‘nobody knows shit nobody lives anywhere
Ikkyu was a Japanese Zen Buddhist Monk of the 14th Century; he was also a poet, and a renowned and often chastised eccentric. This collection of poems is excellent; reading them generates the sensation of being pulled in very close and calm and feeling the sound around you shrink away. He is one of the most influential and unusual figures in Japanese history; known for drinking in excess and causing trouble, he escaped his formal Zen training in his late twenties and became a vagabond for many years, before eventually returning to institutionalised Zen practice when he was elected abbot following the Onin War. He lived through incredibly harsh times; war, famine, religious upheaval - Ikkyu’s writing is relentlessly frank and often very funny; it’s also acutely painful sometimes. In Stephen Berg’s introduction to his excellent translation he claims Ikkyu was ‘always bent on crushing any ideal of self or conduct, any theory or belief.’ He was a master calligrapher, one of the most important influencers on the Japanese tea ceremony, and one of the most famous sumi-e artists to have lived. He also believed sex was a religious rite and as such would frequent brothels dressed in specially designed black robes for an afternoon spent with multiple young women (yes, I know). He died of a fever.