Archive for June, 2014

A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue complements Derek Walcott’s Love after Love

June 27, 2014

 

A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue

May you recognize in your life, the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here,
That behind the facade of your life
there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

John O’Donohue (from Anam Cara)

See Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself.

See Emily Dickinson’s Solitude.

Other poems For a New Beginning by John O’Donohue and The Inner History of a Day by John O’Donohue.

Listen to Krista Tippett interview John O’Donohue On Being: The Inner Landscape of Beauty.

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Poems by Rumi and Octavio Paz open our minds to a more cosmic perspective

June 27, 2014

Rumi and Octavio Paz on Discovering a more Cosmic Perspective

Rumi

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

(The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks)

~

Octavio Paz

Brotherhood
Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

(Collected Poems by Octavio Paz, translated with Eliot Weinberger)

~

Here is a haiku I wrote that shares a similar sentiment. It was published in 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen for The Dryland Fish, and in Five Haiku for This Enduring Gift.

 Forest Flowers

tiny white flowers
a constellation of stars
so low yet so high

© Ken Chawkin

 ~

An even more cosmic understanding our relationship to the universe comes from the Vedic Literature — “Yatha pinde tatha brahmande, yatha brahmande tatha pinde” — “As is the individual, so is the universe, as is the universe, so is the individual” or “As is the atom, so is the Universe” or “As is the human body, so is the Cosmic Body” or “As is the Microcosm, so is the Macrocosm”, or succinctly as “As Above, So Below.” See my poem As Above So Below.

Another expression is “Anor aniyan mahato mahiyan — “Smaller than the smallest is larger than the largest” i.e., our essential nature, our Self, is beyond measure, infinite, unbounded, transcendental.
 

Mary Oliver’s Summer Day is filled with wonder

June 23, 2014

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down,
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~ Mary Oliver ~

(New and Selected Poems, Volume I)

Related: Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying, is a lesson on attention, receptivity, listening and writing.

Other poems: The Journey by Mary Oliver | Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, photo by Ken West | Varanasi by Mary Oliver in A Thousand Mornings.

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself

June 22, 2014

Just received this beautiful poem, Love after Love, written by Derek Walcott. To me it’s about coming back to yourself, discovering and loving your self. It can be a sweet, quiet awakening, when you recognize it, open your heart to it, to who you are.

I remember when it happened to me, living alone in a room I was renting in a house in North Vancouver. I finally let go of all the distracting reasons to search for happiness outside myself, in wanting to love another person or be loved by them, or some thing to do I thought would make me happy. I just stopped and discovered the loving stranger that was there, and accepted myself instead, as if for the first time. Took more than half my life for it to finally happen, but was quietly surprised and pleased when it did. Derek Walcott describes this process of self-recognition and acceptance so well, so powerfully.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

After a little research I discovered Derek Walcott to be an amazing man, an artist, poet, professor and playwright. Acknowledged as the greatest living poet in the English language, he won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1992. He taught at Boston University for 20 years. Turns out he also taught in Canada. In 2009, Walcott began a three-year distinguished scholar-in-residence position at the University of Alberta. In 2010, he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex.

Born in Saint Lucia, Derek Walcott was influenced by his mixed racial and cultural heritage. He married a Trinidadian, raised a family there, and built the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. For someone who was in search of his own identity, both as a person and an artist, this poem represents a coming back to one’s essential self. It resonates deeply with the thousands who have read it. It was first published in Sea Grapes, and later in Derek Walcott, Collected Poems, 1948-1984, and The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013.

Here are a few videos worth watching: a BBC documentary, Derek Walcott; an interesting Canadian TV interview, Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott on his life and work; and a poetry reading: Derek Walcott: The Perpetual Ideal is Astonishment | 92Y Readings. Here is a more recent poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y: Derek Walcott with Glyn Maxwell and Caryl Phillips. He reads Love after Love at 26:25.

Listen to this excellent July 13, 2014 BBC Radio 4 interview where Nobel Laureate poet Derek Walcott talks about his life and work at home on St Lucia: Derek Walcott: A Fortunate Traveller (28 mins).

A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue, from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, profoundly complements this theme by Derek Walcott.

Here is an excerpt of Derek Walcott reciting his poem, Love After Love, in a new documentary film about him, POETRY IS AN ISLAND, by Ida Does. You can also see an interview with Derek Walcott by DBSTV St.Lucia in May 2014 in St.Lucia where he comments on the film.

For more information on the film visit www.walcottfilm.com and check facebook.com/PoetryIsAnIsland for the DVD release date. Read a detailed description of this film about Derek Walcott at the new Poetry is an Island merchandise site.

Update: On March 17, 2017, Nobel laureate, poet, playwright, and painter Derek Walcott died at age 87. Here are a few of the many articles that appeared in the world press: The Guardian, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times.

I was surprised to see these comments from Derek Walcott in the Paris Review, Issue 101, Winter 1986: Derek Walcott, The Art of Poetry, No. 37. Since Walcott seems to equate poetry and prayer in this discussion, interviewer Edward Hirsch askes him how he writes. He describes it as withdrawing into a world of silence, and creating from there, as if in a trance, being blessed by “a kind of fleeting grace” if something happens.

“But I do know that if one thinks a poem is coming on—in spite of the noise of the typewriter, or the traffic outside the window, or whatever—you do make a retreat, a withdrawal into some kind of silence that cuts out everything around you. … I’m not a monk, but if something does happen I say thanks because I feel that it is really a piece of luck, a kind of fleeting grace that has happened to one. Between the beginning and the ending and the actual composition that goes on, there is a kind of trance that you hope to enter where every aspect of your intellect is functioning simultaneously for the progress of the composition. But there is no way you can induce that trance.


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