Book Blast-Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyeism-Ian Haight | Miki's Hope

Book Blast-Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyeism-Ian Haight

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Join Ian Haight, author of the poetry in translation/literature book, Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyeism, as he tours the blogosphere July 1 - August 30, 2013 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!



Enlightenment as a process: what might it have been like for a Korean Buddhist monk who lived hundreds of years ago?

If enlightenment is an unfolding of wisdom, what progressive awareness is suggested by that unfolding?

Imagine, then, this same monk becoming the leader of the nation’s most important Buddhist Order: the Chogye. Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim suggests what Hyeim might have valued in life; as a monk; and as an early founder of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect.

Despite his achievements, this collection asks, did Hyesim eventually relinquish his position? If so, why? What were Hyesim’s thoughts in his final years?

Each of the translated poems, attentive to the nuances of Hyesim’s Buddhist and Confucian background as well as the landscape of Korea, posits the point of view of Hyesim, his voice, and his time.


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Ian Haight was a co-organizer and translator for the UN's global poetry readings held annually in Pusan, Korea, from 2002-4. He has been awarded 5 translation grants from the Daesan Foundation, Korea Literature Translation Institute, and Baroboin Buddhist Foundation for the translation, editing, promotion, and publication of Korean literature. Ian is the editor of Zen Questions and Answers from Korea (2010), and along with T’ae-yŏng Hŏ, the translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ (2009) both from White Pine Press. Ian’s translations, essays, poems, and interviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Writer’s Chronicle, Barrow Street and Hyundae Buddhist News, among many other publications.

For more information, please visit

His latest book is Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim

Introduction to the book, Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim

Hyesim (1178-1234): second Patriarch of the Korean Buddhist Chogye Order and first Zen Master dedicated to poetry in Korea. The book’s title, Magnolia and Lotus, is taken from a poem within the book:

Magnolia, the Lotus of Trees

Observing leaves: at first, I doubt they are persimmon—
looking at the blossoms, I doubt they are lotus.
How fortunate there are no fixed forms—
this tree has no comparison.

I like this poem for a number of reasons, and, at the translator’s ever-present risk of presumption, believe it captures the voice of Hyesim. There resides so much Buddhism in these 4 simple lines: the non-judgmental doubting of what is observed, and how shifting perspective reveals different possibilities in assumptions; the idea of the blossoms themselves—both lotus flowers and magnolias as representations of wisdom, beauty, truth, and enlightenment; the appreciative acceptance of not knowing what a flower is because its fixed form cannot be determined, and how this understanding could be applied to everything comprehended by the mind; finally, a penetrating recognition: that there is nothing to compare with the singularity of what is observed—everything under the sun has uniqueness. A train of thought that is simultaneously paradoxical and circular couched in deceptive simplicity—yes, this poem feels very Buddhist. The poems in this collection present a world observed with reverence and admiration by a monk who lived more than 700 years ago. It feels natural to identify the collection as a unified voice of Hyesim.

Why title the book Magnolia and Lotus? The answer lies in the poem, “Magnolia, the Lotus of Trees.” Consider a poem as an image of perspective; or the idea that language-a poem-a translation is a shifting continuum, both having and lacking permanence. And yet, somewhere among these possibilities is a node that remains distinctive, if even for a moment—something we can give a title to, calling it a poem or perhaps even a book. Under this Buddhist way of thinking, naming the book after the poem, “Magnolia, the Lotus of Trees,” feels appropriate.

The poems in this book are built around an imagined life of Hyesim and his purpose for writing poems. What did Hyesim experience in meditation? How did his wisdom grow with progressive enlightenment? What did he place importance on in life; as a monk; as an early founder of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, the Chogye Order? If he eventually relinquished this position, what did he then do? What were his thoughts in his final years? Each of the translated poems, attentive to the nuances of Hyesim’s Buddhist and Confucian background as well as the landscape of Korea, posits the point of view of Hyesim, his voice, and his time. My hope is that this collection—utilizing metaphor, rhythmic language and imagery—invites a reader into relaxed companionship with Hyesim and his life.

I received nothing for putting this up on my blog. All opinions expressed are the opinions of Pump Up Your Book. For more information please check my Disclosure Statement. Our giveaways are in no way sponsored or promoted by Facebook.


Lexie Lane said...

Wow! This is different! And quite interesting! It sounds like deep thinking needs to be involved with this read. Very nice!

Holly @ Woman Tribune said...

I am a big, huge, gigantic fan of poetry and am extremely fascinated by Buddhism, so naturally, I am ecstatic to have found out about Magnolia & Lotus. It looks really great!

Journeys of The Zoo said...

My husband is a big fan of poetry and I took a Buddhism course in University so this book attracts me on multiple levels. I know you can't read a book by it's cover but I love this one!

Besos, Sarah
Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

Kristyn said...

this sounds like a very interesting read that i would enjoy. Thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

This is definitely not my usual read, but after reading your review, I would like to give it a try!

Lisa Weidknecht said...

Very interesting. I wish I had more time to just reflect.

Sofia @ From PDX with Love said...

I love that you always have different books to share!! This one is not for me, nope. Poetry and I, well, we just don't mix well.

Taty said...

I don't like poetry but love the change of pace here
The topic just relaxes me from the start and I wish people would stop and smell the roses a bit. Well me included
Thanks for this fresh alternative

Rebecca said...

this one sounds really good i love poetry and love when i learn new things will definitely have to check it out

Beck Valley Books said...

This is something I would most certainly enjoy reading, at the moment I seem to be going through a rather spiritual, reflective stage.

Leigh @ OneandOneEqualsTwinFun said...

OHM.... wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I read poetry and would like to check this out. Funny thing is I have never really liked poetry but keep reading it hoping it will change.

Anonymous said...

I love writing poetry, but for some reason I just don't care for reading it.

Czjai said...

Anything related to Korea piques my interest. This one did. :)

jheylo said...

I find poetry so boring so this book would not be my thing.

Nova said...

that book sounds very interesting, its nice to know some of what's inside before we can truly buy one

Shela said...

Would be nice to try something new. My husband is a poet by nature :)

Celebrate Woman said...

Would love to read this book and explore the author as well. I am very fond of Asian literature and culture.

Chubskulit Rose said...

I love reading poems and I would love to read this one.

Unknown said...

i would love to read this one and read it to my kids too.

Marms said...

There is comfort in poetry. When I was in high school, our teacher gives us about 30 minutes of her subject time (once in a while) to do some art, poetry, or composition.

This is interesting share.


Amiableamy said...

I am so intrigued by the depth of this book. I would love to read it . This book reminds me of my Buddhist friends who talks about the universe, balance and good vibes.

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