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White's work often has the short, swift sweep of Eastern calligraphy on old scrolls. It is a series of brush-strokes setting down the essential and nothing other than the essential is given.

The Gentle Traveller Poem by Henry Van Dyke - Poem Hunter

The idea of the essential is mentioned throughout his work: living and writing at random but knowing that through living at random there is a tendency to stress the essential in the random Walking the Coast The lower room is full of objects history's ordered bric-a brac in which visitors inherently bored show intelligent interest The upper room is still empty there in that small cartesian cell remains the merest chance for the essential to happen The Study at Culross In the shorter poems and many of them are very short indeed , White presents us with the kind of poetry that seems filled with images and meaning but yet is threatened by explication.

His work has about it the mood of a Zen story and that sense of simplicity which abounds in Basho's work.

Antonio Marchado Traveler Poem

If the sound of one hand clapping could be caught in modern poetry, then Kenneth White would be the poet. I remember once having a conversation with a friend about the meaning of icons and he told me of how a Russian monk explained that getting to the heart of an icon was like catching a bird. If you approach too loudly and roughly, the bird will flyaway. If approached quietly and in the right spirit, the bird will be caught.

Poems Of The Traveller

Kenneth White's poetry works like that. If you skim past it, you may gather the mistaken impression that you have grasped it simply by reading it. From Ezra Pound onwards, many modern writers in the West, and especially in America, have tried to write like this, with their pens dipped in Eastern credentials. Thomas Merton's later poems, for example, are monuments to this impulse but, as Robert Lowell pointed out, Merton wrote too much and his Eastern references are often self-conscious.

This is a common problem. In the work of many writers, the Eastern aspect seems forced and imposed rather than necessary and integral. A lot of Eastern-tinted poetry in English reads simply as bad poetry. Pound's emphasis on the image is important but Kenneth White has imported more than a method.

He shares a way of looking.

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Gary Snyder is one of the poets who has managed this and Kenneth White's work frequently reminds me of Snyder. In each, there is this sense of the transcendent and the essential, especially as it is known through the natural world. In each, there is a sense of the poetic. In each, nature is a primary presence. And in each, if you talk too much about the mysticism you lose sight of the poetry and get caught up in what White calls religiosity sickness, while if you concentrate too much on the poetry you lose sight of the other, equallyimportant element.

In this way, White's work needs to be read with a kind of openness we are in danger of losing because of the reigning tendency to attack poetry from the academic trenches. A connection between Celtic art and White's poems is suggested by the way his short poems are similar to those glosses composed by the Irish monks. Many of his short poems could stand beside those deft and powerful glosses on the natural world: No longer howing city no longer stations on the underground the Japanee girl stands quiet there like a blade of frosted grass on a distant land Japanee Sheep trintles a wisp of wool buzzing fly Rannoch Moor Red bracken on the hills rain snow hail and rain the deer are coming down the lochs gripped in ice the stars blue and bright I have tried to write to friends but there is no continuing I gaze out over the Sound and see hills gleaming in the icy sun Late December by the Sound of Jura Such poems fit Maritain's description of Chinese poetry, a description which White has noted with approval: "Such poems are very condensed and concentrated, expression is reduced to the essential, allusive touches take the place of any kind of rhetorical or discursive development.

But however clear these poems be, however explicit and intelligible, their meaning is somehow unlimited or, we might say, open.

It's a poetry which doesn't depend for its success on, say, clever metaphors or similes though White can use these with some power; It was Bhartrihari who said that grammar leads to beatitude l' ve cut the pages, hold it in my hand open it, and see the black script stand like the marks a drunken gannet might leave on the sand The Bird Path While Kenneth White's poetry often has about it the effect of a haiku, it is not just a minimalist record of physical sensations.

Like the poetry of Hugh McDiarmid, it is rooted as well in reading and reference, and in a sense of the transcendental. In long poems like 'Walking The Coast', the poetry is as much a poetry of ideas as of things: and that the surface of things can give enjoyment or disgust but the inwardness of things gives life knowing that the poetry which says that inwardness also gives life like at the turn of the path in the April wood: that small world complex fortuitous drenched with brightness earth stones wet grass and the red branches of the hawthorn outside only the moors and the bleakness of the glacial drift Walking The Coast The central node of Kenneth White's work, the search which drives him along, is one that is easier to comprehend than to explain.

His titles hint at it. It is a journey to the Diamond Country a mandala inside which the adept tries to achieve enlightened consciousness and to tread the Bird Path: "A flying bird leaves no tracks in the air, like the self-nature which leaves no traces anywhere, for it is omnipresent and is beyond location and direction". As in the best Zen stories, it is also none of these things because to explain it fully is to make it go away, in much the same way as a river into which you are about to step has gone away by the time you step in it.

His books combine to shape an extraordinary achievement that combines many disciplines.


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The time is the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. The tone is serious and the atmosphere is eerie and otherworldly. The Traveller : A man who arrives on horseback late at night to call at a dwelling in a forest. When he pounds on the door, no one answers.

The Listeners : Phantoms inside the dwelling who listen to the Traveller speaking as he pounds on the door. They do not respond to him. Them : The people that the Traveller came to see line However, these people do not respond, possibly because they are sleeping, they do not wish to see the Traveller, or they are now living elsewhere. It is also possible that they died and became the phantom listeners. The traveler knocks again. Still, no one responds—either by answering the door or looking out a window.

The narrator, or speaker, presents the story in third-person point of view, describing what is taking place outside the house and what is taking place inside the house. Rhyme Scheme.


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The rhyming lines are 2 and 4, 6 and 8, 10 and 12, 14 and 16, and so on. All the rhymes are masculine rather than feminine.

'Traveller' poems - Hello Poetry

In masculine rhyme, only the last syllable of one line rhymes with the last syllable of another line, as in lines 2 and 4 door and floor and 6 and 8 head and said. In feminine rhyme, the last two syllables of one line rhyme with the last two syllables of another line, as in ringing and singing.

The line lengths range from six to fourteen syllables. Most of the lines combine anapests and iambs , as in line Iamb Of the FOR..

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Some lines contain an incomplete final foot catalexis , as in line Hearkening : Listening carefully; paying close attention.