To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Shunryu Suzuki's classic book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, the San Francisco Zen Center has put together the monthly Nothing is Hidden series of readings, screenings, and artist talks by writers and artists whose work embodies the compassion, engagement, and curiosity at the book's heart. The final installment, featuring poetry by Matthew Zapruder and Matthew Dickman, is this Friday night and will include a symbolic but practical gift for all who attend.
I recently spoke with the curator of the series, Genine Lentine, who has lived at the Zen Center for over four years. We met at the SF Center for the Book -- a fact that has to do with the special gift -- and she had a lot of sage things to say about the series and this month's poets. Below are some highlights:
"The title, Nothing is Hidden, is a line from Dogen, basically saying that everything is practice, everything you do, there is nothing excluded. I think it's a great invitation to take everything in your life as an opportunity to investigate being alive. As opposed to waiting for the thing that feels more real to just come along..."
"If you look at their work, [both Zapruder and Dickman are] just going headlong into catastrophe... And they're alive in it; they're not just like, 'Oh my god, this is completely shutting me down;' they're actually fluent in the midst of disaster."
"There's a sense that someone is talking to you, and of course it's charged language, but also it feels like someone's just talking to you. They're telling you some important thing you need to know to be alive."
Lentine would like to combat the perception that poetry is something frivolous. "Many people think that preparing a disaster kit is a good idea," she says, "but many people do not actually get around to doing it. I think the difference between having a provisional idea and then actually engaging... That to me is the heart of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and the heart of poetry."
With the help of Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery, and Cole Hardware, Lentine is starting an emergency kit for every person who attends.
"Poetry is really about being responsive in the world, and caring for other people, and relatedness, and so to me it's not incongruous at all that we would be giving people some information about how to operate in a situation of deep uncertainty. Poetry concerns itself with uncertainty," she says, "but Unknowing doesn't have to mean Unprepared!"
Appropriately, the kits will include a broadside with a poem by each Matthew. Get an inside look at the process below, and click on each name to check out preview readings by Matthew Zapruder and Matthew Dickman.
Matthew Zapruder and Matthew Dickman read Friday, August 26 at 7:30pm at the San Francisco Zen Center. For more information visit sfcz.org.