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Poetry and meditation


Amy Hollowell is a poet, translator, journalist and Zen Buddhist teacher. She has long been a figure in the Anglophone poetry scene in Paris and is the author of several poetry collections and chapbooks. A former editor at the International Herald Tribune, she teaches Zen meditation in Paris at the Wild Flower Zen Center (, which she founded and directs, and elsewhere in Europe, primarily in Portugal. The mother of two children, she lives with her husband in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris.

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At the outset, I might posit for clarification that the word “meditation” implies a duality, suggesting a subject that meditates upon an object, while my own practice of so-called meditation involves an experience of non-duality, of just being here now. I thus prefer the noun “sitting” and the verb “to sit.” However, for the purposes of this text, I will conform to the conventions of the seminar and use the word meditation.

Like the late American poet and Zen master Philip Whalen, I would say, “My writing is the manifestation of my mind moving.” Meditation is a practice / posture wherein I can experience directly the impermanent nature and interconnection of all beings and things because I am not interfering with how things are or with the endless, inexorable flow of the whole of life. It thus involves a “dwelling” in “non-dwelling,” seeking to not fix my attention on any one thing but rather to be attentive to it all. The poem is an attempt to express in words that experience of things-as-they-are-here-and-now. Meditation helps me cultivate the “negative capability” of Keats, the possibility of remaining in uncertainty, mystery, doubt, so as to better experience and express just what is, without grasping for reason, explanation, logic. Meditation and poetry both open the doors to the silence of the sacred and the unknown. Both are ways of living, arts of living, manifestations of the two faces of reality : meditation is non-dual, silent, without form, a “perfect” unity before words and language, where all is equal ; poetry is dual, concrete, a written / spoken expression with an “imperfect” diversity of different words and language. Thus the challenge. Thus the beauty. And thus the celebration : “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering,” the poet and Zen monk Leonard Cohen sings in his song “Anthem.” “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

Here we are / Nous ici : extraits

Pour citer l'article:

Amy HOLLOWELL, « Poetry and meditation » in Poésie moderne et méditations, Actes des journées d’étude organisées à l’Université de Rouen les 21 mars 2017 et 19 mars 2018, publiés par Christophe Lamiot (ÉRIAC) et Thierry Roger (CÉRÉdI).
(c) Publications numériques du CÉRÉdI, "Actes de colloques et journées d'étude (ISSN 1775-4054)", n° 21, 2018.


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