One of the kindest ‘boon companions’ that I met in the cafe at the BM, was the charming and delightful Polish/ American poet : Lucien Stryk (1924-2013) . Nicknamed ‘Lucky Stryk’ by his schoolmates after his first poem was published while he was still a schoolboy, Lucien was a life-long poet, who is probably best-known for his translations of Japanese Zen poets .
Certainly, in my conversations with him, he would passionately explain the poetics of haiku to me. Incidentally, I recently won a haiku – writing competition, so I concur that haikus are a lot of fun to write!
Lucien was living with his family in London at this time (late 60s early 70s) at 7a Homer Row, W1H 1 HU , and I recall my first meeting with him in my diary (April 28th 1969):
‘I met the Zen Buddhist poet, translator and Fulbright scholar Lucien Stryk …excellent man’.
I have been re-reading Stryk’s poetry ( not the Zen haikus), and he really produced many beautiful poems such as: ‘Dreaming to Music’, ‘Rooms’, ‘Cormorant’, and the delightful ‘Chekhov in Nice’, which I have only just read. By an extraordinary coincidence, I also wrote a poem about Chekhov, where I imagined him visiting Bagara in Queensland, Australia. I wonder now, if perhaps I had read ‘Chekhov in Nice’ years ago, but I don’t think I did.
In reaquainting myself with Lucien’s work, I came across the poetry of his son – Dan Stryk , whose poetry I also admire. On her website, Stryk’s formidably talented artist wife Suzanne, published a You Tube clip of the fascinating meeting that took place between Lucien and the actor, Michael Pennington, on the Trans-Siberia express train. An extraordinarily synchronous meeting , which enabled Pennington to understand Chekhov better.
Pennington, who was researching the life and work of Anton Chekhov for a one-man show he famously played, was greatly helped and influenced in his project by Lucien’s wider knowledge of the writer, and. especially, the time he spent on Sakhalin.