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Songs of Love and Loss: Crafting Buddhist Poetry in Early Modern Cambodia

Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 12:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Gatty Lecture Series

Join us for a talk by Trent Walker, (Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University), which will focus on Buddhist Poetry in Cambodia.

This Gatty Lecture (co-sponsored by the Religious Studies Program) will take place at the Kahin Center, but people are also welcome to join us on Zoom. Lunch will be served. For questions, contact 

Participate by Zoom here.

About the Talk

From at least the seventeenth century, Cambodian writers have been composing vernacular Khmer poems for recitation in Buddhist rituals. Chanted with haunting, highly melismatic melodies, individual songs in this genre may take up to three hours to perform in dusk-to-dawn ceremonies of healing, remembrance, and consecration. Drawing on translations from the speaker's recent book, Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia, this talk highlights the aesthetic and affective dimensions of the four primary types of sung Buddhist poems in Cambodia: retellings of the Buddha's life, expressions of filial gratitude, meditations on the process of dying, and aspirations for future bliss. Poems across these four categories reveal how early modern authors wove intimate reflections on love and loss into a broader doctrinal and ritual framework for the end of life. The talk will also feature live demonstrations of the intricate vocal styles that have shaped the performance and reception of Khmer Buddhist verse over the past four centuries. 

About the Speaker

Trent Walker specializes in Southeast Asian Buddhist music, literature, and manuscripts, and has published widely on Khmer, Lao, Pali, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist texts and recitation practices. He is the author of Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia (Shambhala Publications, 2022) and the co-editor of Out of the Shadows of Angkor: Cambodian Poetry, Prose, and Performance through the Ages (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2022). He earned his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the Khyentse Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok from 2018 to 2020. For links to his publications and other resources, visit

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