RICHARD VON STURMER was born on Auckland’s North Shore, in 1957.
He is a writer, performer, and film-maker. His written work has appeared
in many anthologies and literary journals, including Landfall,
Sport, brief, and the New Zealand Listener.
Two collections of his writing have been published: We Xerox Your
Zebras (Modern House, 1988) and A Network of Dissolving Threads
(Auckland University Press, 1991). In 1992 he left New Zealand to undertake
ten years of Zen training at the Rochester Zen Center, a Buddhist Community
in upstate New York. Having completed his Zen training, he returned
to New Zealand in 2003 and received the brief Writer’s
Award for a two-month writer-in-residency on Great Barrier Island. He
now lives and works in Auckland, and has completed a third book, Suchness:
Zen Poetry and Prose.
Von Sturmer comments: ‘ “Gathering Clouds” is a tanka
sequence, tanka being a five-line Japanese verse form now employed in
the West. I was drawn to the potential of the tanka sequence, with its
sense of movement and film-like qualities, after reading Red Lights,
a collection of tanka sequences by Mokichi Saito.
‘The setting for “Gathering Clouds” is Rochester,
a city in upstate New York near Lake Ontario. Like many middle-sized
American cities, downtown Rochester is desolate and virtually abandoned
– a place which white folk in particular avoid, preferring to
do their shopping in giant suburban malls.
‘Towards the end of my stay at the Rochester Zen Center, I decided
to go for a walk each afternoon, at the end of the workday and before
meditation in the evening. It was autumn, the trees were losing their
leaves, and the Bush administration was gaining momentum in its push
to begin the war against Iraq. I set myself the task of producing at
least four verses during each walk, as a way of taking a snapshot of
America at that particular place and time.’
Poem: Gathering Clouds