Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Poem for Sali—An Undying Love—heals the heart

June 28, 2019

Interestingly, on Monday morning, at the end of my meditation, I had this loving feeling in my heart, thinking of Sali. So I wrote this poem for her. It contains two haiku and a last line, which brought a quiet healing, knowing the bond of love is eternal; death cannot touch it. I remembered the jyotish reading Sali received from Pandit Shastriji with the nadi leaves, where he told us of some of our past lives together. She had later conveyed a message to me, that we would share again “The Peace that Passeth Understanding” I had written about after she had passed. See “Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing.”

An Undying Love

Still love you Sali
An undying kind of Love
That lasts Forever

Souls from the same Source
Incarnating together
Lifetime to lifetime

This thought brings peace to my heart

© Ken Chawkin
Monday, June 24, 2019
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

See these two earlier blog posts, written around a year apart on full moon nights, about the joy we shared together: Capturing an authentic moment in writing, and Haiku of the Heart – for Sali.

This year, Sheila Moschen had asked me to read three of my love poems to conclude her Valentine’s Day Show, Let Your Heart Sing, on KHOE.

Sali can be seen meditating in this 1973 Finnish TV interview with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

July 2, 2019 Update: I am reminded of this appropriate quote from the Zen poet Ryokan I had included in a post about his poetry. The last half of it is how I feel about the eternal nature of love I share(d) with Sali.

“In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same. What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.”

This west coast Afterglow stays with you awhile

June 16, 2019

This is a beautiful blog post by westcoastwoman—the photo, quote, and six-sentence description. She intimately makes the universal personal. Click here to see the many responses to it, including mine. Having spent some time on the west coast of Canada I appreciate how she captured the magic in words. The experience cannot be pinned down. It’s transcendent—”in-between-time” and “neither here nor there.” The deep silence of nature’s transitions between night and day, twilight and predawn, are like a metaphor for our own inner experiences—the gaps between waking, dreaming and sleeping, and the silent unbounded backdrop to them, our own transcendental Self.

Afterglow

June 12, 2019

DSC_2188
photo credit westcoastwoman ©

“Everyday a new picture is painted and framed, held up for half an hour, in such lights as the Great Artist chooses, and then withdrawn, and the curtain falls. And then the sun goes down, and long the afterglow gives light.”

Henry David Thoreau

Afterglow

Every night they come, the watchers of the sun-set, drawn down by the need to see the light extinguish behind the islands and the sea.

I want to share with them as they slowly rise and disperse that the setting of the sun is only a prelude to the experience they had been called to witness, but I stay silent.

It is this time between the setting sun and rising moon, this short extension of the day, this in-between-time when my heart and mind settle for just a moment.

I watch as the sky paints itself with each night’s original palette, wanting only to share with those who can look out from the same place and feel the colours as they appear, understand the need for silence.

In these moments when I am neither here nor there, anything is possible, magic is afoot and I am caught in the afterglow of another original creation as it slowly fades from sight.

The darkness takes the light, the starlings swoop once more in perfect unison over the water, I share with all who stand watching… being neither here nor there, a silent good night.

westcoastwoman 2019 ©

Written in response to GirlieontheEdge’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt. Prompt word: Extension.

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This reminds me of a poem I wrote down while waking from a dream in a foreign land. It was during the predawn, when “the moon bows / before the rising sun.” See: Indonesian Mystery Poem honoring Nyi Roro Kidul.

Bad habits are hard to break. This short poem by Portia Nelson illustrates that fact with a way out.

May 21, 2019

Here is an interesting poem by Portia Nelson: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, from her 1993 book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1  

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.  

Chapter 2  

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.  

Chapter 3  

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.  

Chapter 4  

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.  

Chapter 5  

I walk down another street.  

* * * * *

This little metaphorical story has helped those dealing with bad habits, addictions, tunnel vision, ultimately the mistake of the intellect. It shows a way out of our ignorance and misery by acknowledging our mistakes and not repeating them. Becoming more conscious we can change for the better, taking responsibility for our destiny. Of course, only reading this poem won’t get the job done. We also need to change our consciousness. Change begins within, and learning to meditate can also help. It’s the 12th step of any Twelve-Step Program. The David Lynch Foundation offers scholarships to those in need to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique and improve their lives from within.

After looking through a telescope Louise Glück identified with the silent enormity of the stars

April 28, 2019

I recently discovered poets writing about telescopes, like Ted Kooser and Kenneth Rexroth, what they saw through them, and how they were transformed by the experience. Here is a poem called Telescope (Averno: Poems) by Pulitzer Prize winner (1993) Louise Glück. It was among the poems she read during a Lannan Literary Event (May 11, 2016).

The Great Cluster in the constellation Hercules

Telescope

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve been stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see again how far away
each thing is from every other thing.

Louise Glück

Louise Glück reads Telescope at a Lannan Literary Event

Kenneth Rexroth also describes a loss of body awareness and identifies with the enormity of the star-filled summer night sky while looking through a telescope. Here’s an excerpt from The Heart of Herakles.

My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.


Poets Kooser, Rexroth, and Glück describe their experiences with telescopes looking at the stars

April 28, 2019

Poets have written about the night sky and how it’s transformed them. Pulitzer Prize winner (2005) and U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) Ted Kooser read from his poetry before a standing-room only audience in Campbell Hall at UC Santa Barbara (August/2005). In his introduction to this poem, Telescope, Kooser describes how he wakes up early every morning to write. William Stafford used to do the same thing.

Telescope

This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the valley.

Because of this small tube,
through which a cold light rushes

from the bottom of time,
the depth of the stars stays always constant

and we are able to sleep, at least for now,
beneath the straining wall of darkness.

Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, p. 6

As part of the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative, the South Dakota Humanities Council commissioned a series of essays about prize winners. Christine Stewart-Nuñez wrote about her poetry teacher: Ted Kooser: A poet of connection.

Kenneth Rexroth also wrote about the cosmos looking through a telescope and how it changed him in this poem, The Heart of Herakles.

My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.

Louise Glück in her poem, Telescope, describes a similar loss of body awareness as she identifies with the enormity of the star-filled night sky.

You’ve been stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Poets Rumi and Octavio Paz also open our minds to a cosmic perspective. In The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks translates his poem:

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.

Paz’s poem, Brotherhood, translated with Eliot Weinberger, is an homage to the ancient astronomer, 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.

In that blog post I conclude with my haiku, Forest Flowers, and mention my poem As Above So Below. Both describe relationships between the individual and the universal. 

The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

April 13, 2019

The teaching of writing has evolved over the decades. Teachers used to praise students for duplicating what they were instructed to write, or criticized and graded poorly for not meeting established norms. This practice of praise or blame created consequences that were detrimental to the writer. They doubted their own natural ability to express themselves in writing, wondering whether it was good or not.

W.S. Merwin, in his poem, Berryman,* about his college professor John Berryman, asks him “how can you ever be sure that what you write is really any good at all?” He gives him an unexpected honest answer.

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

Nearly three decades after he mentored Merwin, Berryman would encapsulate his advice to young writers in this Paris Review interview, on the perils of praise and blame.

I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.

It’s interesting to see this explanation—how praise (fame) or blame (criticism) might influence a young writer’s psychology, and therefore his or her creative output and development as a writer. Advising them to stay true to themselves, remain unswayed by public opinion, would allow them to maintain their own integrity as artists.

David Lynch is another artist who always follows his own muse and tells young filmmakers to do the same. Answering a student’s question about his creative process, he says we’re nothing without an idea. Using a fishing analogy, he explains that a desire for an idea is like a bait on a hook. He gives a detailed account of how he falls in love with ideas, turns them into a script, and transforms them into a film, or other works of art. To catch bigger fish, you have to dive deeper. David describes daydreaming and TM as ways to get there. He tells students to stay true to their vision, to meditate, and most importantly, to always have the final cut.

In this interview, he answers the same question, but from a different perspective: In the other room, the puzzle is all together, but they keep flipping in just one piece at a time.

Learning by doing: writing and teaching

When writers and poets were asked to teach creative writing, some conveyed the enterprise as a process to be explored and unfolded, not as a specific product to be reproduced. What they said made sense. I practiced their suggestions and discovered my own process of becoming a writer and a poet.

I also shared their strategies with my students facilitating them as writers. The most important takeaway was this: If you took care of the writer, the writing would take care of itself.

I enjoyed asking younger students questions to find out what they were passionate about, to help them uncover their own voice. If they said something interesting, I had them write it down, then asked them to combine their thoughts into a rough draft. I had them listen to what they had written by reading it aloud to me, to use their skills as a reader. Once involved in the process they naturally wanted to clarify their writing, to include relevant details, to edit their work. They had become intrinsically motivated writers!

Here are a few favorite writers who inspired me along the way.

What some favorite poets, writers and teachers say about writing

(more…)

this snow buddha photo inspired a winter haiku

March 22, 2019

My daughter Shara and her husband Toby live on Lopez Island, WA. On Feb 12, Toby took this photograph of their buddha statue covered in snow. About a foot tall, it’s located in their back yard near the clifftop seats overlooking the ocean. It’s quite the view! I visited them in June 2017. Toby said: “We had quite a bit of snow here, it was really lovely just for that week.” He recently added the photo to his impressive collection on Instagram. I was inspired to write him a winter haiku on this first day of spring!

snowbuddha-web

a winter haiku

wrapped in white silence
contemplating nothingness
the buddha ascends

©Ken Chawkin
March 21, 2019
Fairfield, Iowa

Mary Oliver advises us to open up to joy and not hesitate if we suddenly and unexpectedly feel it

March 13, 2019

                    DON’T HESITATE

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

— Mary Oliver, Evidence (2009), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

The nurturing effect of rainwater in Mary Oliver’s poems Lingering In Happiness At Blackwater Pond

March 13, 2019

These two poems by Mary Oliver describe the nurturing effect of rainwater in nature deep within the body of the earth and inside her own.

LINGERING IN HAPPINESS

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear—but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

— Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early (2004), Devotions (2017)

AT BLACKWATER POND

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

— Mary Oliver, At Blackwater Pond (2006), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

A keen, patient observer of nature, Mary Oliver’s poetry shone a light on the creatures around her

March 13, 2019

I long to be the empty, waiting, pure, speechless receptacle.

From a young age, Mary Oliver loved the great poets—Wordsworth, Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau. They were her companions. She was destined to become a great poet herself.

To commune with the muse is every poet’s wish, and she succeeded. A keen, patient observer of nature, Oliver honored the creatures around her through her poetry. To do them justice she always strove to be an “empty, waiting, pure, speechless receptacle.”

Go easy, be filled with light, and shine.

Nature was her teacher. When she was among the trees, she felt uplifted by them. “I would almost say that they save me, and daily.” Sometimes sensing her low self-esteem, they would tell her to “Stay awhile.” She would see the light flowing from their branches.

They would remind her, “It’s simple,” and encourage her, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” And she did! These two poems track part of her journey.

BLUE IRIS

Now that I’m free to be myself, who am I?
Can’t fly, can’t run, and see how slowly I walk.
Well, I think, I can read books.

……………“What’s that you’re doing?”
the green-headed fly shouts as it buzzes past.

I close the book.

Well, I can write down words, like these, softly.

“What’s that you’re doing?” whispers the wind, pausing
in a heap just outside the window.

Give me a little time, I say back to its staring, silver face.
It doesn’t happen all of a sudden, you know.

“Doesn’t it?” says the wind, and breaks open, releasing
distillation of blue iris.

And my heart panics not to be, as I long to be,
the empty, waiting, pure, speechless receptacle.

— Mary Oliver, Blue Iris: Poems and Essays (2006), Devotions (2017)

WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
…..but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

— Mary Oliver, Thirst (2006), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.


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