Remembering Zen Poet And NIU Professor Lucien Stryk

Jan 29, 2013

Internationally renowned poet, Lucien Stryk, died January 24th in London at the age of 88.  Stryk wrote and edited more than two dozen books, including collections of his poetry, and translations of Chinese and Japanese Zen poetry.  He also taught creative writing and Asian literature at Northern Illinois University from 1958 until he retired in 1991. 

Lucien Stryk
Credit Northern Illinois University

Stryk was born in Poland in 1924, then moved with his family to Chicago at the age of four. He served in the army in the South Pacific during World War II. His first book of poetry, “Taproot,” was published in 1953. His poetry has been published in at least seven languages. It was his own skill in translating the work of others that led the American Literary Translators Association to create The Lucien Stryk Prize, promoting the translation of Asian works into English.

In 2002, WNIJ’s Dan Klefstad went to Stryk’s suburban Chicago home and recorded him reading some of his poems for a documentary about the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  They included a poem about his reaction to the terrorist attacks, called “Quiet, Please.” Here it is, followed by his short essay about 9-11.

Another poem Stryk shared with us is “Return to Hiroshima,” which he wrote while a visiting lecturer at Nigata University in Japan.  Stryk was a veteran of the World War II campaigns against the Japanese military.  Here he introduces, then recites, the three-part poem.

And finally, for the WNIJ 9-11 Anniversary special, Lucien Stryk introduced and recorded “And Still Birds Sing.”

Stryk  is survived by his wife Helen, a sister, a son, a daughter, a grandson, and two great-grandsons. He will be buried Thursday at Highgate Cemetery in London, England.