Biography of Lucien Stryk
Lucien Stryk (April 7, 1924 - January 24, 2013) was an American poet, translator of Buddhist literature and Zen poetry, and former English professor at Northern Illinois University (NIU).
Stryk was born in Poland on April 7, 1924, and moved to Chicago aged four, where he spent the remainder of his childhood. He later served as a Forward Observer during WWII in the Pacific. On his return, he studied at Indiana University, and afterwards at the Sorbonne in Paris, London University, and the University of Iowa Writing Program.
From 1958 until his retirement in 1991 Lucien Stryk served on the Northern Illinois University English department faculty. In 1991 NIU awarded him an honorary doctorate for his accomplishments. He also has taught at universities in Japan, and was a Fulbright lecturer both in Japan and in Iran.
Stryk wrote or edited more than two dozen books. These include his own poetry, poetry anthologies and numerous translations of Chinese and Japanese Zen poetry, both classical and contemporary. He also recorded much of his work on Folkways Records. His poetry was influenced by Walt Whitman, Paul Éluard, and Basho, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, Swedish and Italian.
Lucien Stryk twice received the Illinois Arts Council Artist's Grant, and twice the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. He edited two seminal volumes of Midwestern poetry, Heartland I and Heartland II, which put the Midwest on the literary map. Lucien's sequential portrait of the city, "A Sheaf for Chicago," was first published in Chicago as part of a "Best New Poem" competition shared with John Berryman and Hayden Carruth. That same poem was recently reprinted in the anthology, City of the Big Shoulders: Poems about Chicago (University of Iowa Press, 2012). In 2009, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the inaugural Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize.
Lucien Stryk died January 24, 2013, at St. John's Hospice in London. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.
Lucien Stryk Poems
Zen: The Rocks of Sesshu
What do they think of Where they lean Like ponderous heads, the rocks?—
Of the survivors there was only one That spoke, but he spoke as if whatever Life there was hung on his telling all,
All right, let them play with it, Let them feel all hot and righteous, Permit them the savage joy of
Coming out of the station he expected To bump into the cripple who had clomped, Bright pencils trailing, across his dreams
Zen: The Rocks of Sesshu
What do they think of
Where they lean
Like ponderous heads, the rocks?—
In prankish spring, ducks
And there, brushing tails,
Like silly thoughts shared,