Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Mary Oliver reads a lovely poem about her dog

September 14, 2021

Renowned poet Mary Oliver reads “Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night” from her collection of new and favorite poems, Dog Songs, celebrating the dogs that have enriched her world.

Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night

He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or awake enough

he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.

“Tell me you love me,” he says.

“Tell me again.”

Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.

Here are two other dog poems by Mary Oliver posted on Words for the Year: The Sweetness of Dogs and I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life.

Read about Mary Oliver (1935-2019) and her astonishing poetry in this memorial acknowledgment to her poetic legacy. It contains links to articles, interviews, and poetry readings, as well as many of her favorite poems I’ve loved and posted over the years.

#PoetryRx virtual book signing @DoctorNorman Rosenthal @Prairie_Lights, Iowa City Bookstore

May 13, 2021

Best-selling author, world-renowned researcher, psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, MD prescribes poems to his patients, publishes Poetry Rx, donates book sale proceeds to benefit veterans. Virtual book-signing at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa, a UNESCO-designated City of Literature. Read the book description and connect to this upcoming event

Poems, I now realize, thanks to Dr. Rosenthal, can be a literary panacea for the pandemic.
Jane Brody, Personal Health Columnist, New York Times

Image

VIRTUAL BOOK SIGNING: The David Lynch Foundation and Prairie Lights Bookstore cordially invite you to “POETRY RX: How Poetry Can Heal and Bring Joy to Your Life” featuring world-renowned psychiatrist, Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., Prairie Lights Bookstore owner and published poet Jan Weissmiller, along with moderator Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 25 • 7-8 pm (CENTRAL)

ZOOM REGISTRATION: Register in advance for this webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information how to join the event. Click this link to register: https://davidlynchfoundation.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gxa6il2ITH-wl1pcFjnZfA.

SPECIAL OFFER: 100% of the author’s book sale proceeds will go to the David Lynch Foundation’s Resilient Warrior Program to help reduce the epidemic of suicides among U.S. military veterans.

OVERVIEW: Imagine your therapist writing a prescription for “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson or a Shakespeare sonnet or “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas—before prescribing an anxiety medication…

Dr. Norman Rosenthal is that therapist! World-renowned for his pioneering NIH research on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and for developing the light therapy intervention to treat it, Dr. Rosenthal’s new book, Poetry Rx: How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy to Your Life (G&D Media, May 4, 2021), delivers potent medicine—without side effects. 

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has closed down in many ways, depriving us of joy, companionship, love and adventure,” says Dr. Rosenthal. “Against this backdrop of loss and hardship, we are seeking novel remedies, and poetry is a surprisingly powerful remedy, not just for the moment but for our entire life. Poetry can serve both as a balm and a vaccine for the soul.”

Poetry Rx published on May 4 during Mental Health Awareness Month, and on the cusp of National Poetry Month, which marked its 25th annual celebration in April. 

NEWS COVERAGE: The book was recently reviewed by the NY Times, Kirkus, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Rosenthal’s OpEd (and video) ran on USA Today online, and his in-depth Q&A was featured in Medium/Authority magazine and Thrive Global. Visit Norman Rosenthal’s website for more press coverage on Poetry Rx posted there.

Newsmax: When the Doctor Prescribes Poetry. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and a leading psychiatrist has just published a groundbreaking book filled with powerful poetic prescriptions to help strengthen mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

ADVANCE PRAISE
Dr. Rosenthal, a renowned psychiatric researcher and clinician, has given us a gift with Poetry Rx. He takes us on a journey through the varieties of human experience and shows us specifically how poetry has the power to help us understand ourselves and to heal. The wonderful effect of Rosenthal’s humanity and lucid analysis is to make us feel that our own experiences are universal and that we are not alone.
—Richard A. Friedman, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Director of Psychopharmacology Clinic, Weill Cornell Medical College

Poetry Rx is a great read, entertaining as it teaches. These are, after all, poems the doctor ordered. But what a doctor! And what poems!
—Peter Sacks, Professor of English, Harvard

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School and was the psychiatrist who first described seasonal affective disorder and pioneered the use of light in its treatment during his 20 years at the National Institute of Mental Health. He has researched other innovative psychiatric treatments and is the author of several books including the New York Times bestseller Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation and the national bestseller Super Mind.  He currently maintains a private clinical and coaching practice in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. His work has earned him national and international attention in the world of psychiatry and psychology, as well as in the media.

For more background, please visit www.normanrosenthal.com.

NEWER RELATED ARTICLES AND VIDEOS

Taste For Life: Poetry as a Healing Modality. A new book explores the potential. By Lynn Tryba, Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.

Psychiatric Times: (June 15, 2021) Poetry for PTSD and Preventing Suicide. Leah Kuntz writes: June is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. One psychiatrist is dedicating a portion of the proceeds from his new book, Poetry Rx, to the David Lynch Foundation (DLF)—specifically the Resilient Warrior program—in the hopes of curbing US military veteran suicides.

iHeartRadio: Healing Quest: Dr. Norman Rosenthal New Help for Veterans with PTSD on SoundCloud for Memorial Day Weekend. Also posted is an earlier interview: Poetry RX and Psychotherapy.

NBC TODAY: (May 25, 2021) A prescription for … poetry? This doctor recommends it. Are there health benefits to reading or writing poetry? These doctors think so. This article by Brittany Loggins concludes with different examples of what poems can do for us citing some poets and their poems from Dr. Rosenthal’s book.

There is also an embedded (May 4, 2021) NBC News report of a nurse sharing a poem she wrote about caring for her patients. It is extremely moving, and powerfully highlights the theme of the article. How a Covid nurse captured her patients’ ‘love and energy’ through poetry.

Iowa City Press-Citizen: World-renowned psychiatrist shares the healing power of poetry in Prairie Lights event by Isaac Hamlet. Some of the media that posted this article are: MSN, Daily Advent’s Opera News, and South Africa’s Free-Mail.

The Iowa Source: Norm Rosenthal on Poetry: Comfort and Connection in Rhythmic Form.

UI’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop: Virtual Reading: Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal Poetry Rx: How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy To Your Life. Also on The University of Iowa’s Events Calendar.

The Prairie Lights virtual book signing for Norman Rosenthal’s PoetryRx has now been archived. You can also see it on his YouTube channel.

CBSN New York: Some Doctors Encourage Those Suffering From Anxiety, Stress To Embrace The Power Of Poetry by Hazel Sanchez. Also on their YouTube Channel: Doctors Say Poetry Can Provide Comfort, Therapy.

AARP: How Poetry Can Heal: A distinguished doctor discusses the power of the written word.

EnjoyTMNews: Poetry Rx: Iconic Poems to Heal, Inspire, and Bring Joy. Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s new book offers medicine for the soul, by Harbour Fraser Hodder.

TMTalks: The Healing Power of Poetry. A conversation with Norman Rosenthal, M.D. (51:18).

Politics and Prose Virtual Book-Signing Event: This archived Zoomcast includes a special video that two-time Tony-award winning actress Katie Finneran made for Dr. Rosenthal, where she shares what the book meant for her, and reads two poems: One Art by Elizabeth Bishop and “Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson.

MY REVIEW OF POETRY RX

I gave the book a 5-star rating on Amazon and goodreads. In my review I share Norman’s introductory story of how he discovered the healing power of a poem (One Art by Elizabeth Bishop), how it led him to develop the practice of prescribing poems for his patients, and how he came to write this book. Here is the conclusion to my review of Poetry Rx.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal shows us how poetry can serve both as a balm and a vaccine for the soul.

Anyone can benefit from and enjoy reading this book. Dr. Rosenthal guides the reader, showing us how to get the most out of a poem. He explains each poem, points out takeaways, and gives us a backgrounder on the poem and the poet who wrote it. It’s like having a friend of the family over for dinner that shares his enthusiasm for poetry, and in the process, entertains and enlightens us. I highly recommend this book.

In that review, I also mention the poem, ‘Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott, which Rosenthal includes in his collection on page 48. He reads and comments on it in his blog. I had posted the poem around 7 years ago after a friend had sent it to me. It reminded me of an experience I had had about 20 years earlier, about getting over a breakup and reclaiming yourself. But it was more than that.

I had done some research on Derek Walcott and discovered a new documentary film about him called, ‘Poetry Is An Island’. In the trailer we hear his voice reciting that poem as he is seen walking on his property. You can view it here: Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself.

B. Nina Holzer’s final entry in her journal shows us how she is an innocent instrument for writing

March 30, 2021

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read on the creative writing process is A Walk Between Heaven and Earth: A Personal Journal on Writing and the Creative Process by Burghild Nina Holzer. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in wanting to express themselves in writing. The book ends with this final journal entry found on page 124.

EVENING

One day
I walked on the mountain
and the flute song
went through me.
That’s all.
I became the reed
and the wind went through
and I wrote it down
in my journal.

Read my first blog post about this wonderful book: Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say.

I include an excerpt from one of her entries that the publisher edited down to put on the back cover. The four-sentence paragraph starts: “Talking to paper is talking to the divine.” I include that paragraph and the full eight-sentence journal entry from which it was taken. Together they represent the essential message of this inspirational little book.

A 4-line poem by John O’Donohue says a similar thing—how he was amazed by each revelatory moment and turned them into poems.

A recent post on the writing experience is intimately expressed in this lovely poem, “Morning Prayer,” by Deborah J. Brasket.

Last year I discovered inspiring quotes about writing and the writing life by this Canadian aboriginal author that I shared in these blog posts: Coincidences happened that introduced me to the great Ojibway storyteller Richard Wagamese | Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations | Richard Wagamese bravely entered the cracks in his life to reveal the hidden gold buried within.

Another writer worth listening to what she says about her writing life is Sue Monk Kidd on empathy and the purpose and power of literature to enter the common heart.

I’ve posted earlier entries on writing you may also find worthwhile: Writing—a poem on the writing process; INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin; Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing; Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers; and Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights.

This little poem, “Morning Prayer,” by Deborah J. Brasket, just might leave you feeling sanctified

March 21, 2021

Enjoy this profound blog post by Deborah J. Brasket: Like Flowers Falling Everywhere: A Poem. Click on the title to see an accompanying painting by Odilon Redon. This beautiful little poem, aptly titled “Morning Prayer,” is soft and mysterious, filled with an intimate silence that just might leave you feeling sanctified.

“Morning Prayer”
Deborah J. Brasket

Everywhere I look I see you,
I see us. This fragile hand,
this blue pen, this yellow pad.

These fingers gently folded,
Embracing the eagerness of
your movements across the page.

This tender paper accepting
All we write. These words that
rise up and lay down, so simple.

You are what I feel. This beating heart,
this circling breath, this wide sphere of
silence that enfolds us. Your soft sigh.

The day waits. It pours out of us whole
and clear, unending. How kind you are.
Kindness like flowers falling everywhere.

* * * * *

I asked a writer-artist friend who she thought is speaking in the poem, and to whom. She nailed it with this reply: “It sounds like the poet is speaking to herself about her writing life, and the love she feels for it.”

This reminds me of what B. Nina Holzer wrote in her lovely book, “A Walk Between Heaven and Earth,” A Personal Journal on Writing and the Creative Process. This edited journal entry is on the back cover:

Talking to paper is talking to the divine. Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it.

You can see the complete journal entry here: Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say.

Speaking of kindness and writing about morning rituals, here are two related poems: “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye, and one I wrote, “Sanctifying Morning.” It was published in Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace.

The heart of The Red Poppy in Louise Glück’s poem speaks to us from a different perspective

March 16, 2021

Louise Glück was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” She served as Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets and was the Library of Congress’s twelfth poet laureate consultant in poetry. Click on her name to read her biography filled with many publications and awards.

In The Red Poppy, Glück shows us the glory of the heart, but from a different perspective. She does not use the word, love, but the opening and closing to it is powerfully implied.

red poppy bloom in post-sunset light
The Red Poppy
Louise Glück

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

Glück’s conclusion to this beautiful poem, “I speak because I am shattered,” may be due to a deep loss of connection with the Divine, her “lord in heaven called the sun,” where she permitted herself “to open once, who would never open again,” brokenhearted, “speaking now the way you do.” From the flower’s perspective, it is like a death. In another flower poem, The Wild Iris, death is not the end: “whatever returns from oblivion returns to find a voice.” See her read that poem on YouTube. Both poems were from a May 11, 2016 Lannan Foundation Literary Event.

This loss is reiterated in her quote from a human perspective: We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory. As humans, there may yet be a chance for illumination and grace. Rumi wrote: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Leonard Cohen sang in his song, Anthem: “There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

After looking through a Telescope Louise Glück identified with the silent enormity of the stars. In this earlier post, I later included news of her being awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, followed by the actual presentation over 2 months later, still during the time of the coronavirus, so she and her presenter were wearing masks.

I don’t know if the poet had this in mind, but the red poppy has traditionally been the symbol of death, renewal, and life. See The History of the Red Poppy as a Symbol of Remembrance.

Thomas Merton’s golden poem, Song for Nobody, is about a yellow flower with a different enigmatic message.

Related posts: Selected Wise Words From Rumi and Leonard Cohen said there’s a crack in everything–how the light gets in. It came thru him & lit up a broken humanity. And Richard Wagamese bravely entered the cracks in his life to reveal the hidden gold buried within.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

February 27, 2021

Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He has published more than 50 books. Berry is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. He lives in Port Royal, Kentucky. Click here to listen to him read this poem, and 5 others posted at the On Being website.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, March 1, 2009)

Two other poems of his posted on this blog: Wendell Berry’s stepping over stones in a stream shows us how he writes a poem and takes a stand | Wendell Berry’s “No going back” is about the generosity of the evolving self through time.

Another great American nature poet is Mary Oliver. I created a memorial post after I discovered she had passed. It contains links to some of her beautiful poems that I liked and posted over the years, as well as articles, interviews, and readings: RIP: Mary Oliver. Thank you for sharing your poetic gifts with us. They are a national treasure!

William Stafford’s poetry lightened his life having woven a parachute out of everything broken.

January 25, 2021

My son sent me a link to a quote by William Stafford that Michael Meade had posted on his Instagram. I couldn’t find the source.

Update: Leslie Marlowe sent me more of the quote. I did a search and discovered the poem in The Way It Is, and then online. I include this information in my reply below. It was part of the third stanza of a 24-line 4-stanza poem, Any Time, first published in Allegiances (1970).

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” — William Stafford

The Japanese art of kintsugi

The quote and background image remind me of kintsugi or kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pieces of pottery using lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. The piece becomes stronger and more beautiful than the original because of its unique imperfections.

To me, this serves as a metaphor for overcoming life’s challenges, scars and all, which build character. When I first saw a piece of repaired broken Japanese pottery using this method, it inspired a poem using one of the forms of Japanese poetry—kintsugi tanka.

A poet of peace

William Stafford responded creatively and with integrity to the challenges life sent his way. He remained true to his voice as a conscientious objector, poet of peace, and the innovative way he taught writing.

A realist on the human condition, his poems made us think, as in A Ritual to Read to Each Other, from his poetry collection, Traveling through the Dark, which won the National Book Award in 1963.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Following the thread

During his early morning writing, Stafford subscribed to the approach of William Blake’s golden string.

“I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.”

As any persistent writer will tell you, when they finally “get it right,” there’s a feeling of euphoria, the metaphorical equivalent of entering “Heaven’s gate.”

Stafford was awake to that revelatory moment when each thread of thought presented itself to him. They would lead to unexpected associations and realizations. In the last poem he wrote the day he died, he said: You can’t tell when strange things with meaning will happen.

Speaking of weaving together a parachute from everything broken, this most popular poem by Stafford, and my favorite, talks about holding onto an unseen thread that’s woven throughout all of life’s experiences.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Coincidentally, I came across a quote from the Vedic literature that takes this idea of an uncommon thread and extends it to a cosmic thread.

He who knows the fine-drawn thread of which the creatures that we see are spun, who knows the thread of that same thread—he also knows Brahman, the Ultimate. (Atharva Veda Samhita 10.8.37)

Other favorite poems by William Stafford

I’ve posted some of William Stafford’s poetry and his approach to teaching writing on The Uncarved Blog. A few of those poems that stand out for me are: When I Met My Muse, You and Art, Ask Me, The Way It Is, A Course in Creative Writing, and Rx Creative Writing: Identity.

The last poem he had written the day he died, August 28, 1993, was “Are you Mr. William Stafford?”. It was featured and published posthumously in The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, by Graywolf Press in 1999, which was how I first discovered it.

Years later I had a realization about that last poem and created this memorial post including insightful quotes into Stafford’s creative process with related links: William Stafford’s last poem now seemed prophetic—an unintended literary epitaph.

When it comes to student-centered teaching, I featured William Stafford and other trailblazers of the writing process in this related blog post: The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

Related posts on this topic

Richard Wagamese bravely entered the cracks in his life to reveal the hidden gold buried within

Leonard Cohen said there’s a crack in everything—how the light gets in. It came thru him & lit up a broken humanity.

Japanese culture: poetic aesthetics, artistry, and martial arts, inspired me to write haiku and tanka

Japanese culture: poetic aesthetics, artistry, and martial arts, inspired me to write haiku and tanka

January 9, 2021

Discovering and writing haiku and tanka

Many years ago, at a local bookstore I used to frequent, I came across a profound little poem on a poster with a beautiful image from nature. The name of the poet, Kiyo, appeared under the poem. It may have been the first type of Japanese poetry I’d ever read, in English translation of course. I had discovered haiku—a 3-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables respectively. I had written it down and recently found it. Here it is.

Softly unfolding,
Beauty awakens each heart
to wonder … to life.

I’d never heard of Kiyo. Did a search and found Ungo Kiyo (1582–1659), a Japanese Rinzai Zen master and poet. Couldn’t find any more poetry, just a quote on enlightenment in an antique book of calligraphy.

Even though we can’t adequately translate haiku into English due to the syntactical differences of a pictorial language, an important aspect of it was explained to me by a Japanese TM teacher I had met on an international course. Haiku was part of his educational upbringing. They usually have a seasonal reference. To be effective, the first 2 lines describe something in nature, but the 3rd line brings in another element that causes the mind to skip a beat, have an ‘aha’ moment of realization.

Kiyo’s beautiful short poem inspired me to start writing haiku and then tanka, a 2-stanza poem combining haiku with 2 lines of 7 syllables each. The second part would continue the theme of the first part, but give it a slightly new angle. In olden times, the Japanese court poets used to compete with each other in rounds of tanka called renga, linked verses.

I wrote my first haiku after a walk-and-talk about relationships with a lady friend. I noticed a furry caterpillar crawling on the ground. It became the metaphor for a poem on commitment and spiritual transformation.

Transformed

Caterpillars spin
increments of commitment;
Butterflies fly free!

I wrote many haiku and tanka over the years. I even wrote Haiku on The Nature of Haiku, which was very meta. These first 4 haiku—Defined, Discovered, Transformed, Translated—were among the 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen, published in The Dryland Fish, An Anthology of Contemporary Iowa Poets.

Five Haiku, selected from The Dryland Fish; Cold Wet Night, a tanka; and Poetry—The Art of the Voice, a poem; were published in This Enduring Gift—A Flowering of Fairfield Poetry. The University of Iowa’s “Iowa Writes” program also published Five Haiku on The Daily Palette.

Defined

3 lines, 2 spaces,
17 feet to walk thru;
then,   the unending

Discovered

a poem unfolds
as words take their place in line
this one’s a haiku

Translated
(Inspired by Gareth Jones–Roberts’ painting “Egrets in Morning Light”)

on the edge of space
two egrets in morning light
woken from a dream

I recently came across a poem I had written a while ago, but never posted it. A photograph of cranes flying in a snowstorm inspired this Japanese Haiku.

Red-crowned cranes in Akan National Park, Hokkaido, Japan. Photograph by Vincent Munier. Click on image to enlarge it.

Three Japanese cranes
Soar above trees in snowstorm
Grace under pressure

Tanka on the Japanese art of kintsugi

I discovered other aspects of Japanese culture, which inspired tanka poems. Click on the titles below for more information and images.

The first is about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer thereby making it appear more beautiful than the original. Robert Yellin had tweeted an image of a repaired bowl to show this art, which is how I discovered it.

kintsugi tanka

kintsukuroi
turning obstacles into
opportunities

life’s lessons build character
what was broken is now whole

The Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs selected Robert to introduce Japanese craftsmen to the world in a special documentary, Takumi: Japan’s artisan tradition. Because of his expertise, Robert became a cultural ambassador. His film inspired people from all over the world to visit the country, and helped boost Japanese tourism.

How Robert ended up in Japan is revealed in the documentary film, Jerry’s Last Mission, about his father, Jerry Yellin, who was the last WWII fighter pilot, an author, and proponent of TM for veterans with PTSD.

Tanka on the Japanese martial art of Aikido

On a visit to see my son in California, I wrote this tanka after watching his Aikido teacher demonstrate how to defend oneself from attack. She stood in one spot and effortlessly deflected the repeated charges from her students. It was mesmerizing! It took me a while to process what I had seen before writing the poem. I had emailed it to my son to read to her on her birthday. A volunteer at the dojo found the poem and posted it with a photo of a leaning tree as a screensaver on the office computer. It’s beautiful. Click the title and scroll down to see it.

My Son’s Sensei

Rooted to the ground
She repels her attackers
Flowing, not moving.

In storms, trees bear great burdens
Bending, not breaking.

Two tree tanka

Speaking of trees, this tanka is from the perspective of a willow tree. Click the title to see a photo of a special one, and links to audio clips of me reading the poem on different media platforms.

Willow Tree
An Overflowing Fountain of Green

Willow Tree Whispers
People say … Weeping Willow
But I’m not crying

Just bowing down … to the Earth
Kissing the ground … with my leaves

Another tree tanka resulted when I saw the willow that inspired the previous poem, and the honey locust next to it, intertwined on top! They were on each side of the entrance to the place I was living in at the time.

Friendship

Trees like to hold hands
Bending branches to link leaves
They forge deep friendships

Swaying with the wind—they dance
Under the moonlight—romance

A two-haiku relationship poem

When it comes to a committed relationship, this two-haiku poem turned out to be prophetically true.

COMMITTED

when the tide rolls in
bows of boats bump each other
tethered to the dock

with our ups and downs
we remain tied together
solid as a rock

© Ken Chawkin

See more haiku and tanka archived on The Uncarved Blog.

Suggested Reading

Jane Hirshfield’s 29-page essay about the life and poetry of Matsuo Bashō—recognized as a master of concise, compelling Japanese haiku—is worth reading. The Heart of Haiku was named “Best Kindle Single of 2011.” It was the first Kindle I ever bought, and described it in a post, Haiku on The Heart of Haiku, with links to interviews and more.

Author and translator Harold Stewart‘s essay On Haiku and Haiga in A Net of Fireflies: Japanese Haiku and Haiku Paintings, was very edifying.

This classic was recommended to me: Unknown Craftsman by Soetsu Yanagi. I see it’s been updated and illustrated by Bernard Leach and Soetsu Yanagi: The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty.

Although not Japanese, Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry by Chang Chung-yuan was also worth reading. A 2nd Edition is now available. I reference the Taoist concept of the uncarved block explaining How The Uncarved Blog got its name.

Good Medicine Haiku: Take quality time for yourself as this crazy year comes to a close

December 28, 2020

December 29, 2020, my son Nathanael emailed to say he was planning to go offline and take some downtime to close out this crazy year. I sent him this haiku, and he replied: GOOD MEDICINE. I used it as the title.

Good Medicine Haiku

Trust inner feelings
Let go; settle in silence
Honor your essence

© Ken Chawkin

So if you’re wanting to forget 2020 ever happened and are looking to refresh for 2021, think of this Good Medicine Haiku as a prescription to take a much-needed, guilt-free time-out. Try a digital diet, meditate, go within—take quality time for yourself. We owe it to ourselves. Peace out.

WRITING TANKA—Preparing to Write

December 10, 2020

Here’s a little backgrounder on this poem, which I wrote around 20 years ago while on a course at Heavenly Mountain in Boone, North Carolina. The first part was originally just a haiku. It was a fun way to point out the need to increase awareness as a preparation to write. Years later, an idea presented itself extending the metaphor to its logical conclusion. The phrase, taken literally, was an unexpected surprise, along with the irresistible pun. I added them as a hoku, completing the poem, transforming it into a tanka on writing. Enjoy reading “Preparing to Write.”

The Uncarved Blog

PREPARING TO WRITE
a tanka on writing

.

Railroad Crossings Are

Places To Become Aware—

STOP! LOOK! And LISTEN!

.

If you hear a train of thought

You’ll know you’re on the write track!

.

© Ken Chawkin

.

Also see Haiku On The Nature of Haiku.

a writing tanka on writing tanka by ken chawkin

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