Archive for January, 2011

Writing—a poem on the writing process

January 18, 2011


Writing is a series of letting go’s
of our preconceived notions of how it goes
and allowing a deeper part of you to tell you what it knows;
when the writing’s good, it shows.

Because, ultimately, when we do,
that recognition of what’s true,
comes from the deepest part of you.

So let the writing speak to itself,
and let the writer listen, for

writing is listening on paper.

© Ken Chawkin

Also see Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process


Ode to the Artist: a magical day looking at lotus pads

January 16, 2011

Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park

Black lines briefly sketched on paper
capture our appearance but not our essence.

Your attention interests us,
although others have never before.
Your watchful eyes tell us
we are apart of you.

Can you feel our thoughts?
Can you think our feelings?
We do yours
and we thank you for committing us to memory.

For long after we’ve gone
and transmuted ourselves back into nature
our likeness will remind you that we were.
And your response will touch our hearts.

© Ken Chawkin


Sometimes Poetry Happens: a poem about the mystery of creativity

January 16, 2011

Sometimes Poetry Happens

Some poets can write
from reflected experience
referring back to what was written.

Others need to be there,
in full view of their subject,
opening up to what’s being given.

Sometimes poetry happens between the two.

It’s then you don’t really write the poem.
It writes you!
You just put it down on paper.

When you see it there,
You’ve captured it.
Or, rather, it’s captured you.

What really happened between the two?

To explore that space
between you and me
is to discover who we are.

For deep within,
at the source of the gap
lie the togetherness of the three—

the seer, the seen, and the poetry … in between.

© Ken Chawkin



January 16, 2011


Winter crystal morning bright
after raining night.

Dark tree branches frozen tight
in shiny shells of ice.

A strange and wondrous sight.
Transparent bones of light!

© Ken Chawkin

William Stafford—The Light By The Barn

January 15, 2011

The Light By The Barn

The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down—

Then the light by the barn again.

—William Stafford


William Stafford—When I Met My Muse

January 15, 2011

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

—William Stafford

William Stafford—A Course in Creative Writing

January 15, 2011

A Course in Creative Writing

They want a wilderness with a map—
but how about errors that give a new start?—
or leaves that are edging into the light?—
or the many places a road can’t find?

Maybe there’s a land where you have to sing
to explain anything: you blow a little whistle
just right and the next tree you meet is itself.
(And many a tree is not there yet.)

Things come toward you when you walk.
You go along singing a song that says
where you are going becomes its own
because you start. You blow a little whistle—

And a world begins under the map.

—William Stafford

Also see William Stafford—You and Art

William Stafford—Just Thinking

January 15, 2011

Just Thinking

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot—peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

—William Stafford

William Stafford—Ask Me

January 15, 2011

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

—William Stafford

See a cosmic expression of how the river relates to Hafiz’s life in his poem, A River Understands, in my year-end post Winding up the year with inspiration from Hafiz.

See other poems by William Stafford posted here.

UPDATE (May 1, 2018): A little over seven years since posting this poem, I found a video of him reading it. William Stafford was a guest speaker at the City Club of Portland on July 25, 1986. He spoke about writing and teaching, read some of his poems, and answered questions. The video, listed as You Must Revise Your Life, the title of his new poetry book at the time, was the first book I had ever read of his. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me as a writer. He concluded with reading Ask Me. It’s one of my favorite Stafford poems along with The Way It Is, You and Art, When I Met My Muse, Something That Happens Right Now, and others posted on my blog, including the last poem he wrote the day he died, “Are you Mr. William Stafford?”.

Henry Lyman interviewed William Stafford for NPR’s series, Poems to a Listener, later posted on YouTube. Stafford reads several of his poems, including Ask Me. The wonderful discussion that follows this poem is about how Stafford turns “mistakes” into lines of poetry.

I later found him read Ask Me at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College’s Distinguished Poets Series in 1986.

AFP: Meditation soothes war veterans

January 14, 2011

AFP-TV: Meditation soothes war veterans

Since the start of the Iraq war, record numbers of American soldiers are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which they carry from the battlefield into civilian life. One therapy being proposed to help them to overcome the illness is Transcendental Meditation, and some returning soldiers say it has saved their lives.

Watch this excellent two-minute English video produced by Agence France Presse, also posted in French by rajafelix.

See AFP’s How Clint Eastwood keeps his cool, Meditation May Ease PTSD for Vets, and watch highlights of the David Lynch Foundation‘s Operation Warrior Wellness press conference and the second annual Change Begins Within benefit gala. Also see new video on 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms within 4 weeks of Veterans practicing Transcendental Meditation.

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