On the off chance yes

bits of heaven as that wee

bird sings its head off

Somehow as I dig deeper into the history of Zen poetry — now the rise of poetics in third century CE China (Lu Chi) — I want to return to my first love in poetry– W. B. Yeats. As a young teenager The Celtic Twilight; in my late teens, a more analytical study of the sound patterns in the poetry somehow reinforced my ecological bent. Summers in the Sierra. History is weird. One’s contingencies porous to the divine otherness baked into creation. Gads.

TEXT: In my notebook for the this day I had noted that on page 260 of God and the Between, Desmond writes: “Our passage through life takes firm form, but our passing makes fluid again the forms, and the abiding porosity prior to form and beyond form offers again its never closed off chance: chance of ultimate commication between us and the ultimat.”

As you can see from the structure of the passage above, the composition of the sentences uses poetic forms to weave a grammar of the between. Very few philosophers show such mastery of the potentials of language to communicate richly nuanced insights into our common reality.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Portland OR and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

7 thoughts on “Memories/Ultimates”

  1. Lovely haiku! The change in tone and use of colloquial phrases creats a kind of jolt for teh reader perhaps akin to philosophical and spiritual insight. Form my sporadic reading of Basho–the closet I have come yet to the Chinese Zen masters–and Old Irish lyric and Yeats and others who draw on it, I think there are deep if unexpected commonalities. It sounds fruitful to look back on bits of life in that deep context. I hope it is.


  2. Since you’ve drawn attention to the importance of sound, Tom, I’ve been rereading these lines: first in my southernEngland accent, then in one or two attempts at American accents and finally in the voice of a New Zealander who would pronounce yes as ‘yis’ and head as ‘hid’. Try it!


    1. The variety of accent is a wonderful insight. I guess one too often assumes one’s own accent is normative nad this is not important, but obviously it helps shape the tune of a line: and recent reserach even shows animals other than people seem to have regional accents!

      Liked by 1 person

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