An Ark of Koans


68 pages
ISBN 0-88864-404-3
DDC C811'.6




Illustrations by Jacques Brault
Reviewed by Susan McKnight

Susan McKnight is an administrator of the Courts Technology Integrated Justice Project at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.


E.D. Blodgett is professor emeritus in comparative literature at the
University of Alberta. He has published more than 10 books of poetry and
is known for his literary criticism and translations. His most recent
book of poetry is indeed an ark, with each koan representing a different
animal, bird, or insect. The word “koan” has several definitions,
but generally speaking it is a form of writing related to Zen Buddhism.
The Zen master uses the koan as a teaching tool to focus the student’s
attention on a universal truth; under this definition, a koan is a
method of teaching true insight.

The poems in The Ark of Koans can be read simply for the beautiful
images of the natural world or, on a deeper level, as a search for
universal truths made visible through the natural world. Each four-line
poem paints a picture with depth and beauty, quietly conveying far more
than a simple description of the creature. The link between the subject
and the divine (or that which is greater) is apparent in each verse:
“All the waxwings possess / a mind to see the sun, / and seeing it
seen say yes / in muffled unison.”

Jacques Brault, a poet, essayist, and novelist who previously
collaborated with Blodgett on Transfiguration, subtly illustrates the
simple truths of this collection.


Blodgett, E.D., “An Ark of Koans,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,