the festival

“Forget the words!” is the theme of the second biennial Montreal Zen Poetry Festival, an ambitious and enigmatic affair that will take off the weekend of March 06 to 08, 2009. The festival, launched in 2007 and fast becoming a must-attend cultural event, draws on the deep interconnection of Zen and poetry as it aims to bring an awareness of Zen and Zen culture to a wider audience.

Poets, translators, calligraphers, scholars, literary publishers, and Zen monks from across North America will come together to explore how Zen embraces a paradoxical relationship with language. The festival organizers invite everyone to take part in this meaningful and entertaining line-up of events with our lively and thought-provoking speakers and artists.

About Us

The festival is organized by seven people who practice and volunteer at Enpuku-ji/Centre Zen de la Main.  Founded in 1995, the Zen Centre is an urban Zen temple in a small private residence in Montreal. The festival is part of the Centre’s “Zen Expression” programme that introduces the practice and cultural traditions of Zen Buddhism to the community-at-large. This outreach programme is part of the effort by Enpuku-ji/Centre Zen de la Main to establish a permanent home in Montreal.

The Guests and Events

This year’s featured Zen poets include Peter Levitt, Zen teacher and long-time poet and translator from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Chase Twichell, poet and founder of Ausable Press in  upstate New York, and Shin Yu Pai, a young poet, visual artist and collaborator from Seattle. Also joining us will be Seido Ray Ronci, a Missouri-based Zen monk, poet and musician.

We welcome back our special guest Red Pine, a prolific and widely respected translator of classical Chinese literature (as well as a wonderful storyteller), from Port Townsend, Washington. Translator-poet David Hinton will travel from Vermont to join us for the festival. He has earned wide acclaim for recreating the classical Chinese poetry tradition as compelling contemporary poetry that accurately conveys the texture and density of the originals.

Dennis Maloney, founder of White Pine Press in Buffalo, New York, will contribute as a translator, a tanka poet and a small press editor and publisher. Stephen Addiss, a world-renowned calligrapher and a leading authority on Japanese art, as well as a musician, poet, translator and painter, will involve us in his love for haiga, a visual form that links poetry and painting.

The theme of this year’s program – Forget the words! – is also the title of a translation panel that will be moderated by Erín Moure, one of Canada’s most eminent poets. The theme is taken from a verse by Chuang Tzu, the Chinese Taoist philosopher, which alludes to the interdependence of language and meaning, a familiar issue for writers.

This year, festival-goers will be invited to begin each morning with Zen meditation. The daily schedule of activities includes a writing workshop with Peter Levitt, in collaboration with the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and a collaborative poetry workshop with Shin Yu Pai.

David Hinton will deliver the Paul Hsiang Lecture, sponsored by McGill University’s Centre for East Asian Studies. Meanwhile, Zen monk-scholar Victor Sogen Hori will host an evening of Poetry: Memory and Dharma, with Chase Twichell and Peter Levitt.

The festival will close with a literary/visual brunch at Soupesoup, a smart restaurant in Old Montreal. Shin Yu Pai and Stephen Addiss will present their work, which bridges poetry and visual arts.