Posts Tagged ‘Ken Chawkin’

BLUE: a translucent painting by Bill Teeple at ICON Gallery on Fairfield’s 1st Fridays Art Walk

August 7, 2015


It’s Fairfield’s 1st Fridays Art Walk and tonight I’m at ICON Gallery talking with owner/curator Bill Teeple about the creative process, painting, poetry, and consciousness. I’m moved by one of his new images on the wall in the smaller gallery/studio upstairs. It’s deeply blue and draws me in like a magnet.

Bill tells me it’s made of multiple layers of acrylic paint, like a glaze. It’s translucent; it glows in your awareness. Tiny white specks look like stars in the night sky. Bill says it’s the paper, meant to be part of the painting.

Click on the blue image to enlarge it and you’ll see them. Enlarge it again and stare into the BLUE, and like the Hubble telescope, you’ll discover a world that previously was not visible.

The simplicity and minimalism of the piece inspires me to write a haiku. I do, and share it with Bill who says, “That’s it!”

BLUE: A Translucent Painting by Bill Teeple

Ten Layers of Blue
Look at it looking at you
Aglow between two


I can’t help myself when it comes to rearranging words in lines and their meanings. Here is a second version of the haiku.

BLUE: A Translucent Painting by Bill Teeple

Ten Layers of Blue
Looking at it look at you
A glow between two

Here’s a related poem about the mystery of the creative process: Sometimes Poetry Happens.

The Fairfield Weekly Reader posted 3 articles on the screening of Greg Reitman’s Rooted in Peace

August 5, 2015

ROOTED-V.10js_r3The Fairfield Weekly Reader published 3 articles about Greg Reitman’s film ROOTED in PEACE: an article I wrote about the film’s upcoming Iowa premiere, a second short announcement about the screening, and a follow-up report on the reaction to the film shown at the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, including 2 photos, and 4 quotes from prominent members of the Fairfield community.

Click on the numbers and dates to read PNGs of these front cover articles published on July 23, pages 1 and 2, July 30, and August 6, 2015.

Click here to see previously published news about the film, including radio and TV reports. I also wrote an article in the July issue of The Iowa Source: Getting Rooted in Peace, which you can read in an earlier post. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is the trailer.

Ledger’s Andy Hallman reports on Greg Reitman’s documentary playing in Fairfield, Iowa on Sunday

August 1, 2015

Documentary filmed partially in Fairfield to play Sunday

By ANDY HALLMAN Ledger news editor | Jul 31, 2015

t1200-Donovan, Greg Reitman, and students at tree planting ceremony

During his visit to Fairfield, film producer Greg Reitman planted a tree with MUM students outside the university’s library. Reitman is the man in the center with the necklace. The man to the right is the singer Donovan, whom Reitman interviewed for his film “Rooted in Peace,” which will be shown at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by: Nicole Hester-Williams/Ledger

A documentary that was filmed partially in Fairfield will make its Iowa debut at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Steven Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.

The film, “Rooted in Peace,” is a product of Greg Reitman, founder of Blue Water Entertainment, Inc. In a press release, Reitman said the film challenges viewers to examine their values as Americans and human beings.

“Today we are at war within ourselves, with our environment, and with the world,” reads the press release. “Director and award-winning filmmaker Greg Reitman invites viewers on a film journey to take notice of the world we live in, proactively seek ways to find personal and ecological peace, and stop the cycle of violence.”

Reitman interviewed numerous celebrities for the film such as author Deepak Chopra, film director David Lynch, musicians Donovan, Mike Love and Pete Seeger, media mogul Ted Turner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and more.

He also interviewed Fred Travis, professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management.

The press release states that Reitman learned kernels of wisdom from all those he interviewed.

“Reitman’s journey is an example of transformation — how one person can learn to make the necessary changes to enjoy a better life — and in so doing inspire others to want to improve their own lives, and society as a whole,” reads the press release.

Reitman said he became interested in documentaries while studying abroad in Florence, Italy, where he took a class on Italian cinema. He would go on to produce the 2008 SUNDANCE Audience Award-winning feature documentary “FUEL.”

After that, he started thinking about doing a film about all the violence in the world. An experience at JFK Airport in New York City opened his eyes to a whole new world.

“I almost got arrested for not giving up a bottle of water,” he said. “I was seeing racial profiling going on. It made me start thinking about our rights, and about what fear can do. It mirrored a world that I had lived in at age 19, when I was living in Israel during the first Gulf War.”

Reitman got in touch with Ken Chawkin, who was then the public relations officer at MUM. Chawkin encouraged him to visit Fairfield, and mentioned that the Beach Boys were going to be in town for a concert. Reitman’s wife is from Iowa, so the two decided to attend the concert.

Reitman came back a second time with Donovan for the David Lynch Film Weekend. During his second trip to Fairfield, he interviewed Donovan, David Lynch and Bob Roth.

After the film, Reitman will hold a question-and-answer session with the audience.

One of the common questions Reitman has received in his other Q and As is, “Why did the film take so long to make?” The film took five years in all, which Reitman said is not too far out of the ordinary for documentaries.

“The reason it took me so long was that I had to find peace first,” he said. “When I talked to Ken, he said, ‘Greg, you’re not going to understand peace until you come to Fairfield.’”

Reitman said he greatly enjoyed his time in Fairfield. It reminded him of another small town he filmed in, Carbondale, Colorado, with a population of just over 6,000.

Part of the film is autobiographical, where Reitman shares his person story of living in Israel and visiting Hiroshima, Japan. That said, he feels it’s more an inspirational film than a dry, descriptive documentary.

“It’s one man’s quest to seek inner peace and coming upon the roadblocks that lead him to enlightenment,” he said. “It’s about him having to unlock each of those pearls of wisdom, to understand the concept of a healthy heart and a healthy body. Then you can understand what a healthy world looks like.”

This three-column cover story with large photo carries over to a page 7 three-column section with two photos, one of Greg Reitman with Donovan playing guitar, the other of Mike Love singing on stage from the Beach Boys concert. This article is republished here with permission from The Fairfield Ledger. Click FF Ledger Documentary 7-31-2015 to see a PDF of the whole 2-page article with photos.

See other news about the film here.

ROOTED in PEACE to play Martha’s Vineyard and an Iowa premiere at Fairfield’s Sondheim Center

July 10, 2015

ROOTED-V.10js_r3More screenings are coming up this summer for Hollywood director Greg Reitman’s documentary feature film.

Martha’s Vineyard Film Society

This month, Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will present ROOTED in PEACE on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, at 7:30pm. There will be a special post-screening Q&A with director Greg Reitman.

Read this interesting interview with Zip Creative’s Joanne Zippel on her blog: Fast Forward Friday with Greg Reitman, published today in advance of the MVFS showing.

Iowa Premiere in Sondheim Center

In early August the film will premiere in Fairfield, Iowa. Read how this Hollywood filmmaker came to Fairfield for a Beach Boys concert, returned for a David Lynch Weekend at MUM, learned TM and more, in the July issue of the Iowa Source in their All About FAIRFIELD section: Getting Rooted In PeaceGreen Producer Greg Reitman Brings New Documentary to Sondheim for Iowa Premiere. Here is a PDF of the print version.

Included in the film are interviews from those visits with filmmaker David Lynch; musicians Donovan and Mike Love; Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation; and Fred Travis, director of Maharishi University’s Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition; as well as historical footage of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation® technique, and Maharishi University of Management.

Blue Water Entertainment and the David Lynch Foundation are presenting the Iowa premiere of this inspirational documentary feature film, Sunday, August 2nd at 7pm in the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. There will be a Q&A following the showing with Sundance award-winning Director Greg Reitman and Executive Producer Joanna Plafsky. Joanna is an established international film producer and distributor, and member of the DLF Board of Directors.

Visit the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center website to find out more about Greg and his film, including production stills and the movie trailer, and if you’ll be in town at that time, to purchase tickets. Here is a PDF of the ROOTED in PEACE poster for Fairfield with affordable ticket prices.

The Fairfield Weekly Reader will publish an article on the event July 23rd.

Previous posts about the film can be seen here.

Arrangements are being finalized for the first international premiere, to be announced in the next film post.

Publicist and Poet @KenChawkin featured @TMhome_com. Learning to let go to let magic happen #creativity #TMmeditation

June 30, 2015

I received an email this morning from a member of the TMhome Team, an international Transcendental Meditation news website. I’ve admired their wonderful work over the years representing TM internationally, especially their interesting interviews with famous, and not so famous people who have benefited from this unique meditation practice.

They wrote to say the article they had been putting together about me was now up. As a publicist who is always concerned with properly promoting other people and their work, this was a complete turnaround for me. I very much enjoyed sharing stories with Liisa of how I started TM, my work as a publicist, and the wonders of the creative process writing poetry. So when I read her article I was very moved; she did an excellent job representing me!

The article is currently featured on their home page and under the People section. I invite you to visit their website and enjoy reading it. They also did a lovely job laying it out with personal photos and two of my poems.

I am thrilled to share this milestone with you! Click on the title of the article to take you there.

PR to poetry – how things sometimes happen to Ken Chawkin

Ken Chawkin - TMhome

June 30, 2015

In 1967, Ken Chawkin walked into the local TM centre without any intention of learning Transcendental Meditation. He simply wanted to buy a copy of The Science of Being and Art of Living written by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Here are the two poems featured in the interview: Ode to the Artist and Sometimes Poetry Happens.

The job of a poet — someone’s gotta do it!

May 27, 2015

The job of a poet is translating what he or she is experiencing into words. If it resonates with other people’s experience, allows them to identify with what’s in the poem in a way they could not have expressed as well with words, and gives them pleasure, then it’s a good poem.

While in NYC recently, my son commented on my m.o. as a poet, how I notice things, name and say what I’m experiencing at the time. So I wrote this simple haiku for him, a sort of job description.

Noticing … Naming … Saying
Job of a Poet

Case in point, when I was returning from Iowa City last week, I dropped in to see Sali. She was still in her bed; they hadn’t gotten her up yet for dinner. I held her hand and spoke to her, telling her how much I loved her. A part of me was noticing how I was feeling, what was happening within and between us. From that experience, I wrote this haiku for her.

The thrill of the heart
Holding hands and loving you
The peace that follows

Some of Mary Oliver’s poems are exquisite: At the Lake, Summer Day, Varanasi, Praying, Wild Geese, and The Journey.

Here are two poems about “The Poet” one I wrote about Bill Graeser, and one Rolf Erickson wrote about me.

I also posted a brilliant poem that Bill Graeser wrote about an unusual poet: What You May Not Know About Frankenstein.

And here is a poem about the experience of listening to Poetry – The Art of the Voice.

Both haiku were written May 18, 2015, in Fairfield, Iowa © Ken Chawkin

Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards

April 2, 2015

As we’ve seen in an recent post about the writing and teaching of poetry, Billy Collins wants the poem he’s writing to complete itself, to come to an end. When he writes a poem, he says meaning is the furthest thing on his mind. He’s just trying to get to the next line, to arrive at the ending. “It’s not a search for insight, particularly. It’s a search to be over with.”

In this interview with Ginger Murchison at the 9th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Billy Collins reveals more about the ending of a poem, how what happens is even more important than the last line of the poem.

During the interview, Ginger Murchison mentions something Billy Collins had alluded to about the end of a poem, and asks him:

What happens at the end of the poem? I want to know about that white space after the last period, for the poet and the reader. You said your poem goes towards somewhere. How do you see that as being more important than even the last line of the poem, that space at the end?

He answers her by describing the significance of the white space:

Well, the white space at the end is just like the white space around the rest of the poem. It stands for silence. And maybe the white space after the end of the poem is a little more silent than the other silences. I think of a poem as an interruption of silence.

He also talks about how satisfying it can be to find the ending to a poem. The implication being, the silence that follows the ending as something new that is created within the writer and the reader.

Once you find it, it’s incredibly satisfying. You found something that didn’t exist before. That the poem brings, calls into existence, through a series of steps, it gains some kind of ground, and out of that ground, there occurs something that had never existed before. It comes as a sort of gain, surprise.

I certainly can relate to that, and described in the previous post how certain poems completed themselves in ways I hadn’t imagined. When that happens, and when a poem enlivens a silence, within and between both the poet and the reader, or listener, it creates a deep feeling of fulfillment.

After hearing a discussion with Bill Moyers and 3 well-known poets on the Diane Rhem show discussing the creation of a poem and the effect it had on an audience when recited, I was inspired to write a poem about this mysterious creative process as something elemental, transcendental.

Poetry—The Art of The Voice, describes the source, course, and goal of poetry springing from and returning to silence, through a poet’s inner voice or consciousness, to a listener’s heart and mind. It also relates to the notion of a writer finding and expressing his or her own voice as a poet.

Another poem I wrote shows how Silence ultimately speaks for itself. See Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin.

Creation comes about through sounds and silences, expressions and gaps, within which the dynamics of transformation occur. See Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Uni-verse.

For a more detailed explanation of these dynamics in language and creation, see Singing Image of Fire, a poem by Kukai, with thoughts on language, translation, and creation, and Yunus Emre says Wisdom comes from Knowing Oneself — a Singularity that contains the Whole.

George Plimpton interviewed Billy Collins for Paris Review

As referenced by Ginger Murchison, George Plimpton had interviewed Billy Collins for The Paris Review in 2001 after news of his appointment as the new poet laureate by the Library of Congress. He would go on to serve two terms, 2001-2003. Although published 14 years ago, this interview is definitely worth reading:  Billy Collins, The Art of Poetry No. 83.

The interview opens with Plimpton asking Collins how he starts to write a poem. He says he doesn’t write that regularly, much of his time is waiting and watching; he’s vigilant. But when he’s engaged he usually writes a poem quickly, in one sitting.

I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines.

That makes perfect sense. He doesn’t know where he’s going and hopes the poem is one step ahead of him, holding his interest, leading him down the trail to that elusive mysterious ending. I love the different metaphors he uses to describe the pen as a tool to help him discover that something he’s not yet aware of.

Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.

He explains how he likes to invite the reader into a poem with something ordinary, then take him or her, and himself to a place he hasn’t been to yet.

I want to start in a very familiar place and end up in a strange place. The familiar place is often a comic place, and the strange place is indescribable except by reading the poem again.

There’s a lot more to the interview, but he concludes humbly by saying that he’s just trying to be a good writer.

No matter what I’m thinking about when I’m writing a poem, no matter what is captivating my attention, all I’m really trying to do is write good lines and good stanzas.

There’s a reason he’s called America’s most popular poet. He has made poetry accessible to millions of Americans. He continues to write, publish, sell books, teach, and is in constant demand to give poetry readings.

It is a delight to read his poetry. His subtle sense of humor puts a smile on my face. It’s also enjoyable to hear him recite his poems. Seemingly ordinary, they give you a unique perspective on things that were previously unimaginable, and that’s refreshing!

See the previous post: Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death. Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” and Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice.

Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death

March 18, 2015

The New York Times calls Billy Collins “the most popular poet in America.” In his poem, Introduction to Poetry, the former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death. This blog post also reveals how Collins writes and teaches poetry. It may surprise you.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

The Apple that Astonished Paris © 1988, 1996

Listen to Billy Collins read his poem, Introduction to Poetry.

Billy Collins speaks to English teachers in this poem who look at poetry as something to be analyzed and dissected. They teach their students to try to find out what a poem means instead of emotionally responding to it. To make his point, Collins amusingly suggests ways students might approach and experience a poem, instead of “beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.”

Writing and Teaching Poetry

Collins reveals more about his writing process and how he teaches poetry when answering a question from a middle school English teacher. He acknowledges the search for meaning in a poem, but when he writes a poem, meaning is the furthest thing on his mind. He’s just trying to get to the next line, and the next, to finally arrive at the ending.

Basically when you’re teaching poetry, despite that poem (Introduction to Poetry), you’re talking about meaning. We’re basically extracting meaning from the poem. And I realized at some point, that when I wrote a poem, meaning was the last thing on my mind. I never gave it a thought.

Basically, in a poem, I’m just trying to find the next line. I’m trying to find a way for the poem to go. And I’m trying to get to some destination. I’m not thinking about, ‘What’s the poem about, or meaning?’ Or, I’m not thinking of, ‘How will people write study questions about this poem and make any sense out of it?’

So I try to bring some of that into my teaching. I try to substitute for the question, ‘What does a poem mean?’ the question, ‘How does a poem go?’ ‘How does a poem get where its going?’ (It goes from the beginning to the end, maneuvering through shift points along the way, in search of a destination.) A poem is always searching for its own ending. And that’s what poets are thinking about. It’s not a search for insight, particularly. It’s a search to be over with.

PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Billy Collins on their Poetry Series about his new collection, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems. “I knew that poets seemed to be miserable,” said Collins about his younger self, yearning to fit in. While he admits he “faked a miserable character” at the start of his career, he’s since embraced his sense of humor. Poet Billy Collins on humor, authenticity and ‘Aimless Love’

William Stafford on Writing Poetry

William Stafford was Poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1970, what a Poet Laureate was called before they created the office. He was named Poet Laureate of Oregon from 1975-93. Stafford’s style of writing and teaching was process-oriented. He gave no praise or blame to his students’ writing. He encouraged English teachers and writing students to be innocent when writing poetry, without any preconceived notions of how it should go, and to be open to discovering the unexpected turns a poem could take on the way to its own completion.

Stafford was very open to spontaneity and receptivity when writing poetry. He said most teachers would spell out what a piece of writing should look like, and expected their students to reproduce the same. This product-oriented approach left no room for the imagination. “They want a wilderness with a map.” But, he asks, “how about errors that give a new start?” Errors, he said, “make a music that nobody hears. Your straying feet find the great dance,” and “stumbling always leads home.” That’s how he wrote poems, early every morning. Enjoy reading these William Stafford poems, A Course in Creative Writing, and You and Art.

My Own Experience as a Writer

I agree with Collins and Stafford that the creative process is a mystery, and coming to the end of a poem is a wonderful relief, especially when I see it finishing itself. It also surprises me with what it’s about, sometimes revealing a deeper meaning at the end than imagined. This meaningful sense of completion is why writing poetry can be so fulfilling.

Two early meta-poems describe this process: Writing—a poem on the writing process, and Sometimes Poetry Happens: a poem about the mystery of creativity. Two early poems I’d written that surprised me with their endings are, As Above So Below, and later, Pine Cone Trees.

My son Nathanael Chawkin wrote a poem called INSPIRATION, an outcome from the first homework assignment in his Grade Six Literature class. He felt strongly that you couldn’t force a student to write a poem; it had to come on its own accord. The poem innocently and profoundly expresses the spontaneity of the poetic process. I also added information with links after his poem about the writing process you may find interesting.


Just added a part two: Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards. Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” and Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice.

A poem in a movie inviting you to be who you are

January 2, 2015

I recently enjoyed watching Words and Pictures, a 2013 film about a male English teacher and a female art instructor who form a rivalry that ends up galvanizing students in a competition to decide the most effective way to communicate, using words or pictures. This battle between mind and heart, ideas and feelings, is also about self-discovery, expressing one’s creativity, and the blocks that get in the way. Cleverly written by Gerald Di Pego, a one-time English teacher, and faithfully directed by Fred Schepisi, it stars Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, and Bruce Davison. Visit their website for more info:

I especially liked the quotes about writing and art, the word vs. the image. A poem by Mary Oliver was supposed to be featured in the film. They never said which one, but kept waiting for permission to use it. By the time the answer came in, no, it was too late, and they had to come up with a replacement. The pressure was on screenwriter Gerald Di Pego. Being a poet himself, and seeing how this was his screenplay, the muse inspired him and he wrote this very vivid and appropriate poem, just in time. Juliette Binoche liked it, which came as a relief to him and the director. I found it online and wanted to share it with you. The poem plays a central role, but you’ll have to see the film to find out who wrote it and how it’s used.


I am a small poem
On a page with room
For another.

Share with me
This white field,
Wide as an acre
Of snow, clear
But for these tiny
Markings like the
Steps of a bird.
Come. Now.

This is the trough
Of the wave, the
Seconds after
Lightning, thin
Slice of silence
As music ends,
The freeze before
The melting. Hurry.

Lie down beside me.
Make angels. Make devils.
Make who you are.

As you can see, the poem invites you to create and become who you are, from that gap, the transitional point of possibility, and to share in the experience with another. Here’s a poem I wrote after a special painting class that seems relevant: ArtWords—poem about a creative awakening.

Interestingly, the Special Features part of the DVD revealed that Juliette Binoche, an artist in her own right, offered to do all of the paintings herself, which thrilled both writer and director. Because her character is dealing with physical challenges due to her medical condition, she had to paint in different styles, from portraiture to more abstract. Binoche enjoyed the added challenge and it possibly influenced her own future work.

Here is the official Words and Pictures – International Trailer (2014) HD.

The featurette also confirmed for me where they had made the film. The story is set in a New England prep school, but was actually shot at St. George’s School, an independent boarding and day university-preparatory school for boys in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a.k.a., Hollywood North.

I recognized the location, and it reminded me of a story I had heard on a local CBC radio talk show during my stay there. The guest was an English teacher who taught at St. George’s School. One of the topics being discussed was meeting famous people. Listeners called in to share their stories and the teacher related an unusual event that had recently happened to him.

He had gone shopping at a well-known store for comfortable walking shoes. He settled on a particular pair and the sales clerk told him it was a popular item. She said someone famous had been in that morning and purchased a similar pair. She left to find out the name of the celebrity, but got sidetracked, so he left.

He put on his new shoes and, as was his routine everyday after lunch, he went for a walk in the forest next to the school property. While walking along the path, looking downwards, ahead of him he saw a pair of shoes just like his coming toward him. He looked up and saw someone he never would have expected walking in the woods. He pointed at him in surprise trying to say his name, but it came out as gibberish. The person mimicked him sputtering his name. It was Robin Williams! I think he was in town at that time filming Jumanji.

They had a wonderful walk and talk together. Robin had asked him what he did for a living and where he worked, something he could identify with having played an English teacher at an elite boys prep school in Dead Poets Society. When they reached the edge of the forest, there was Robin’s stretch limousine parked on the street waiting for him. He invited him into the car saying they would drop him off at the school.

Now this man was not the most popular teacher at the school. When they pulled up, he got out of the limo, and all heads turned to look at him. Then Robin lowered the darkly tinted window, stuck his head out, and thanked the teacher for a wonderful time. All the kids’ jaws dropped! And from that day on he was the coolest person at school. Thank you, Robin! You knew what you were doing. God Bless you, wherever you are.

Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human. ~ Mark Strand (1934–2014)

December 5, 2014

Mark Strand, former U.S. poet laureate (1990-1991) and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1999), felt strongly that writing and reading poetry could make us better human beings. “Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human,” he said in an Inscape interview last year.

Percy Bysshe Shelley had famously said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” When Mark Strand was asked what he thought the function of poetry was in today’s society, he replied: “It’s not going to change the world, but I believe if every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world. Poetry has a humanizing influence. Poetry delivers an inner life that is articulated to the reader.”

Indeed, especially if they were as transformed by poetry as Mark Strand, who wanted to feel himself “suddenly larger . . . in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment.”

Last week, one of my poet friends, Roger Pelizzari, emailed me about the passing of Mark Strand, and included a favorite poem of his, My Name. Roger included a link to an earlier Paris Review interview: Mark Strand, The Art of Poetry No. 77, with his friend Wallace Shawn, from which I’ve included interesting excerpts.

I was surprised and sorry to hear the news of Strand’s passing and checked the Paris Review for an update. I found Memoriam Mark Strand, 1934–2014, under The Daily by Dan Piepenbring, and sent it to Roger.

Media from around the world published Obituaries reviewing the Canadian-born, American poet’s accomplished literary career. The LA Times described Mark Strand as “a revelatory poet who addressed love and death in his poems, but in radically lyrical, revelatory ways.”

This poem is filled with the wonderment he sought, and seems a fitting memorial, prophetically written in the poet’s own magical words.

My Name

Once when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass,
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become and where I would find myself,
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.



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