June 9, 2015
The Zen Poetry of Aging: Three Brief Teachings

Zen poets for centuries have addressed the experience of aging in ways that may resonate with and clarify our own experience of it. Below are three short teachings selected and illuminated by Jisan Tova Green, who will teach the upcoming three-week class The Zen Poetry of Aging at City Center, July 7-21. A resident priest, Tova is also a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in home and residential hospice settings.

Basho (by Hokusai).

Basho (by Hokusai)



seeking an inn:

wisteria flowers



Basho (1644 – 1694) wrote this poem while on pilgrimage in the last decade of his life (he died at the age of 50). In spite of his extreme tiredness he saw the beauty of wisteria blossoms. He was able to experience pleasure in the midst of pain.

Poetry can remind us to open our eyes to the beauty around us, even when we are experiencing physical or emotional pain. As we age we can find inspiration in the poet’s ability to be present with the fullness of his or her experience.

Mitsu Suzuki (by Mitsue Nagase).

Mitsu Suzuki (by Mitsue Nagase)

* * *

My husband’s seventh memorial

cold dawn zazen

distant foghorns

—Mitsu Suzuki


The mournful sound of foghorns in the cold winter morning conveys Mitsu Suzuki’s experience of grief. Poetry can help us connect deeply with our losses and recognize the commonality of grief.

Jane Hirshfield writes:


Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

In a room with five people, six griefs.

Some you will hear of, some not…


It can be difficult to speak about our losses—yet, as we grow older we lose family members, friends, some of our roles and some aspects of our health. Poetry reminds us that we’re not alone in our experience of loss. We may be encouraged by the words of poets to write of our own experience or tell it out loud to others.

* * *


Jisan Tova Green

Jisan Tova Green

For a description of the class or to register, please see:
The Zen Poetry of Aging.

Tova is also offering a one-day workshop with Mushim Ikeda on July 19:
Facing Death Compassionately.

More about the teacher:
Jisan Tova Green.