編者 David Young
The present volume of cherished poems in English was never intended to be just another anthology. Good anthologies are widely available, and there are some excellent ones listed in my own bibliography at the end of this book. Simply said, this anthology is meant for the heart. That is, it is meant to produce an opening of the heart.
Allow me to elaborate on this point.
The better known anthologies that I have come across are comprehensive in coverage, attempting to bring together memorable poems representing various moods, genres, and settings. My choices for this collection, on the other hand, are significantly narrower. I sought to collect a series of immortal poems that could illustrate an understanding that would be best captured by the words “enlightenment” and “illumination.” Hopefully, such poems will not only touch the heart but will embrace the soul as well.
From the outset, this has been a daunting task!
When I started this project, I was short of twelve. At the completion of this collection, I had turned fifteen. I cite my young age (and inexperience) so that I may ask for patience (and forgiveness) from the more critical adult readers for this unusual collection of poems. However, I am confident that the more open-minded readers will not only enjoy reading them but will resonate with the depths of their meaning.
Readers who are looking for poems in the form of “haikus” in the traditional Asian context of a twist of language, an altered view of reality, an expansion of consciousness, an affirmation of emptiness, or even a fleeting burst of imagination or perception, will be disappointed. Such poems and writings are available through the esoteric spiritual literature published elsewhere and will not be exemplified here. At the core of my selection are poems that go beyond just a momentary opening of the mind or some special intuition and that would represent no more than a fleeting state of mind. The poems depicted in this collection do not convey a particular experience of liberation or even some major revelation that could be pinpointed as “enlightenment.”
Am I contradicting myself here?
Not really. For me, enlightenment is not a state of mind. It is not simply a feeling of “letting go” or some earth-shattering revelation. Neither is it a psychological release. Any such extreme experience is still only a temporary twist of consciousness, biased by a particular view or a limited form of understanding. In the words of Arthur Young, “every meaning is [still only] an angle.” Enlightenment is simply the absence of this slighting of reality at an angle, and, in this sense, enlightenment can only be totally inclusive. It excludes nothing. And, it can be represented by nothing whatsoever. Thus, it is practically impossible to have a collection of poems that can portray this so-called “enlightenment.” No catch of words, however eloquent and revealing, can be said to be indicative of a state of enlightenment.
Instead, one can only say that an enlightened mind is a virtuous mind, which seeks to promote the ordinary goodness of heart already in each one of us. An enlightened poem can only speak of virtues and the heart-felt qualities that make a person a real person. An enlightened poem fills the heart with hope and brings light to outshine the despair. Finally, an enlightened poem points the mind in the right direction when all else seems confusing and dark.
Why poems? That is, why use poems as a vehicle for this sort of higher aspiration?
Poetry is, after all, the music of the soul. Only through poetry, by means of its metering cadences and formless contours, can the most profound and subtle meanings be portrayed. To Samuel N. Etheredge, “Poetry is the Music of Literature.” For, poetry is the language of the heart, and it speaks to the heart. Robert Frost once said, “The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound that he will never get over it.” In this sense also, this anthology is not just about poems heralding virtues. It is about poems that touch the heart and that inflict the immortal wound.
With these thoughts in mind, I have chosen poems on the side of inspirational. They are not the kind of poems that simply capture a mood, however joyful, dark, or romantic it may be. They are poems that point to the heart, that is, beyond the heart really, focusing on lessons meant to last for a lifetime. The poems are not sorted by any category, since they mirror merely different aspects of the same universal mind reflected by the poems. The poems chosen tend to be short and crisp, pointing to a personal preference that I hope more demanding readers will forgive. This collection will also strike the reader for many notable omissions. In my selection, I have given little deference to past reputation. Some of the more beloved English poets, like Shakespeare or Keats, are only mentioned in passing. Numerous volumes elsewhere have been dedicated to these giants (and I, for one, would strongly encourage reading them anytime). I have also selected only a few translations of celebrated poems of foreign origin; this preference has much to do with my conviction that certain contextual nuances get lost through translations, as outstanding as they may be in their original text.
Lastly, some aspirations from the heart: it is my sincere hope that you will treasure this collection of poems; they will certainly survive long after we are all gone. It is also my sincere wish that you will share them with friends, and perhaps, one day, with your children. For children, these same poems will certainly set a moral compass that will be clearly relevant to their everyday life. I am convinced that, when meditated and acted upon, the messages contained in these poems will become companions for life.