INTERPRETATIONS by Raymond  Paul

INTERPRETATIONS

Poetic Visions of the Tao Te Ching
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut work of philosophical poetry renders and interprets the Tao Te Ching of Lao-Tzu in verse.

As the foundational text of Taoism, Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching has been helping to shape people’s perceptions of the world for centuries. Paul seeks to provide his own spin on it with this verse version, which includes poetic renderings of the Tao’s 81 chapters as well as poems that interpret the sections for modern readers. Verse 31, for instance, begins “Weapons are the tools of violence; / all decent men detest them. / Therefore, followers of the Tao never use them.” Paul answers the verse with a poem called “Weaponless”: “Weapons, the tools of violence. / Detest and disdain to all those who support the fight. / For peace is the only way to the quiet man’s heart. / Lay down your weapons…and see the way, / the ‘Tao’s Way’ to a life connected in spirit.” Building on the work of his mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer (bestselling author of the Tao-based Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life), Paul attempts to demystify the Tao for a modern audience while also celebrating the inherent musicality of Lao-Tzu’s laconic passages. But the ingenious, straightforward concision of the Tao makes it a difficult text to really elucidate without using conversational prose. Paul’s poetry, if anything, seems to make the meaning of the chapters less clear. In “Unity,” for example, which responds to the second chapter of the Tao, he writes: “Unified, whole and as it has always…Been. / For the back and forth, the to and fro…simply, happens. / With nothing implied, nor a thing expected.” While this has a pleasant, rolling sound to it, it doesn’t really communicate the idea of unity, nor does it clarify Lao-Tzu’s second chapter. Paul is perhaps attempting to provide a more intuitive work, suggesting that readers might better appreciate these ideas by approaching them from a more left-brain perspective. In any case, the Tao has a long history of interpretations, and this one is an enjoyable, open-ended addition to that library.

A creative, if not entirely illuminating, book of verses inspired by the Tao Te Ching.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5255-3005-0
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
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