by Jampa Dorje
50 pp, Perfect bound
Sebastopol 2005
Foreword by Bouvard Pécuchet
Introduction by James Reich

The Pinwheel poems are, on the whole, joyful and playful, glittering here
and there with little gems of wit. Some of the themes are heavy (sex, torture,
right to die) but it seems like the framework of dharma, the soteriological
confidence behind many of the poems and the experience of emptiness/bliss
that informs them, provides a space where the danger and roughness of those
themes is allowed to hang out without being overwhelming. In other words,
the dharma overwhelms the depression and fear, not vice versa. This is why
the humor doesn't seem out of place next to poems about Abu Ghraib and
the death penalty.

My Vassar education has taken me far, but apparently not far enough. I catch
some of the references, but many of them remain opaque. I know the
significance of Solomon's sword, but do I detect Jampa jumping into the
fight between Hegel and Kierkegaard in “Either/Or” and “The Five Exists”?
Or, for example, I haven't read Montaigne or Dante, and so I miss out. This
is not necessarily bad, mind you, because it inspires me to try and find out
about what I'm missing.

There is also a dialectic at work in the poems between Yeshe Tsogyal/Yeshe
and Padmasambhava/Adzom/the teacher. Or at least, the spirituality in the
poems alternates between stern and demanding (“This is middle C . Play!”)
and inspiring, liberating, and blissful.
A poem like “License Plate: O Faith” mixes Tibetan hermeneutic systems:
path/fruit on the one hand, and view/meditation/action on the other. But I do
think the exploration of various systems and trilogies works well and is an
effective way of using a traditional Indo-Tibetan liturgical device in a
Western way.

Then, there is the idea of yab-yum - so central to Vajrasattva practice and to
these poems - and also of marriage (The “or” collapsing into the “either”).
This suggests a reconciliation, or union, or partnership between polarities. If
I have any real problem with these poems, it is in the relationship of the poet
to the phenomenal world. There is the friendship and playfulness (the girl at
office depot, for example) and also the stern condemnation (the poet's
obvious anger at the current administration and Rumsfeld), but where are
these reconciled? There is “ Middle Way in America ”, but this poem seems
more a yearning for a future the poet wishes was present, and not a
reconciliation with the world as it is. So, perhaps this is where the “path” of
this collection is. An intuition of yab-yum, and an experience of it as the
basic movement of existence (which gets very clear in “Ides of March”) but
a yearning for it, or a working towards it in actual experience.

Poems like “Tummo” and “Emptiness 1+1=1” get at emptiness via relativity
and the non-absoluteness of meanings. And I like the story of old man
Mclintock. I don't know why. I just do.
I think “Maypole”, the last poem, is perhaps the deepest and most
mysterious in the book. I feel like it's where we get the deepest peek into
Jampa Dorje, beyond where any of us, including himself, know how to get
around. It's haunting, and maybe my favorite. It doesn't draw
any conclusions.

Well, these are my thoughts. Forgive me if I've made mincemeat of the
subtlety of these poems. I'm only a yogi, and a desultory one at that. And
moreover, I haven't gotten my English license, just my Religion license. So
in other words, I hope my rambling is helpful.
October 5, 2005


          The smells of coffee awaken me
after a night of dim dreams and wild love.
          I listen to the busy boulevard
and the frogs of ripening spring.
          I need something new to know.

change the peptides: “Don't Worry. Be happy.”

and the camera, the producer
          is your mind
and you are in charge of wardrobe and sets
Ol' Man Mclintock
          lived in a faraway cabin
          west and north, lived alone
          raised goats
          had a jug of whiskey hanging in the window

          awoke in the morning
          took a swig
          grabbed his shotgun
          and fired both barrels at a Red-tailed hawk

          every morning of his life


cummulus locomotives above an open pit
recognize it, you're on a prison work gang
mining titanium for Ti O
laugh when the guards beat you
up down sideways
in out center
here there
all the “bad stuff” is destiny
less bio-diversity means it's easier
to control harmony
before harnessing fission
then, cycle can be manipulated toÉ?
                     time is an accident
                     time is a coincidence
                     time is a plan
relationship between
one's self and one's elf (ego)
          one and an other distinct self
between one and Divine Self
leave the $ where it draws compounded interest
same with merit
          right action
          compounds itself and pays big dividends
a cent in America is small
a cent in Tibet is big
How ya goin' ta act?
geological, earth
marine, water
meteorological, air
astrophysical, fire (stars)
maypole, space
          “Let's dance and sing, it's Spring!”
          It's a time of terror and promise.
My world collapses into a molding leafiness.
          The cities wretch up their loneliness.
I recognize the rot, and the years pass
          huge, remote, eyes in the sky.