This simple poem—Once in the 40’s by William Stafford—might quietly surprise you at the end

January 6, 2023

The more I read this poem—Once in the 40’s by William Stafford—the more I love it. It may seem simple, but it quietly surprised me at the end. I subscribe to the Academy of American Poets newsletter and it appeared in a list of poets whose birthdays are in January. Stafford’s is the 17th.

Once in the 40’s
We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but
brave—we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time
when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

—William Stafford (1914-1993) 

From The Way It Is by William Stafford. Copyright © 1982, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Shared via Poets.org. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Bill had married Dorothy Hope Franz in 1944. He must have been 30 at the time, and she 28. Although, Dorothy’s obituary (1916-2013) says they married in 1943. In any case, this poem recalls an event that must’ve taken place once in the 40’s, in the early years of their marriage when they were very much in love and carefree, before they settled down to raise a family. The nostalgia factor makes a lot of sense. It’s relatable.

It also reminds me of being surprised with a nostalgic feeling when reading the last line in Mary Oliver’s poem, Coming Home.

Enjoy more wonderful poems by William Stafford posted here.

Something sweet to close out the old year with

December 31, 2022

I love this sweet and rare interaction between this girl and a bird. It’s as if Snow White and The Sound of Music collaborated to create “a golden hour miracle.” The description below explained what had happened. A bird had crashed into their window and was dazed. We see their delighted daughter holding the bird and singing Edelweiss to it while compassionately caressing it. You can hear the bird chirp feebly. This must have helped to get it back on its feet, or in this case, off, since “she flew away fit as a fiddle.” What a magical moment!

Gable Swanlund’s mother posted this video of her and the bird on her Instagram account. The video has hundreds of thousands of likes and over ten thousand comments! It’s bound to put a smile on your face.

Sander from the Netherlands posted a close-up of the video on Twitter.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

This funny and wise cartoon from David Sipress reminds us that things are not as bad as we think

December 31, 2022

Originally tweeted by DavidSipress (@dsipress) on December 30, 2022.

Enjoy other funny cartoons by David Sipress at the top and bottom of this post: Good cartoons teach us a lot if we’re willing to learn and laugh at our little foibles and neuroses. Included are links to interviews and articles about him, as well as funny cartoons by others and a short video.

A friend sent me this poem, I Worried by Mary Oliver, which fits perfectly with the sentiment of the cartoon!

‘Along the Potomac’ by watercolorist Margaret Pearson beautifully portrays a stark winter scene

December 31, 2022

I saw this beautiful watercolor painting online and was so impressed with its zen-like quality I had to post it. Along the Potomac by Margaret Pearson seems appropriate for this time of year. The different textures in the sky and on the river along with the various shades of black and white contribute to the gloomy atmosphere in this stark winter scene. But the sun must be shining through the clouds since we see the picnic table casting its shadow onto the brightly colored sandy beach at the bottom.

“Along the Potomac” by Margaret Pearson, member of the Potomac Valley Watercolorists, a juried society of watercolor painters based in the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. area.

John Ford and the horizon line

I am reminded of what John Ford, played by David Lynch, said to a young Steven Spielberg at the end of The Fabelmans, the semi-autobiographical film about his life. Ford asks Spielberg what he knows about art and tells him to look at different paintings in his office and describe them. Spielberg’s descriptions miss the main point. It’s all about where the horizon line is placed in a picture. Ford tells him if it’s at the top or at the bottom, it’s interesting, but if it’s in the middle, it’s boring. The horizon line in Margaret Pearson’s painting is in the lower half—another reason for it being interesting.

I added that clip in this recent blog post on Steven Spielberg, where he tells Martin Scorsese how he was able to get David Lynch to play John Ford. He also reveals that he and his wife had learned TM 3 years ago from Bob Roth at DLF, and had mentioned it to David Lynch in the hopes of softening him up to take the role. Visit that post to get the full story.

A 17-year landmark study @maharishiuni found group meditation decreased US national stress

December 25, 2022

World Journal of Social Science publishes study showing that group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi techniques by √1% of a population decreased multiple stress indicators in the U.S.. Scientists call for a group to create world peace.

During a five-year demonstration period, a group of 1725 meditators practiced the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi techniques twice daily to create coherence in US collective consciousness. Murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, robberies, infant mortality, drug-related deaths, vehicle fatalities, and child deaths by injuries all decreased, by 6% to 21% compared to the seven previous years. When the size of the group decreased over the next five years, stress began to increase again on all indicators. (Summary for EurekAlert! Press Release.)

Every year during 2000 to 2006 there were tens of thousands of stress-related tragedies in the U.S.. Official statistics from the FBI and Centers for Disease Control indicate that there were 15,440 murders, 93,438 rapes, and 86,348 child and adolescent deaths from accidents each year to give a few examples. This current study, published in the World Journal of Social Science, is the longest and most comprehensive of 50 studies to demonstrate what has been named the Maharishi Effect, in honor of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Maharishi International University (MIU) founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The results can be seen in the chart below. The blue line indicates that during the Baseline period of 2000 to 2006 the size of the TM and TM-Sidhi group located at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa increased to reach the √1% of the U.S. population (1725 people) and stayed there for five years during the Demonstration period from 2007 to 2011. All stress indicators immediately started decreasing. In the Post period when the size of the group size began to decline the rate of decrease in stress slowed and then it reversed and began to increase.

Indicators of Stress in the United States

The size of the MIU TM and TM-Sidhi Group is indicated by the blue line, the eight indices of stress in the United States are represented by the lines in different colors, and the US stress index—the mean of all eight variables—is indicated by the red line. The figure shows a phase transition to a global reduction of negativity in the U.S. when the critical threshold of the √1% of the U.S. population was practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program together in a group. When the Group size dropped significantly, the trend was reversed.

Lead author Dr. David Orme-Johnson said: “What is unique about this study is that the results are so visually striking and on such a large scale. We see reduced stress on multiple indicators at the predicted time for the entire United States over a five-year period. And when the size of the group declined, national stress began increasing again. Clearly, the group was causing the effect.”

“What is unique about this study is that the results are so visually striking and on such a large scale. We see reduced stress on multiple indicators at the predicted time for the entire United States over a five-year period. And when the size of the group declined, national stress began increasing again. Clearly, the group was causing the effect.”

Lead author Dr. David Orme-Johnson

Co-author Dr. Kenneth Cavanaugh commented: “This study used state-of-the-art methods of time series regression analysis for eliminating potential alternative explanations due to intrinsic pre-existing trends and fluctuations in the data. We carefully studied potential alternative explanations in terms of changes in economic conditions, political leadership, population demographics, and policing strategies. None of these factors could account for the results.”

The fact that all variables started decreasing only after the square root of one percent of the U.S. was reached indicates a phase transition. Like when water does not turn to ice until 32◦ F is reached, national stress did not start decreasing until the U.S. √1% transition threshold was achieved.

The fact that all variables started decreasing only after the square root of one percent of the U.S. was reached indicates a phase transition. Like when water does not turn to ice until 32◦ F is reached, national stress did not start decreasing until the U.S. √1% transition threshold was achieved.

The chart shows that in 2013 when the size of the TM and TM-Sidhi group quickly dropped all stress indicators abruptly increased. Apparently, the rapid drop in national coherence shook the nation.

The scientists used regression analysis to estimate how many deaths and events were reduced by the meditator group. For example, image 2 shows the red dotted line representing the Baseline trend projected into the Demonstration and Post periods. During the Demonstration period drug-related deaths (the black line) fell to 14% below their Baseline trend and were another 15 % lower during the Post period, for a total of 79,941 fewer drug deaths. The chart also shows that in the absence of the coherence creating group drug deaths eventually returned to their Baseline level.

Drug-Induced Deaths in the U.S.

IMAGE 2: The red dotted line is the number of Drug Deaths forecasted from the Baseline trend. The black line is the actual number of Drug Deaths. Similar analyses were conducted for all variables and the results are displayed in the Table.

TABLE: RESULTS OF REGRESSION ANALYSESThe first column shows the number of events per year during the Baseline period (Intercept). The second column shows the change per year during the Baseline (Slope). The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth columns show the thousands of events averted during the Demonstration, during the Post periods, the total events averted, and percent change, respectively. The last column shows the estimated total events averted by each individual participant in the MIU TM and TM-Sidhi group.

The unified field level of natural law

The finding that the effect was holistic, causing all variables to move up and down together, supports the theory expressed by both Maharishi from the Vedic perspective and by quantum physicist and MIU president Dr. John Hagelin from quantum field theory that the TM and TM-Sidhi groups are creating coherence in collective consciousness from the unified field level of natural law. This is big. It is evidence of the existence of the unified field from a completely different approach than using particle accelerators and detecting gravity waves.

This discovery of the unified field is more than just an intellectual knowledge. It is arguably the most immediately highly practical technological discovery in the history of science. The invention of the wheel mobilized humanity. The printing press, radio, the telephone, the internet, and satellites increased our ability to communicate with each other across vast distances and time. The discovery of DNA opened our minds to the subtle mechanics of natural law underlying the evolution and growth of all life forms. These are among the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. But what discovery can reduce human suffering as comprehensively as group meditation?

Relationship between individual and collective consciousness

The paper reviews the many concepts of collective consciousness as they have occurred throughout history in the sciences and humanities. None have practical applications as Maharishi’s does and none have been so empirically verified.

The paper discusses Maharishi’s theory, which holds that every individual automatically contributes to collective consciousness and reciprocally, collective consciousness influences every individual. This is universally true whatever the form of government—democracy, republic, monarchy, communism, or dictatorship.

It is essential for every individual to use evidence-based technologies to reduce their own stress and at the same time, the responsibility of every government to provide these technologies to everyone.

The paper summarizes the hundreds of studies showing that practice of TM increases coherence in the individual, as indicated by such measures as increased brain coherence, decreased anxiety, depression, and anger, increased creativity, increased IQ and emotional and social intelligence, and decreased PTSD symptoms, prison recidivism, drug and alcohol addictions, and sickness rates in all categories of disease. More coherent individuals form a more coherent society.

The Howard and Alice Settle Foundation

A grant for 75 million dollars from the Howard and Alice Settle Foundation provided stipends for participants to be in the group and provided funding to bring several hundred visiting TM-Sidhi experts from India to further augment the MIU group. Dr. Orme-Johnson commented: “This is a lot of money, but the savings from the 10% reduction in crimes would save over 200 billion dollars, not to mention all the other savings from reducing other sources of stress in the country.”

Scientists call for a group to create world peace

The paper concludes with a call to create a permanent √1% group for the whole world, 8,000 participants practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program together in one place. And as an engineering safety factor, a √1% group on every continent is needed. The world is so interconnected, no one is safe until everyone is safe, all living in harmony. This is easily within reach of any government or the world’s wealthiest citizens. The person who does it will be remembered as the greatest leader in history.

IMAGE 3: GROUP MEDITATION AT MAHARISHI INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY. Since 1979 twice daily group meditations have been held at MIU in Fairfield, Iowa for the purpose of creating coherence in the U.S. and world collective consciousness.

. . . . .

JOURNAL: World Journal of Social Science. ARTICLE TITLE: Field-Effects of Consciousness: A Seventeen-Year Study of the Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Programs on Reducing National Stress in the United States. PUBLISHED: Dec 14, 2022. DOI:10.5430/wjss.v9n2p1 METHOD OF RESEARCH: Data/statistical analysis. SUBJECT OF RESEARCH: People. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The published article contains 5 Tables and 10 Figures (Graphs).

News coverage

Besides the regular science news coverage so far, one mainstream article stands out—an excellent report by Brooke Kato in the New York Post: Group meditation curbs stress, whether you do it or not: study.

Thrive Global invited Dr. Orme-Johnson to submit an article on his study. They published it Wed Jan 25, 2023: A Seventeen-Year Landmark Study Finds that Group Meditation Decreases U.S. National Stress.

Steven Spielberg tells Martin Scorsese that he learned TM 3 years ago, and how he got David Lynch to be in his new film, The Fabelmans

December 15, 2022

Martin Scorsese recently interviewed Steven Spielberg following an NYC screening of The Fabelmans at the Directors Guild of America Theater.

Photo by Waldemar Dalenogare

Deadline posted this article about it: Steven Spielberg Tells Martin Scorsese Why A Very Private Director Made ‘The Fabelmans’ & How Laura Dern Convinced David Lynch To Play John Ford.

In it, Spielberg mentions how he and his wife had learned TM, Transcendental Meditation, 3 years ago through the David Lynch Foundation. He also revealed how the idea came up to ask David Lynch to play the role of John Ford in the film, how he pulled it off, and how David Lynch prepared for his cameo role. Apparently, David was unrecognizable as he took on the persona of the late, great filmmaker.

Entertainment writer Tomris Laffly was at the Q&A and posted several video clips of that conversation on Twitter, for which we are grateful.

And here is a part of that movie clip they talked about, especially the cigar-lighting scene, which Amanda Dugan just tweeted of David Lynch as John Ford in The Fabelmans. She later sent me the full YouTube clip of David Lynch as John Ford, which I’ve embedded here.

David Lynch playing John Ford being directed by Steven Spielberg in a semi-autobiographical film about his life.

Later added: On Jan 5, 2023, Jimmy Kimmel asked Laura Dern to share the story of how Steven Spielberg asked her to get David Lynch to play the role of John Ford in his film. She was the catalyst in bringing both of these master film directors together to “pay homage” to the master filmmaker they both admired. It’s from 4:36-6:40 and is cued up below.

These articles are worth reading: ScreenRant: David Lynch’s Cameo In Spielberg’s The Fabelmans Explained, Vulture: The Fabelmans’ Brilliant David Lynch Cameo Is All About Perspective, and The Film Stage: Watch Steven Spielberg Talk to Martin Scorsese About How David Lynch Became John Ford.

At the bottom of The Film Stage article, they embed a video from 11 years ago — Spielberg/Grazer/Howard – “John Ford” — of Spielberg recounting in detail the real-life story, when he was 15, of meeting John Ford, which, decades later, would became the ending for The Fabelmans.

Interestingly, Bob Roth @meditationbob had taught TM to both the Scorseses and the Spielbergs. CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob is one of the most sought-after TM teachers around. He has taught thousands of people from all walks of life, including many of today’s top celebrities, like Lady Gaga and Oprah, Ellen, Katy Perry, Sheryl Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Liv Tyler, among others.

Rock’s Songbird—Christine McVie—has flown free

December 8, 2022

The Rock world has been reeling from the news of the unexpected death of Christine McVie, the longtime co-lead vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac. She died Wednesday, November 30, 2022, after a short illness. She was 79. Christine was surrounded by family members at a London hospital when she passed.

Many condolences and remembrances have been pouring in this past week, especially from members of the band attesting to how much she was loved and appreciated as a person and, of course, as one of their foundational musicians. This E News! video contains several quotes from both band and family members alike. Good Morning America aired Celebrating the life and legacy of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie

You can read more in some of the many articles published about her life. Here are a few: Rolling Stone: Christine McVie, Keyboardist and Singer for Fleetwood Mac, Dead at 79; The Guardian: Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie dies at age 79; and NME’s Mark Beaumont’s excellent piece: Christine McVie, 1943-2022: an eternal songbird.

The Guardian also posted photos and quotes: Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie – a life in pictures, and Christine McVie: a look back at the Fleetwood Mac star’s greatest hits – video obituary.

Christine McVie on writing ‘Songbird’

One of the things that came up in my Instagram feed was this post from Far Out Magazine: Christine McVie on Writing Songbird. They included the audio portion from a Dec 17, 2017 BBC Desert Island Discs interview with Christine McVie that dealt with how she came to write her famous song. They also transcribed that part of the conversation in the Instagram post. Raised on Radio also posted the interview on YouTube. The Songbird section starts at 3:18. You can click CC to see their words.

In a recent post, I quoted Brendan Graham, who said, “the truly special songs write us; we don’t write them. We don’t find them; they find us.” Christine McVie described exactly that kind of magical experience.

She couldn’t sleep, and an unknown song was in her head. “I had to play this song. It was as if I’d been channeled or something!” It came to her at 3 in the morning. “The whole song, complete, chords, words, everything within half an hour,” she explained. Fortunately, she had a piano in her room, but no tape recorder. So she kept playing it without sleeping for fear of forgetting it, until she went into the studio at 9 o’clock the next day to record it on a two-track tape. “I just felt as if it was a universal kind of prayer or something. I just don’t know where it came from. This never happened to me since or before.”

‘Songbird’ would arguably become McVie’s signature song. Originally released as the B-side to ‘Dreams’ in 1977, it ended up on Fleetwood Mac’s world-conquering Rumours album. It wasn’t her biggest hit for the group, but the ballad was a frequent closer at Fleetwood Mac concerts, especially after McVie rejoined in 2014.

McVie later recorded an orchestral version of the song, composed and arranged by multi-Grammy winner Vince Mendoza. It was part of her first-ever compilation highlighting songs from her solo career: ‘Songbird ~ A Solo Collection,’ which came out this year.

Enjoy this beautiful photo collage by CK WOOD Music Productions to Songbird (Fleetwood Mac and Christine McVie).

At 2:03 there’s a photo of Christine wearing a top with the words, Nobody’s Perfekt. This is doubly funny, not only because of the misspelling of the word, perfect, but also because it’s her family name! She was born Christine Anne Perfect. She told Peter Robinson of The Guardian: “I used to joke that I was perfect until I married John.”

Two decades after it first aired, the world discovered Eva Cassidy’s amazing voice singing ‘Songbird’. It was published 2 years after her untimely death at 33. Mick Fleetwood knew Eva and said this about her: “She was brilliant. She had the magic. And I call it, It. She had It!” To find out more about her, see The hauntingly beautiful voice of Eva Cassidy.

Christine’s Family, Early Background, and Later Recognition

Christine Anne Perfect was born on July 12, 1943 to Cyril Percy Absell Perfect and Beatrice Edith Maud Perfect. They also have a son named John. Christine’s family contributed considerably to her development. Her grandfather was the organist at Westminster Abbey. Her father was a concert violinist and music lecturer at St. Peters College of Education at Saltley in Birmingham. Her mother was a medium, psychic, and faith healer. After her brother brought home a Fats Domino songbook, she switched from playing classical piano to blues-based rock and roll.

She studied sculpture at school with the intention of becoming an art teacher and met blues musicians who invited her to join a band. She later left a window-dressing job in London to become a full-time musician. She would soon be invited to join an early version of Fleetwood Mac who would go on, through various iterations, to become one of the top-selling bands of all time.

An introvert by nature, McVie’s creative and spiritual influences informed her musical career and kind personality. She impacted her bandmates in positive ways, at times, the quieter center holding them together as they spun out of control due to the excessive drug-fueled lifestyles and rocky romantic relationships of that era. But they turned their melodramas into musical hits. McVie would be honored with many awards, and in 1998, was inducted with Fleetwood Mac into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

MOJO’s Tribute to Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie

Christine McVie: Her 20 Greatest Songs. In tribute to Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie, who passed away this week, MOJO selects the best tracks from across her career. They also included Christine McVie Remembered. In memory of Christine McVie, who has sadly passed away aged 79, MOJO revisits our 2017 interview with Fleetwood Mac’s singer-songwriter.

Leland Roberts published in Medium: In Memoriam: Christine McVie is Britain’s Greatest Female Popular Music Artist.

Nadja Dornik performs her beautiful transcription of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu Op.66 for a harp

November 14, 2022

I discovered this amazing musician—Serbian harpist and pianist Nadja Dornik. She transcribed and performed a stunningly beautiful version of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu (C♯minor, Op. posth. 66, WN 46) on the harp. Check out her impressive bio, and see more videos on her YouTube channel and those featured at onepoint.fm.

For another beautiful classic piece of music, listen to Kristan Toczko, one of Canada’s premier harpists, perform Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

Norman McLaren’s 1968 NFB film ‘Pas de deux’ creates a spellbinding aesthetic experience

What the Living Do—Marie Howe’s ‘letter’ to her brother—an elegy to loss and how she lives with it

November 2, 2022

In previous posts we highlighted how certain poems (or a song) seem to come through poets as if they were a conduit. Another example is poet Marie Howe. During a poetry reading she gave at a Christian Scholars’ Conference in 2017 Plenary, she said this about her writing. (19:39)

“So much of writing for me is writing a lot and throwing it out, because as John would say, I knew that already. So, it’s writing and writing and writing until the poem actually begins to write me, which was a great great feeling. And this is a poem that ended up being a title of this book, because I was working on four or five different poems in a very long day and finally pushed them aside, because I had to give up writing a poem, and just write to my dead brother John. And it ended up being what wanted to be written. It’s called What the Living Do.” (20:18)

So, it’s writing and writing and writing until the poem actually begins to write me, which was a great great feeling. And it ended up being what wanted to be written.

Marie Howe on the poem to her brother, What the Living Do

Fresh Air: Poet Marie Howe On ‘What The Living Do’ After Loss

She read and discussed this poem, and others, with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air: Poet Marie Howe On ‘What The Living Do’ After Loss (Oct 19, 2011). Her younger brother John died from AIDS-related complications in 1989. A few years later she wrote him a poem in the form of a letter. They wrote, “the poem is an elegiac description of loss, and of living beyond loss.” The title poem of her collection was later selected for inclusion in The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry

These comments by Marie from their wonderful conversation stood out: “So many poems occur at the intersection of time and eternity and the fullness of time. … Poetry holds the knowledge that we are alive and that we know we’re going to die. The most mysterious aspect of being alive might be that—and poetry knows that.”

Poetry holds the knowledge that we are alive and that we know we’re going to die. The most mysterious aspect of being alive might be that—and poetry knows that.

Marie Howe on our mortality and poetry’s redeeming value

The Writing Life: The Poet Is In at Grand Central Terminal

During her two-year tenure as New York State Poet Laureate, Marie Howe collaborated with the MTA and NYU to create public poetry events. She told poet Sandra Beasley, host of The Writing Life, that the coolest thing they did, and expanded upon the next year, was The Poet Is In at Grand Central Terminal, where hundreds of people lined up for hours to have their own poem written for them by an award-winning poet. The program was so successful they had to build more sets and bring in more poets on a rotating schedule to handle the growing demand. That section of the interview, Marie Howe wants you to carry her poems away, is cued up at 20:38.

The Millions: Writing as a spiritual act

I featured another powerful poem of hers in this earlier post: New York poet laureate Marie Howe reads “Annunciation” to Krista Tippett On Being. She described how the poem came through her, “and it had nothing to do with me.” I highlight an interview with The Millions. When asked if she thinks of writing as a spiritual act at its core, Marie replies:

“I do, because it involves a wonderful contradiction, which is, in order for it to happen, you have to be there, and you have to disappear. Both. You know, nothing feels as good as that. Being there and disappearing—being possessed by something else. Something happening through you, but you’re attending it. There are few other things in the world like that, but writing is pretty much a relief from the self—and yet the self has to be utterly there.”

Nothing feels as good as that. Being there and disappearing—being possessed by something else. Something happening through you, but you’re attending it. Writing is pretty much a relief from the self—and yet the self has to be utterly there.

Marie Howe on the contradiction within writing as a spiritual act

Poets Ada Limón and Ranier Maria Rilke

This relates to the previous post about Ada Limón, the 24th U.S. Poet Laureate, where she describes her experiences of writing poetry—how deep attention can turn into a poem, that deep looking is a way of loving, and can transform the smallest thing into something of great importance. She said it is the thing that brings her the most joy.

Ranier Maria Rilke describes, in great detail, this process of deep seeing and ability to surrender completely to “Things whose essential life you want to express.” If you do, then it will reciprocate and “speak to you” with a most glorious outcome. His amazing description, translated by Stephen Mitchell, is included in that post.

Previous posts on being a conduit for poetry and song

I share a few of my own poems from a similar perspective in Being written—how some poems come through us.

In a previous post, Karen Matheson sings a beautiful sad Gaelic song. Written by Brendan Graham, he reveals how the song chose him as a conduit to tell its story of loss and grief during Ireland’s 1840s famine.

Poems about death by Stephen Levine and Mary Oliver

Here’s a look at death from a different, more enlightened perspective in Two profound poems by Stephen Levine: in the realm of the passing away & millennium blessing.

Mary Oliver reflected on death, especially towards the end of her life when she was ill. These two poems reveal her thoughts. White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field — maybe death / isn’t darkness, after all, / but so much light / wrapping itself around us–. When Death Comes — When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

Discover Ada Limón, the 24th U.S. Poet Laureate

October 25, 2022

I recently discovered Ada Limón. I found her refreshing and her poetry accessible. She is the author of six poetry collections and is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. This past summer she was selected as the 24th U.S. Poet Laureate for 2022-2023.

Here are 3 related sequential videos: a Library of Congress interview, followed by a PBS interview and announcement, and Ada Limón giving her inaugural reading as the 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. I added a bonus video at the bottom, from 2019—Life of a Poet: Ada Limón.

1. July 12, 2022: Ada Limón: 24th Poet Laureate (19 min)

Ada Limón talks about her poetry and her appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate with Library of Congress Chief Communications Officer Roswell Encina, in the Library’s Poetry Room.

When asked how she writes, Ada explains that composing a poem is an all-body experience for her. She involves all her senses, not just her mind. She is asked what inspires her, and replies: “I find inspiration in so many different things. I always say the muse is, or my muse is the world. It’s everything.”

At 6:45, she expresses the essence of what it means to be a poet.

But I think I’m always amazed by how deep attention can turn into a poem, that deep looking is a way of loving. And it can transform the smallest thing into something of great importance. And no matter how many years I’ve been writing poems and no matter what I’ve done, that is the thing that brings me the most joy, that gives me shivers, the way that looking and attention and really giving your all to something can transform it.

I’m always amazed by how deep attention can turn into a poem, that deep looking is a way of loving…can transform the smallest thing into something of great importance…the thing that brings me the most joy, that gives me shivers, the way that looking and attention and really giving your all to something can transform it. (edited)

Ada Limón, 24th U.S. Poet Laureate

The other side of the equation, of course, is how the poet is also transformed by this process. It is obvious that Ada Limón was meant to be a poet, and now a poet laureate.

But what she said reminds me very much of what Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about this experience. I discovered it in Jane Hirshfield’s book, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, in the chapter on Poetry and the Mind of Indirection, pages 119-120. Rilke gets to the essence of what that deep attention, deep looking (and loving), can bring a devoted poet. Hirshfield writes:

Both readings of Novalis’s aphorism—that an awareness in the things we wish to observe and know, and that the way we come to them matters—enter into a letter from Rilke, sent in the winter of 1920 to Baladine Klossowska, a lover and fellow writer with whom he shared a passionate correspondence.

This next paragraph, translated by Stephen Mitchell, reveals that essential art of deep seeing, and its surprising hidden reward of spiritual transformation.

These Things whose essential life you want to express first ask you. “Are you free? Are you prepared to devote all your love to me . . . ?” And if the Thing sees that you are otherwise occupied with even a particle of your interest, it shuts itself off; it may perhaps give you some slight sign of friendship, or word or a nod, but it will never give you its heart, entrust you with its patient being, its sweet sidereal constancy, which makes it so like the constellations in the sky. In order for a Thing to speak to you, you must regard it for a certain time as the only one that exists, as the one and only phenomenon which, through your laborious and exclusive love, is now placed at the center of the universe, and which, in that incomparable place, is on that day attended by angels.

These Things whose essential life you want to express first ask you. “Are you free? Are you prepared to devote all your love to me . . . ?” … In order for a Thing to speak to you, you must regard it for a certain time as the only one that exists, as the one and only phenomenon which, through your laborious and exclusive love, is now placed at the center of the universe, and which, in that incomparable place, is on that day attended by angels. (edited)

Rainer Maria Rilke in a letter to Baladine Klossowska

Mary Oliver also reiterated this truth: “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” It was her essential message for living a full life. She emphasized: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” She formularized it in this succinct 3-line poem, Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.

Even well-known Canadian actor Keanu Reeves said something similar: “The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.

For John Keats, this experience of reverse deep seeing was to inhabit a state of being perceived outside himself. It involved negating his Self to become The Other, what he described as ‘negative capability’.

2. Jul 27, 2022: PBS NewsHour: Ada Limón on becoming the new U.S. poet laureate (6 min)

Ada Limón has been named the nation’s new poet laureate. Jeffrey Brown recently met with Limón to learn more about her life’s path, one that includes backyard groundhogs, Kentucky bluegrass, pokeweed and plenty of poetry. It’s part of our arts and culture series, “CANVAS.”

3. Sept 29, 2022: Live! at the Library: U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón Opening Reading (56 min)

Award-winning poet Ada Limón will give her inaugural reading as the 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, with an introduction by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The historic reading marks the beginning of Limón’s laureateship, and it traditionally launches the Library’s literary season.

4. January 30, 2019: Hill Center poetry series, The Library of Congress. (63 min)

Poet Ada Limón discussed her work with Ron Charles, book critic at the Washington Post. It was a rich interactive and intimate conversation, introducing and then commenting on her reading certain meaningful poems from her life. Enjoy Life of a Poet: Ada Limón.

PS: These posts share similar experiences described by Limón and Rilke: Being written—how some poems come through us and Karen Matheson sings ‘Crucán na bPáiste’ with a Gaelic band. Brendan Graham tells how the song chose him as a conduit. Truly beautiful and sad. Also see negative capability, reverse seeing, beauty & the desire for transcendence & unity in life & poetry.

In this post, New York poet laureate Marie Howe reads “Annunciation” to Krista Tippett On Being, she describes how the poem came through her. In another interview included there, she is asked if she thinks of writing as a spiritual act at its core, and answers:

“I do, because it involves a wonderful contradiction, which is, in order for it to happen, you have to be there, and you have to disappear. Both. You know, nothing feels as good as that. Being there and disappearing—being possessed by something else. Something happening through you, but you’re attending it. There are few other things in the world like that, but writing is pretty much a relief from the self—and yet the self has to be utterly there.”

New: What the Living Do—Marie Howe’s ‘letter’ to her brother—an elegy to loss and how she lives with it.


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