Transformation, Aesthetics, and Beauty: Translating Zen Master Ikkyu and Classical Chinese Poetry
Translators Sarah Messer and Kidder Smith will introduce Zen Master Ikkyu, an unconventional 14th century enlightened Zen Master who wrote poems in Classical Chinese, upended gender roles, and transformed the aesthetics of medieval Japan. They will also discuss how they translated Ikkyu’s poetry since Sarah didn’t know any Chinese at the start. All of us together will then translate a poem from Chinese into English, using the same method that Sarah and Kidder employed. We will conclude by enjoying some cheese from White Lotus Farms (where Sarah works), understanding that cheesemaking also involves transformation, aesthetics, mindfulness, and beauty.
RC alumna Sarah Messer is the author of four books, a hybrid history/memoir, Red House (Viking), a book of translations, Having Once Paused: Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu (University of Michigan Press) and two poetry books Bandit Letters (New Issues), and Dress Made of Mice (Black Lawrence Press). Messer co-founded One Pause Poetry and teaches Creative Writing at the RC and is a cheesemaker at White Lotus Farms.
For many years Kidder Smith taught Chinese history at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he also chaired the Asian Studies Program. He is the lead translator of Sun Tzu—the Art of War (Shambhala), and (with Sarah Messer), Having Once Paused: Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu (University of Michigan Press).