The Complete Works of Sangharakshita Volume 25: Poems and Short Stories Paperback + ebook


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In his preface to the Complete Poems published in 1994 Sangharakshita wrote that his poems ‘constitute a sort of spiritual autobiography, sketchy indeed, but perhaps revealing, or at least suggesting, aspects of my life that would not otherwise be known’.

Sangharakshita wrote many more poems after 1994, and more from his early years have come to light. This volume contains all of them, offering a truly complete collection. It also includes six short stories, some of them previously unpublished, which shed new light on the imagination and perceptions of their author.

The volume has a foreword by Padmavajra and two essays, by Vishvantara and Vishvapani, which introduce the poems in different ways. There are also edited transcripts of two talks Sangharakshita gave about specific poems, as well as a sequence of conversations about his poetry that he had with Saddhanandi towards the end of his life.

In addition to the index of first lines included in the Complete Poems, there are two new indexes designed to help the reader find content quickly and easily: one of titles and another of subjects, themes and references.

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Poems and Short Stories


“There is so much more to say about your poetry, but I fear that this letter is just getting longer and longer and I am no nearer to writing the foreword that I promised to write. I haven’t even begun to think about what I might say about the short stories. I certainly recall reading ‘The Artist’s Dream’ a number of times, the story of the old painter in Renaissance Italy painting a fresco of a dream of heaven, who attracts a community of young men to help with the work, only for the work to become disrupted by the usual worldly desires and attachments, which cause the unnamed artist so many problems. And yet he continues with the work, so determined is he to realize his dream-vision in painting. Many leave and he is left with only a few devoted young men to assist him. All he wants to do is to put everything in place so that his assistants can carry on with the great work: to fully realize his great dream vision of heaven. You wrote that story in 1972, and here we are many years later, absorbing your death and doing what we can to realize your vision in this difficult world. I wonder how we will fare.”

From ‘Instead of a Foreword’ by Padmavajra, in The Complete Works of Sangharakshita, Volume 25: Poems and Short Stories

“The first reason to read these poems is for their human interest. Bhante more than once hinted that in his poems we encounter the inner man more vividly even than in his memoirs. The memoirs are meticulous and lively accounts of what happened where and when; the poems give their own, different account, not about events so much as responsive to them. To read the poems is to encounter the inspirations and challenges of a passionate soul intent on discovering, penetrating, and realizing its spiritual imperatives…

Sangharakshita’s poems lay bare a soul that was not afraid to feel, suffer, or aspire, and a heart whose affections teach us something about holiness, despite the fact that no poem was written with the self-conscious motivation of expressing a deliberate, formal teaching. Keats’ observation that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ is celebrated in these pages, which contain poems of uplift and the joyful embrace of ideals, although they were written in an era when poetry tended to disparage, not celebrate, ideals such as these.”

From ‘A Guide for the New Reader of Sangharakshita’s poetry’ by Vishvantara, in The Complete Works of Sangharakshita, Volume 25: Poems and Short Stories

“From the outset Sangharakshita’s reading prompted his writing. The first poem he wrote, aged eleven or twelve, was about a lark, and was composed in the style of Shelley’s ‘Ode to a Skylark’. In The Rainbow Road from Tooting Broadway to Kalimpong he describes the ‘apocalypse of Miltonic sublimity’ he experienced a couple of years later on reading Paradise Lost, which ‘made of me, from that day onwards, if not a poet yet at least a modest practitioner of the art of verse’. Aged eighteen and conscripted into the army, he spent his free afternoons reading poetry in a teashop in Leatherhead where ‘an unusually felicitous line went through me like a spear. Sometimes, closing the book, I would fall into a muse and try to shape the rhythms and the images that were ringing in my head into verses of my own.’

Tracing how Sangharakshita’s own poems were influenced by the poetry he absorbed requires us to distinguish the various levels on which literary influence occurs. The range of Sangharakshita’s reading is too wide and my own, alas, too narrow for a full account, but I hope at least to distinguish its main lines. Then I will identify three distinct phases in Sangharakshita’s poetry; and finally I offer a close reading of his 1978 poem ‘Padmaloka’.”

From ‘The Literary Influences on Sangharakshita’s Poetry’ by Vishvapani, in The Complete Works of Sangharakshita, Volume 25: Poems and Short Stories



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