Book Four: Desert Poems by David Hinton



I woke up the last couple of mornings and decided to curl right back up with my cup of coffee and this lovely book of poetry by David Hinton.

The poems have a dryness, a quality of emptiness, but one that has a trickling stream of fresh water, and various oases of language and images that inhabit the open spaces.  Many of the poems are similar to each other, using some of the same words and concepts- parched, sun, mountains, mirrors, shadows….  I feel as if I am taking a morning or afternoon walk with the poet, yet in  way, just with myself, as I replace his “I” with mine.  He asks questions of the desert and listens as well for what the desert is seeking from him, as in this poem:

We know ourselves

by the questions

we ask of


things, and I


want my-

self whole, probe

further and further

until my


questions ask

exactly what this desert

asks of me.


I came across nature language, metaphors, and existential ponderings- a theme being how changeless things are, yet how we may experience each repetitive day anew:

I wake

every morning the same

person. Same life —


history, same

mind, same eyes


looking. Some —

times, when the boredom

seems almost 

endless, I


walk out among

mountains the same


mountains, sky


sky, and I understand

them perfectly.

There is a rhythm to the placement and order of the poems that allows you to linger momentarily and then move on to the next.  I look forward to discovering more of David Hinton’s poetry…



6 comments on “Book Four: Desert Poems by David Hinton”

  1. Yay–poetry! A poet new to me. Double yay. How did you come to read this book, Meredith? Was it that lovely son of yours again?

    After reading several times the excerpts you’ve given us, I wanted to know more about David Hinton. I see that he is a renowned translator of traditional Chinese poetry, and that this is the first collection of his own poems. I wasn’t surprised to learn about the connection to Chinese poetry: the spareness and depth, I imagine, is something his poems share with those poems. As you say, the form supports the profundity of nature & nature as metaphor.

    I just happened to listen to an Upaya Dharma podcast yesterday which explored “emptiness” as “boundlessness” rather than “lack.” The term “all-at-oneness” came up, too. These are things I thought about when I later read these words of David Hinton’s.

    Thanks, Meredith!


    1. Haha Teri! I found this one at the bookstore in Gloucester on vacation – while Michael was trying to concoct a way to get the Sedaris book out of the store window, I was entranced by the wonderful poetry section…

      I had come across David Hinton previously- and have had one of his books in my Amazon cart for over a year, which I keep forgetting about (“Existence: A Story”) and when I saw this one, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful cover- the simplicity and the colors. Being on vacation by the water, I struggled with bringing home a desert book- but I am so glad that I did .. especially because I have spent time in New Mexico, and felt the intense beauty of that desert landscape before. And yes, I did know that he translates Chinese poetry, and that felt so right. I just loved finding such simple, yet expansive lyrics.

      “boundlessness” .. “at-one-ness” .. I love how shifting to these terms from “emptiness” alters the dynamic .. I would love to check out the podcast you were listening to, I will look out for it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi again Teri- I just looked up the Upaya podcasts- and wouldn’t you know they just started a 7 part series called “Poetry of Awakening from China, Japan and India”?! I think this could be a perfect way to warm up for the next session of ModPo…..!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, Meredith! I need to check out that series. I’m so glad you mentioned it because I’ve been catching up on past podcasts & wouldn’t have seen it for a while. I’ll jump from the past to the present.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You picked lovely poems to share. I can read them over and over again and find something new. Thanks for introducing me to this poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been listening to the podcast “Poetry of Awakening….” I’ve been enjoying it, and I am glad to know about the website.


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