On Cold Mountain
A Buddhist Reading of the Hanshan Poems
University of Washington Press 2015
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Buddhist StudiesNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoetryNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network March 14, 2016 Carla Nappi
Paul Rouzer‘s new book offers a Buddhist reading of a famous collection of poems and the author associated with them, both of which were called Hanshan, or Cold Mountain. On Cold Mountain: A Buddhist Reading of the Hanshan Poems (University of Washington Press, 2015) presents and proposes what it calls a “Buddhist approach to poetry”: rather than focusing on the intentions of the author in reading poetry, it offers a way of thinking about the importance of the way a poem is read. Pt. 1 of the book introduces readers to the history of, and some of the technical issues surrounding, the Hanshan poems: its prefatory material, later debates about its authenticity, arguments in Chinese scholarship about the life and dates of the poet. It also proposes a way that we might think about a “Buddhist poetics.” Pt. 2 of the book looks closely at the overarching themes and rhetoric of the poems themselves, looking at the ways that meaning is made through internal and external juxtapositions, and tracing the tensions between moving and staying, residence and travel, and motifs of “blasted trees,” moons, jewels, beautiful women, and more through the poems. The same year that Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums appeared – 1958 – American poet Gary Snyder published his first translations of Hanshan, and Pt. 3 of Rouzer’s book considers resonances between the Beat and post-Beat writers and the Buddhist rhetoric, imagery, and themes of the Cold Mountain poems. It’s a fascinating book that’s a pleasure to read for both specialist and general readers.