sound of waking up. Nouns fall upon us like snowflakes and melt away. A slow and attentive reading of this spare collection offers a taste of the continuity of motion found in stillness—an endless becoming that moves inevitably like “cormorants to chum.”
—Kathryn Weld, author of Afterimage and Waking Light
In poems both playful and profound, James K. Zimmerman interrogates what it means to be a “human doing,” both in body and mind. Literally enacting on the page cycles of thought, cycles of nature, cycles of life and death, Zimmerman taps into the beauty, strangeness, difficulty, and promise of the meditative life. While he deals with the abstractions of self and mind, creation is never far from his view and there are stunning moments of beauty like the “one shooting star across/ the velvet skin of midnight” that bring the fullness of the world to his work. Just as “…a thought sings in (silence),” I thought about these poems long after reading them.
— Lynn Schmeidler, author of History of Gone and Half-Lives
About the Author
James K. Zimmerman is an award-winning, neurodivergent writer, frequently a Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry appears in Atlanta Review, Carolina Quarterly, Chautauqua, december, Folio, Lumina, Nimrod, Pleiades, Rattle, and Salt, among many other publications, and is also featured on websites such as The Poetry Foundation, American Life in Poetry, and Vallum. He is the author of “Little Miracles” (Passager Books) and “Family Cookout” (Comstock Press Books), winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Prize. He resides at the crepuscular edge between this universe and the one next door, often with one foot in each, and, in his spare time, cultivates roses, orchids, and paradoxical questions.
He can be contacted at https://jameskzimmerman.net