One City

          Big nasty-looking blue-black hornet
    with obscene dangly stinger
weaves in & out
          of rusted white Chevy’s dented
                                      front grill–

        pancake flat back tire tilts the rig
        cobwebs around the plough
                                                       (10:50 am)

That’s a Tyler Doherty poem.  From his collection Bodhidharma Never Came to Hatboro.  Doherty is a product of both Daido Loori’s Zen Mountain Monastery and Trungpa’s Kerouac School of Poetics at Naropa University.  He’s an American Buddhist poet, and he’s got good stuff.  (Full disclosure: I met Tyler at a Shambhala meditation retreat in Philadelphia a few years ago.)

Here is where I hear the dharma in Doherty:

In his Zen-like koans:

Right Effort

How find glasses
without glasses?

In his brevity and humor:

Poetry Equals

I waited around all day for this?

In his occupying that space where thinking mind is no longer a big deal:

from Bodhidharma Never Came to Hatboro

“…thought’s all bark no bite
ever-seductive hurly burly
signifying nothing arf arf…”

Sometimes the view comes through loud and clear:

“life universe everything marvelous
   Technicolour swarm of phenomenal blips
      best regarded as dream–

                      1 down
                      9,999 to go


But what most strikes me in Doherty is his naturalism and his ecology.  In Doherty’s view, the only true time is natural time, is the earth’s time, is a time looping over mountains and oceans.  And as in the hornet poem above, Doherty is always observing the natural world, the comings and goings of the non-human world.  In the introduction to his book, someone says of Doherty, “This guy goes out & learns the fucking grasses.”  But Doherty’s naturalism is not the same as Synder’s.  Because Doherty’s is more firmly rooted in the everyday life of suburbia, of Hatboro, Pennsylvania.  There is a swallowtail butterfly here, but there is also Smokey Robinson on the radio, a Fourth of July poolside scene, and the advertising lingo that so dominates our psyches, “Tyler comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.”  In the above poem, there is both the hornet and the Chevy, and that works for me.

For more, check out Doherty’s excellent review of Andrew Schelling’s book of poems.  And if you do find Doherty’s slim volume in your hands one day, be sure to check out the masterpiece therein, namely, the eight page poem “Autobiography”, in which Doherty writes:

“…Tyler is one napkin under Garble, unquenchable in the sun.
Tyler should be regarded as a star at dawn, a bubble in a
     stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a
     flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.”


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