Without Dragons Even the Emperor Would Be Lonely

Ninso John High. Wet Cement, $25 trade paper (148p) ISBN 978-1-7324369-4-7
In this distinctive assemblage of text and ink paintings exploring Zen forms, High (Bloodline) offers koans and parables printed in handwritten font alongside striking ensoˉs (hand-inked circles). While the font can be difficult to read, it reinforces the relationship between writing and painting as gestures of the body, a theme throughout much of the collection: “The body speaks./ When you hear it, you/ awaken in the dream.” In seeking a language of simplicity, the poems occasionally fall flat, and references to a travel narrative suggest something that might have helped a reader unfamiliar with High or with the specifics of Zen practices connect with the collection. However, the ensoˉs are stunning, featuring different color combinations and textures and losing none of their power across the book. While High’s language doesn’t always match the tension between abstraction and embodiment achieved by the ensoˉs , the handwritten style allows for surprising relationships between text and image. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 05/20/2020
Release date: 09/07/2020
Genre: Poetry
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