The world is unsettled these days, but Bob Nasta and Wendy Black Nasta tonight provided a refuge from the storm. This month’s concert to raise money for the school they run in Africa featured Wendy and our good friend Richard Kamins reciting and singing the poetry of the Zen monk Ryokan. The Flying Particles, accompanied them with Bob on koto and percussion; Kevin O’Neil on guitar; and Russ Becker on clarinets and flute.
The effect was meditative and challenging. Ryokan drew much of his inspiration from nature. Wendy and Richard and the musicians captured the beauty and isolation of his life, along with his playfulness and humor.
Many of his poems are Zen koans:
Who says my poems are poems?
These poems are not poems.
When you can understand this,
then we can begin to speak of poetry.
Throughout he writes of playing with children – and of drinking quantities of sake. A woman sitting nearby said, “I didn’t think monks were supposed to drink.” This one sure did.
As a measure of the magic of the evening, the ninety-minute performance felt like less than half that. The fading of the light marked the passage of time – but only afterward did I notice it had grown dark outside. It was fitting end to an evening filled with the sights and sounds of nature.