Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Cliffhouse and Arbutus blossoms inspire haiku by Ken Chawkin and paintings by Betsy Randel

May 15, 2017

Today, I posted this haiku and the story behind it with these images on a website page about Arbutus Tree blossoms. I kept expanding and refining the story and decided to post it here as well. It’s approved and ready to be shared: Arbutus Flower Inspires Haiku.

The Cliffhouse Cottage deck

About 20 years ago, a friend of mine took me on a holiday weekend getaway to Galiano Island. We stayed at The Cliffhouse Cottage. It was beautiful there! I remember sitting on the deck at dusk looking out over the tranquil ocean. Everything was completely still. Quiet. I heard a small sound, like something had fallen from somewhere, and wondered what it was. I bent down and found a small white flower beside my chair. It resembled a tiny bell. I then looked up and saw a cluster of flower blossoms in the tree above me. My friend said it was an Arbutus Tree. That experience inspired this haiku.

Cliffhouse Deck at Dusk

Tiny bells call me
Arbutus blossoms falling
Sounding the Silence

© Ken Chawkin

The poem was later included in a grouping titled: 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen, and published in The Dryland Fish, An Anthology of Contemporary Iowa Poets, December 12, 2003.

Galiano Island Art Cards by Betsy Randel

My friend, Betsy Randel, also painted some Art Cards of the Arbutus Tree and The Cliffhouse. You can see them in the Island Life Art Cards section of her website, Art that Heals, and more of her beautiful artwork there.

Growth, a spontaneous haiku/tanka @kenchawkin

April 11, 2017

Here’s a little poem that came about as I was waking up on a Saturday morning, April 1, 2017. Around 7:15 a.m. CT, I reached for my journal and started writing it down. It took about 3 minutes. I had been thinking about life and how we all go through a series of lessons, a process of self-realization, whether we know it or not, and this poem started forming itself in my mind, first as a haiku, and then extended to a tanka.

Growth
A spontaneous haiku/tanka

Whatever happens
to and by you is also
happening for you

Everything is a lesson
for you to learn and grow from

© Ken Chawkin

Celebrating Poetry Month with one of my poems, Poetry—The Art of the Voice, and what inspired it

April 10, 2017

Since 1996, the Academy of American Poets have designated April as National Poetry Month as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. Since 1998, National Poetry Month has also been celebrated each April in Canada. Being a Canadian living in the United States, I have 2 reasons to celebrate it with a poem I wrote on the subject 17.5 years ago. I’d also like to share what inspired me to write it.

One morning, while recuperating from a cold in my room, I had been listening to the Diane Rehm Show. At the end she announced her guest for the next day, Bill Moyers, who would talk about his latest poetry project. I tuned in and recorded it on Tues, Oct 05, 1999, 10-11 a.m. ET.

In that episode of the show, Moyers discussed his upcoming PBS poetry special: Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers, the result of a visit to the Dodge Poetry Festival, which featured readings by US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and other leading poets. He also mentioned his accompanying book, Fooling With Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft (William Morrow). You can actually see Part One and Part Two of Fooling With Words, produced by and archived at Moyers & Company.

Moyers mentioned that television lends itself well to the human voice reading poetry. He said, “Poetry is music for the human voice,” but what really made an impression on him was watching “people listening to poetry.” His cameras focused in on both the poets reading their poems, and members of the audience listening attentively.

What Bill Moyers said about this dynamic caught my attention: “Poetry is reflected in the face of the listener, in the eyes, and in the intensity of the listener’s response. It’s like a mirror to the poet’s own face. And you watch these faces and you really see that poetry is sinking in, and meeting an audience in that individual listener.”

Diane and Bill then invited 3 poets on the show to read a poem and explain how they came to write it: Marge Piercy, Mark Strand (16:44), and Jane Hirshfield (32:57). After listening to the ideas and images expressed in the conversations and poems, I was so inspired that I wrote a poem about it called: Poetry—The Art of the Voice.

Poetry—The Art of the Voice

How fine will your breath become
from listening to these words?
How soft will they seem to be
as they settle through the mind
like silent snowflakes falling
from a windless winter sky?

I often marvel at the mystery—
how words can work
on a listener’s heart and mind,
upon hearing a poet’s thoughts,
a poet’s breath, flowing
from an inner voice—

a windless wind, speaking
through a voiceless voice.

© Ken Chawkin

Years later, when Freddy Fonseca put out a call for poems from Fairfield poets for This Enduring Gift-A Flowering of Fairfield Poetry (2010), I sent it in along with some other poems.  At Freddy’s suggestion I changed one word, which caused me to refine it even more, taking it to the intended level. He published it, five haiku, and a tanka, and later selected it as POEM OF THE DAY: Poetry – The Art of the Voice, by Ken Chawkin.

Over the years, Bill Moyers has welcomed some of America’s best poets to share their works and inspiration. Many of those writers have performed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which Bill and his colleagues covered for television specials including Fooling with Words (1999), The Language of Life (1995) and Sounds of Poetry (1999). Enjoy Poets in Performance, a showcase of such poetry from past and recent productions from Moyers & Company, performed by the poets who dreamed them up, or by other artists who, like Bill, simply adore poetry.

The film Arrival asks: If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

March 12, 2017

The main question posed in the 2016 sci fi film Arrival is, If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

Arrival (2106)

When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) recruits Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to try and communicate with the Aliens and find out why they have landed on Earth. Dr. Banks races against time to decipher their intent. As tensions mount between fearful governments, she discovers the Aliens’ true purpose and, to avert global war, takes a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. This mesmerizing masterpiece has a mind-blowing ending that will leave you wondering what happened and how.

That’s the external story, but the essential message of this movie is more internal. It’s about love, determinism and choice.

Based on the award-winning science fiction novella, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, it was convincingly transformed into a screenplay by Eric Heisserrer. Having read the book and been moved by it, director Denis Villeneuve wondered how it could be turned into a science fiction film, a genre he had been thinking about for years. When he received the script he decided he finally had to make this film, but with Amy Adams in the lead as Dr. Louise Banks. Even though she was taking a break from filmmaking, after reading the script, she was in. Everyone involved with making the film read the book and loved the story.

In the opening scenes we learn that Professor Louise Banks is losing her daughter Hannah to a rare disease. As a child, Hannah asks her mother how she chose her name. Louise tells her she has a special name, because it is a palindrome. It’s spelled and read the same way, forwards and backwards.

This is a clue that may help you make sense of certain events in the film that appear as flashbacks. Or are they flashforwards? Yet, in retrospect, it’s not the beginnings and endings that are important to Louise, but how she lived her life, the choice she made to love, regardless of the outcome.

Watching this movie was a right-brain experience; it’s non-linear. Dr. Banks goes through changes as she learns the Alien language. Their images communicate ideas in circles without reference to tense or time. Comprehending their language transforms Louise’s brain. She begins to experience the events in her life from a less sequential, more holistic perspective.

This is reality parsed and put together from a female perspective. She is the only one who can save the situation when she finally understands why the Aliens are here. The other challenge now is communicating it to a male-dominated world intent on destroying itself. This Chinese quote is another important clue: “In war there are now winners, only widows.”

Towards the end of the film, having collaborated with and seen how brilliant, brave, and compassionate Louise has been throughout their encounter with the Aliens, and the Army, Ian realizes he’s fallen in love with her. As much as he was amazed by his encounters with the Aliens, his “greatest surprise” he tells her, “is you.”

To love is human. It takes us out of our time, because Love Is Eternal. It always Is. We participate in It. If we are lucky enough. I wrote this as a comment to my son who purchased the film and sent me the link. I couldn’t help turning it into a tanka.

After watching “Arrival” (2016)

To love is human
It takes us out of our time
Love Is Eternal

We participate in It
If we are lucky enough

© Ken Chawkin
Mon Apr 6, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

You should see this film twice to better understand and appreciate it. Below is the trailer, followed by the Featurette on the DVD Extras.

This DVD Featurette gives you a perspective of what went into the making of the film: Arrival (2016) | Behind the Scenes | Understanding Arrival | Full Extras | Full HD.

Better to see the film first before seeing these explanations. Nick Statt wrote a great article for The Verge on living with the power of choice: How the short story that inspired Arrival helps us interpret the film’s major twist. ScreenPrism offers an intelligent explanation of the ending of this film. And ChewingSand shares good insights in this video: Why ARRIVAL is Great Sci-Fi. There are more explanations on YouTube.

See a fun, informative post-screening SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview: Conversations with Amy Adams and Denis Villeneuve of ARRIVAL.

Links to the beautiful Arrival Soundtrack – On The Nature Of Daylight by Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson – Heptapod B [From “Arrival” Soundtrack / Pseudo Video].

Wikipedia gives a comprehensive review/explanation of the film, which might include some spoilers if you haven’t already seen it yet.

Also see these favorite romantic films of mine. They reveal the transformational power of love over time.

Haiku for Her, a new poem for Sali, @kenchawkin

March 12, 2017

I was reading this two-tanka poem again, Sali’s Shakti, and realized it was mostly written on March 12, 2012, five years ago today. Synchronicity? It was completed and posted the next day, March 13. Even though she passed Oct 1, 2016, Sali still inspires me. I miss her, but This Quiet Love we shared doesn’t diminish. Here is a new poem for Sali:

Haiku for Her

You gave me a taste
Of true Love and Unity
For Eternity

© Ken Chawkin
March 12, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

Though my mother died 31 years ago, March 12 this year is also the 100th anniversary of her birth. Another coincidence? A good day to remember two very special women in my life.

Update: March 13, 2017: I had a hunch I would add something the next day, as I did on the earlier post about Sali referenced above. Last night the older of my two younger sisters emailed to say she was made a TM Teacher on March 12, 1972. All 3 of use were in Europe with Maharishi on our Teacher Training Course. But the strangest coincidence dawned on me this morning. Both Sali and my mother died in their 69th year!!

Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

March 1, 2017

Here are 4 entries—two leading up to Sali’s passing; a poem describing it, written 6 weeks later from India, 5 days after having spread her ashes in the holy Narmada River; and one poem composed a few days ago in remembrance of Sali, and the gift of love we shared together.

Ahead of the Game
Friday, September 23, 2016

You’ve been practicing for your next journey. With the dementia and a possible stroke that rendered you almost speechless, how can you communicate, except with inaudible sounds, and even those you no longer bother to form or utter.

But you can still smile and giggle, communicating great joy like the angels, with pure feeling and silence, where words are no longer needed or used.

You’ve been practicing for your upcoming journey. You’re way ahead of the game.

###

Not the End Game
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The nurse called this afternoon to tell me you seemed to stop swallowing. You haven’t been able to eat or drink. The Hospice nurse who knows you started putting things into action to get you back on Hospice care. Will know by tomorrow morning after their evaluation and direction from your doctor.

So it looks like this is it. No more rehearsals. You’re going for the final homerun sliding into heaven. I think we’re better prepared now, having read The Grace in Dying. We have a better understanding and appreciation for the end game, which, as it turns out, will not be the end.

To be continued…..

(Sali would soon pass, on Saturday night, 11:17 pm CT, Oct 1, 2016, first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Her glorious Memorial Service and blissful Vedic Cremation Ceremony took place on the 5th day, Wed, Oct 5, 2016. See Celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden.)

###

Five days after spreading Sali’s ashes from a boat on the Narmada River in India during a most auspicious day, I started to write about our final moments together back in Fairfield when she passed, around 6 weeks earlier, during the first night of the Nine Days of Mother Divine, Navratri. The answer to a question of what had happened came in one word during an evening meditation at the Brahmasthan. It became the title and last line of this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

©Ken Chawkin
Nov 19, 2016
Bijouri Campus
Brahmasthan of India

Contained within An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times. Included are some of the inspiring tributes to Sali we shared during her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony on that very special send-off.

###

The Rare Gift of Love
A Tanka in Remembrance of Sali

Your heart opened up
Time and illness tempered you
Then, the Surrender

What we shared was glorious
A Gift from God and Guru

©Ken Chawkin
February 27, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

###

Addition on March 22, 2017

On March 12th, I wrote a new poem for Sali, Haiku for Her. Five years earlier, on the same day, I had written the two-tanka poem, Sali’s Shakti.

This One by Mary Oliver shows us the beauty and fragility of the world and our place in it together

February 17, 2017

This poem, One, by Mary Oliver, published in Why I Wake Early, shows us the beauty and fragility of the world and our place in it together. See more beautiful poems by this poet posted here.

One

The mosquito is so small
it takes almost nothing to ruin it.
Each leaf, the same.
And the black ant, hurrying.
So many lives, so many fortunes!
Every morning, I walk softly and with forward glances
down to the ponds and through the pinewoods.
Mushrooms, even, have but a brief hour
before the slug creeps to the feast,
before the pine needles hustle down
under the bundles of harsh, beneficent rain.

How many, how many, how many
make up a world!
And then I think of that old idea: the singular
and the eternal.
One cup, in which everything is swirled
back to the color of the sea and sky.
Imagine it!

A shining cup, surely!
In the moment in which there is no wind
over your shoulder,
you stare down into it,
and there you are,
your own darling face, your own eyes.
And then the wind, not thinking of you, just passes by,
touching the ant, the mosquito, the leaf,
and you know what else!
How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you,
even your eyes, even your imagination.

We have reasons to be sad, but happiness cannot be pinned down, explains poet Naomi Shihab Nye

February 6, 2017

So Much Happiness is a beautiful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye (1952) from the same collection of selected poems, Words Under the Words, mentioned in the previous entry on her poem, Kindness.

naomi-shihab-nyeIn this video, Naomi explains how some poems are given to her, when she listens. The first poem, on happiness, came after she and her husband were married. The second poem, on kindness, came after an unsettling event took place on their honeymoon. They had been robbed while traveling on a bus in South America and lost everything. After she wrote the poem, help came in unexpected ways.*

Having both poems read by the poet in this grouping is special! Thanks to Pamela Robertson-Pearce who filmed Naomi Shihab Nye during her visit to the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2006, and to Neil Astley who posted the video for Bloodaxe Books.

One of Naomi’s favorite poets, and mine too, is William Stafford. He said this about her poetry: “In the current literary scene one of the most heartening influences is the work of Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insights. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye

*Read more about that incident in Spirituality&Health: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye shares how sorrow, and then its opposite, kindness, can transform us

February 6, 2017

In this video, recorded at the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality, Palestinian American poet, writer, teacher Naomi Shihab Nye (1952) shares how she wrote one of her favorite poems, Kindness, and then reads it. It came to her, mysteriously, after a dramatic situation, in which she and her husband were robbed during their honeymoon while traveling by bus in South America. When she sat down to write, she said it just came to her. “I actually was the secretary for Kindness.”

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.
Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Kim Rosen interviewed Naomi for Spirituality&Health. In it, she shared more details about that incident, which took place in Columbia in 1978. She also spoke about the power of poetry to transform lives. We want another kind of story, she said, one that helps us feel connected with one another. She feels good poems can harmonize and refocus us, create empathy, more understanding, and lead to more peace in the world.*

The ending to this poem reminds me in a way of the theme of Derek Walcott’s poem, Love after Love, when you recognize your essential nature, as if for the first time. Love and Kindness are interchangeable, where being kind to yourself is loving yourself, the basis for loving others.

Also see So Much Happiness, from the same volume of poetry. In the accompanying video, Naomi Shihab Nye reads both poems.

*The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness

Change begins within, and it starts with me.

January 26, 2017

It Is I Who Must Begin

It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try —
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
— to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
— as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

~ Vaclav Havel ~

(Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, ed. by S.M. Intrator and M. Scribner)

This reminds me of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, where leaving home is necessary to “save the only life you could save” and discover what it’s meant to be. Then you can change it, begin it; for as Kukai said in his poem, Singing Image of Fire, “all things change when we do.”  Change begins within, and it starts with me.


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