Archive for March, 2015

22nd Annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival ‏@UMassFilm Spotlight Amherst Alum @GREGREITMAN’s @ROOTEDinPEACE

March 24, 2015

mmff-201522nd Annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: ROOTED IN PEACE
A Greg Reitman Film

rooted-peace

UMass Amherst alum Greg Reitman (’93) presents a personal journey of discovery, seeking answers to humanity’s self-destructive cycles of waste, war, and violence in this fascinating documentary. Seeking counsel from famous luminaries and activists, the film asks us how we want to live on this planet and challenges us to examine our own values.

Reitman interviews physician and author Deepak Chopra, music legends Donovan, Mike Love, and Pete Seeger, film director David Lynch, Noble Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, media mogul Ted Turner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, green architect William McDonough, neuroscientists Dan Siegel, Fred Travis, and many others. Greg also returned to his alma mater to show where he first came up with the idea of planting trees for peace. [official site | event poster | MMFF site | Rooted in Peace showing]

This 2015 documentary film premiered at the 21st Annual Sedona International Film Festival, February 21–March 1, 2015. See previous blog post on this Sundance Alum: Greg Reitman’s film, ROOTED in PEACE, inspires us to change from within to transform the world. See the trailer. More news: ROOTED in PEACE to play Martha’s Vineyard and an Iowa premiere at Fairfield’s Sondheim Center.

The Amherst-Maharishi-TM-Connection

Amherst is home to the Transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson. So it seemed fitting for the UMass Amherst campus to be selected as the site for a meditation course and symposium in the summer of 1971.

I was one of hundreds who had attended that one-month Transcendental Meditation Teacher Training Course taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Another course followed on the West Coast at Humboldt State College, now University, in Arcata, California. Over two thousand of us would continue with the next step in our Teacher Training Course with Maharishi the following year in Mallorca, Spain and Fuiggi Fonte, Italy for six months, from January to June, 1972.

One of the Amherst course participants was Beach Boy Mike Love. I was introduced to him by Charles Lloyd, a jazz musician on the course who became a friend. I used to give them lifts to and from the dining hall. I would meet Donovan years later, and David Lynch, decades later. You can imagine my surprise when Greg told me he had graduated from UMass Amherst! It was great to arrange for Greg to interview Donovan and Mike Love on how they met Maharishi and learned TM, and David Lynch and Bob Roth, director of the David Lynch Foundation, about the transformational value of TM in schools and for at-risk populations. Small world! Full circle!

Wednesday, March 25th, tomorrow night’s showing of ROOTED IN PEACE, should be fulfilling for Greg, as he brings it all back home. He’s worked hard on this film and deserves all the kudos for manifesting this vision of personal and global transformation.

Following the course was the First International Symposium on the Science of Creative Intelligence. Maharishi interacted with many leading scientists and thinkers in all areas of life, including Buckminster Fuller. His presentations were so impressive that Maharishi kept interjecting his Vedic perspective in agreement. At a certain point, Fuller turned towards Maharishi and spoke only to him since he felt he was the only one who truly understood what he was saying. At the end he went over to Maharishi who had stood up to greet him and they held hands together. Everyone rose on their feet and applauded for a good ten to fifteen minutes. Those were very heady days! There also was a special press conference with both Fuller and Maharishi following his talk. It’s posted on the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Channel in 3 parts. I’ll post links here. Very much worth watching!

1/3. Buckminster Fuller and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Part One of Press
2/3. Buckminster Fuller and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Part Two of Press
3/3. Buckminster Fuller and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Part Three of Press

Watch a CBC film of Maharishi at Lake Louise, and a later A&E biography.

I enjoyed reading a fictional story about a young couple who meet at UMass Amherst, learn to meditate and later attend Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation Teacher Training Course at his Swiss headquarters. Given a mission, they return to live and work in Amherst where a dramatic and inspiring story unfolds. Read more and listen to author B. Steven Verney on Writers’ Voices talk about his enlightening novel, “The Best of All Possible Worlds.”

UPDATE

I tweeted Greg Reitman today about last night’s showing of ROOTED in PEACE and he replied: Full house, engaged audience, lots of questions afterwards … Yes lots of people wanted to buy the DVD which will be available in the fall … That would be the plan and will have 20 minutes of extra scenes on the DVD. … Replying to a tweet I sent out a few days later about the film, Greg replied: It was a real homecoming I was truly surprised how the students responded and for some there were tears.

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.

Update

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.

Hafiz’s poem, God Pours Light, awakens the soul and frees the mind from debating words about it

March 11, 2015

GOD POURS LIGHT

God
pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.

The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink

while God pours light

and the trees lift their limbs
without worry of redemption,
every blossom a chalice.

Hafiz, seduce those withered souls
with words that wet their parched lips

as light
pours like rain
into every empty cup
set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.

~ Hafiz ~

(Interpretive version of Ghazal 11 by Jose Orez)

See more profound poems by Hafiz posted on this blog.


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