McNee, Graeme – Ryokan
People who have been reading this website for a long time have probably figured out by now that comics based on poems are usually not my favorite thing. Not always, as very few rules are universal, but mostly that’s the case. Oddly, that rule does not apply to zen Buddhist poets. Who knew? This is a collection of five poems from Ryokan, a man who studied under zen Buddhism but then spent the second half of his life living in a hut, happily interacting with the people around him and, by all accounts, leading a pretty damned great life. It’s great that Graeme went to such trouble to include details about the life of that man, as that information really helped flesh out what would otherwise have been an ephemeral collection of stories. He even includes a self-portrait that the monk did, most likely in the early 1800’s; that smile alone helps show why Graeme was fascinated by the man. Anyway, it’s difficult to review five illustrated poems without telling you exactly what they’re about, so I’ll just say that he wrote about what he knew: life in his hut, his surroundings, and fleeting memories of his past. It’s all very minimalistic, the brief sentences and the imagery, and they go well together. For everybody who wants to go live in a hut by themselves but doesn’t want to be cut off from society completely, check this out and see what it’s like! For everybody else who likes the idea of uninterrupted contemplation time, you’d also enjoy this.