Book Review: Happy Life

Happy Life
Written by David Budbill
Copper Canyon Press, 2011
ISBN 9781556593741

Happy LifeLike a knock on the noggin from a Zen master’s cane, David Budbill’s “Happy Life” hits home with a clarity that made me laugh out loud – ah, truth! He captures the essence of the seasons, chopping wood, carrying water, before and after enlightenment. In this, his ninth poetry collection, the poet, playwright, novelist, short story and children’s book writer reflects on forty years of a ‘happy life’ with one eye on the Tao and an honesty that admits to being, like the beautiful women he sees on trips to the city, ‘preoccupied with sex and ambition.’ But not so much so as to disturb his concentration on a candle flame in the dark, a tiny flower in the woods, or the feel of wet leaves on the path. Shortest of many masterfully spare poems is the four word (six counting title) “Cynical Capitalists” : ‘Privatize profit. / Socialize loss.’ which pretty much sums it up, leaving very little else to be said about all that. In one of his wry reflections on ageing, he looks at his wrinkled skin, sitting down, wearing shorts and wonders “What Happened to Me?” as we all do, or will. Like the classical Zen poet Hanshan, writing of his Cold Mountain life in 8th century Tang dynasty China, Budbill’s contemplations of this human life from his Vermont mountain are timeless.
Review by Susan Lynch
© 2012, All Rights Reserved
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