The Driftwood Shrine to be published by Sumeru

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We are pleased to announce the upcoming publication of The Driftwood Shrine: Discovering Zen in American Poetry, by John Gendo Wolff, Sensei at the Great Wave Sangha in Michigan.

Here’s how Gendo sensei describes the book…


. . . if we yearn for a spiritual authenticity and originality in an age of reckless and irresponsible speech, we need only look at the poems that have been growing like weeds in our own backyard for over eight generations.  The works of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Whittier, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos WilliamsAllen GinsbergJack KerouacGary Snyder, Wallace Stevens, W.S. Merwin, and scores of others gleams with the light of the Dharma in a history of American literary achievement that is now nearly two centuries old.  We long ago emerged from the mere “West meets East” form of 19th century multiculturalism.  The Buddha’s teaching is no longer an imported religion, but the realized product that Vachel Lindsay prophesied in his 1912 poem, “The Wedding of the Rose and the Lotus.”  That wedding, that more intimate relationship, is what I’ve tried to capture in the metaphor of the “driftwood shrine.”

This metaphor is based on Franklin Sanborn’s description of a bookcase that Henry David Thoreau had “fashioned . . . out of driftwood” and put to the devout purpose of sheltering his most cherished possession: a “royal” collection of exceedingly rare and precious books on eastern religious thought.  With the wisdom of Asia nestled among the boards he’d salvaged from the Concord River, Thoreau had given “Oriental wisdom an Occidental shrine.”

In some ways, then, this book is a walking tour of the “driftwood shrine,” that tradition of American poetry that subtly reveals a vision of Buddhist wisdom and compassion. . . .


Photo by John Poindexter

John Gendo Wolff, Sensei, has been a Zen practitioner for over 30 years. He received Jukai (lay ordination) from Dennis Genpo Merzel, Roshi, on August 1, 1992. On July 15, 2006, he was ordained as a priest in the White Plum lineage by his teacher Susan Myoyu Andersen, Roshi, and in the summer of 2008 was Shusso (head priest) of the Great Plains Zen Center at Myoshinji–Subtle Mind Temple. In June 2012, he received Dharma Transmission (Shiho) from Myoyu Roshi and is now the resident teacher at Great Wave Zen Sangha in Ludington, Michigan.

Gendo Sensei is also a writer with numerous publications of poetry in a variety of magazines and in the anthology Beneath a Single Moon: The Legacy of Buddhism in American Poetry. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, The Driftwood Shrine, a collection of Dharma talks based on the work of several Buddhist-influenced American poets. He currently works as a college professor, is married, and is a father of three.

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