The duration of my first Zen Meditation class was comprised of my attempt to find inner peace and stillness within myself, while keeping my thoughts under the umbrella of tranquility I worked to create. Going in with an open mind was crucial to this experience for me, because the meditation was a shock to my culture and body, in the way that I had never done anything like this before. The authors, as well as the speakers in the following poems, Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” and John Ciardi’s “Suburban”, could all benefit from Zen Meditation as a way to clear their minds and the problems presented in the verses.
Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” involves a collection of cluttered American memories that the speaker is missing while overseas in France. The poem feels frantic, with multiple uses of alliteration, speeding up the tempo in general while the rhyme is read. Hamby writes, “I have went, I have saw, I have tooken Jesus into my heart, the battle cry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses the King James anymore, only plain-speak versions”, which is interconnected to Zen because American’s practice freedom of religion. I am Catholic, but because of my rights, I was allowed to practice Buddhist rituals with no consequences. I was allowed to open my heart to let in a new spiritual healing, which the speaker could benefit from. The value gained through the exercise of Zen meditation would allow the speaker’s mind to de-clutter, and free itself from the melancholy feelings of longing for America.
John Ciardi’s “Suburban” is a reflection of the speaker’s patience. The speaker’s dog was falsely accused of an offense, despite the fact he was in another state. To keep his inner peace, this fact was ignored and he apologized for this wrongdoing. This patience and kindness can be linked to Zen meditation, because it is something acquired. I do not believe the speaker was always so willing to ignore the truth for inner serenity, and for the sake of people around him. Ciardi writes, “I bore the turd across the line to my own petunias and buried it till the glorious resurrection when even these suburbs shall give up their dead.” This symbolism is used to always remind the speaker of his ultimate goal of feeling whole and spiritually balanced; this is the reason he buried the turd. The speaker could benefit from Zen meditation by learning to face the truth head on, and tell the neighbor she is, in fact, wrong. Keeping this secret would allow bad energy inside his soul, and the practice of meditation would allow the bad to dissipate and the good vibes to expand throughout his body.
A speaker in France missing the nostalgia of home, as well as a speaker in his own home feeling like a stranger because of his neighbor, can both benefit from the repetition of Zen meditation. Avoiding their problems can only create more issues and bad energy. Clearing their mind, finding inner peace, and solving their problems through meditation would make them stronger and more spiritual in the long run. The authors could benefit as well, but the fact their poems may change cannot be ignored. Ciardi may have not written about a compromising neighbor, but instead a more confrontational one. Hamby may not have written about an American missing home, but instead of an adventurous person who appreciated where they came from, but who could not get enough of the seemingly “new” French cultural experiences.