Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

A white owl hunting in and out of the snow helps Mary Oliver see death as spiritual transformation

January 13, 2018

snowyowl-mandel

White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings–
five feet apart–and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow–

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows–
so I thought:
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–

as soft as feathers–
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light–scalding, aortal light–
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

House of Light, 1990 © Mary Oliver

Seven other poems by Mary Oliver are posted on The Uncarved Blog.

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Growth Haiku written by @kenchawkin and his son Nathanael Chawkin @integralsensei

November 26, 2017

The vegetation in Santa Barbara is varied and lush, with many exotic succulent plants, beautiful flowering bushes, and tall trees. I share my admiration for them as we drive through the city. Nathanael comments: “A tree can only grow as high as its roots go deep.” I write it down and start converting the idea into the first two lines of a haiku. I tell him we need a third line to complete it. After pondering the question for a moment, he recalls a universal phrase from the somatic arts (yoga, dance, martial arts) that his friend and coaching colleague LeeAnn Mallory had shared with him: “Root to rise.” I turn it into the last line to complete this short poem on a basic principle of growth.

Trees for Growth Haiku

Growth Haiku

Trees can only grow
as high as their roots go deep
Root yourself to rise

© Ken and Nathanael Chawkin
Santa Barbara, California
Thanksgiving Day
November 23, 2017

Maharishi always talked about developing 200% of life—100% inner spiritual development and 100% outer material accomplishments. We both say, “Water the root to enjoy the fruit.” Nathanael quotes the SCI Principle, “Outer depends on Inner.” I remember an early analogy: To erect a tall building you have to first dig a deep foundation. It’s similar to: First pull the arrow back on the bow to hit the target. Meditate then act. Established in Being, perform action.

Nathanael does more than just meditate to develop his inner life and establish it on a firmer foundation for living mindfully. Self-inquiry with The Work, various martial arts, and playing classical piano are ways he better understands and integrates himself as a person. He uses an integral approach to inform his work as a martial arts instructor (Integral Martial Arts) and a leadership coach and organizational development consultant (Palæstra).

NB: Nathanael also helped edit this post—a father and son collaboration.

Related: Growth, a spontaneous haiku/tanka @kenchawkin.

Dawn in Santa Barbara — Haiku by @kenchawkin

November 23, 2017

I’m here in Santa Barbara, California visiting my son Nathanael and his girlfriend Evangeline for the Thanksgiving holiday. They live high up in the hills of the Riviera overlooking this beautiful city and the ocean. The panoramic views are spectacular! It’s like living in a constantly changing painting. My first visit a year and a half ago resulted in a spontaneous haiku. Early one morning, Nathanael excitedly invited me out onto the balcony to watch the predawn colors. It inspired this haiku.

Dawn in Santa Barbara inspires haiku

Dawn in Santa Barbara
Haiku by Ken Chawkin

Golden glow of light
Brightening the morning sky
The sun is rising

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ken Chawkin

Nathanael posted 6 photos of that sunrise and of me taking pictures of it posted on his Instagram. Their wonderful friend Jada Delaney also posted photos and a video of that same sunrise on her Instagram.

1st anniversary of my India trip to spread Sali’s ashes on the Narmada River, visit Bijouri campus and Maharishi Vedic Pandits at the Brahmasthan

November 12, 2017

This is the one-year anniversary of the start of my trip to India. A year ago today, I boarded a very long non-stop flight from Chicago to New Delhi. After clearing customs I went to an airport bank to change some money. It took a while, but a driver who had been sent to pick me up waited to take me to a Holiday Inn, where I finally crashed. The next morning another driver took me to the airport for a flight to Jabalpur. My sister and brother-in-law where there to welcome me when I arrived, which was very nice. We then traveled to the holy Narmada River, to fulfill the prime purpose of my long journey.

As it turned out, November 14, 2016 was a very significant day in three major religious traditions at this celebratory time of year. We hired a boatman, and after some special prayers, I spread Sali’s ashes on this peaceful celestial river as he rowed the boat towards and around a small temple at the foot of the Gwari Ghat. This took place during the late afternoon on a Monday, a moon day, but the largest full moon in 70 years, the supermoon! It was highly significant, worthy of Sali’s spiritual merit she had earned offering a lifetime of one-pointed devoted service to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Movement. Some of his ashes had been spread at this holy place as well.

See more details in last year’s post I wrote 3 weeks after returning home: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times. You can read the many inspiring tributes that were given at the October 5th memorial service, about her brilliant mind, kind heart, and good nature.

It was evening by the time we arrived at the Bijouri Campus in the Brahmasthan of India. During my 3-week stay there I would meet many wonderful meditators and sidhas from different countries around the world who came for the Maharishi India Courses, to meditate and enjoy the recitations of the Maharishi Vedic Pandits. It was a very healing atmosphere to settle into. Just what I needed, thanks to my family.

Traditional Indian Greeting

To start our course, we were each given a special welcome by the Maharishi Vedic Pandits and garlanded with flowers. Here is a photo of me, taken last year, November 16, 2016, after that warm reception.

Kenny at the Brahmasthan Nov 16, 2016

I purposefully stood in front of a large beautiful painting of Guru Dev, Maharishi’s master. I had purchased a print of this latest painting of Guru Dev the previous summer, having seen it featured at Art Fifty Two in Fairfield during a reception for the artist and her work. I had taken a photo of Frances Knight at the gallery standing in front of the original painting. You can also see part of a large Holy Tradition painting on the back wall behind her, one of many she had painted in the past.

Visiting the Maharishi Vedic Pandit Campus

On one of our trips we were taken to the geographical center of India known as the Brahmasthan. We shared a short group meditation and took photographs. And once a week we were driven to the Maharishi Vedic Pandit campus to hear 1,500 pandits recite Atirudrabhishek, an ancient Vedic performance to create world peace.

Sitting there with my eyes closed listening to the powerful Vedic recitation, I started to feel a deeply relaxing peacefulness growing inside my body. Soon, much to my surprise, I started to smile, then chuckle! I felt an inner happiness welling up within me that was totally unexpected. This bliss was a welcome contrast, a relief from the grief I was carrying around with me, mourning the loss of my sweetheart. This profound experience was worth the long tiring trip over there!

Group photo at pandit campus Nov 25, 2016

We put on traditional Indian clothing for these special occasions and posed for a group photo before boarding the buses back to our campus. I am standing in the upper second-to-last row on the far left. The course participants came from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, several European and Asian countries, Israel, Australia, and many from Iran. We were a diverse and harmonious group.

Now that I finally transferred all of my photos from my iPad onto my computer, I could post some of them related to this story. Who knows, maybe other photos will spark new stories.

Lisel Mueller’s poetry offers us Hope

November 3, 2017

“Hope” is a beautiful poem by Lisel Mueller, published in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by LSU Press; First edition (October 1, 1996).

Hope
By Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

I also love Lisel Mueller’s poem, “Monet Refuses the Operation,” about French Impressionist Claude Monet: Failing eyesight or spiritual insight: a poet’s interpretation of a master artist’s vision.

Still Sali Haiku—the persistence of love over grief

October 15, 2017

Grief persists after the loss of a close friend, but so does love. In time, grief recedes and love predominates. Here is a haiku for my sweetheart: Still Sali. I see that ‘still’ has both meanings: continuing and stillness.

                         Still Sali Haiku
                (You are still in my heart)

             The love is still there
           Our souls are still connected
                   But I still miss you

                  © Ken Chawkin
                    Oct 13-15, 2017
                    Fairfield, Iowa

A tanka remembering Sali and her gift to me on the one-year anniversary of her passing

October 1, 2017

During difficult times, and Sali’s final days, we were helped by the kind staff from Hospice Compassus. After Sali passed, they continued to offer me support with their bereavement program throughout the year. On the one-year anniversary of her death they sent me a letter and a brochure, Journey Through Grief: Looking back at your first year. They encourage “Grief journaling and all forms of writing as an important and helpful tool for healing.” They offered helping prompts to those grieving to get started with these two Reflective Questions.

As you look back at the past twelve months:

1. When thinking about the life of the person that you’ve lost to death, what — of themselves — have they given you to help you move through the rest of your life?

2. During your walk through grief, what have you learned about yourself that will assist you in moving forward?

I had been writing in a journal all along, and posted some entries and many poems. After reading these questions I was moved to write a haiku, then extended it to this tanka. I will give more thought to these questions and write something later, but wanted to post this tonight to mark the one-year anniversary of Sali’s passing.

Tanka for Sali
A remembrance of you and your gift to me

What you did for me
Was draw Love out of my heart
And into our lives

It completely transformed me
To become a better man

Oct 1, 2017
One year after Sali’s passing
© Ken Chawkin
Fairfield, Iowa

This entry, 9 months after her passing, reviews our relationship and what it meant: For Us—a tanka honoring Sali and what we shared. I also updated the entry Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally Monroe Peden, which contains newer descriptions about Sali by friends who spoke at her Memorial Service. There are many beautiful tributes there, and now, halfway down, you’ll see today’s date, October 1, 2017, with new entries from David and Rhoda Orme-Johnson, Kate Ross, and later Rannie Boes.

This new post, added November 12, 2017, is relevant: 1st anniversary of my India trip to spread Sali’s ashes on the Narmada River, visit Bijouri campus and Maharishi Vedic Pandits at the Brahmasthan.

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

September 10, 2017

True to the end, Leonard Cohen‘s work charted the arc of his career, between life and death (Sept 21, 1934 – Nov 7, 2016). His search for redemption also influenced his fans. Cohen’s evolving understanding of life, beautifully expressed through his music, shone a light through the cracks of a broken humanity in a dark suffering world. He never claimed to have found all the answers, but seemed to have reached a kind of inner peace toward the end of his life, between himself and his God.

There is a repeated stanza in one of his songs, Anthem, that conveys the redeeming acceptance of light illuminating the darkness, compassion and love overcoming bigotry and hatred: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

There may be a crack in everything, but how does the light get in—from without, or is it released from within? I’ve often thought about the profundity of those lines, and there have been many interpretations of what he may be implying. See mine below.* I think he sang about finding that divinity within and among our broken humanity. I wrote this tanka in honor of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen’s music lit up a dark world
A tanka in honor of the poet by Ken Chawkin

Leonard Cohen said
There’s a crack in everything
How the light gets in

It came through him and lit up
a broken humanity

Of course there is a kind of irony here when he says, “Forget your perfect offerings,” since he labored for months, sometimes years, on getting the lyrics to his songs perfect. At some point, though, he must’ve given up, admitted his imperfection, and sent them out into the world. As Leonardo da Vinci once said: Art is never finished, only abandoned. Other famous artists and writers have said and done the same thing.

Artistic Genius—Two Creative Approaches

There is a story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. They happened to be in Paris at the same time and decided to meet at a certain café. During their conversation, Dylan, one of the first to sing Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” in his concerts, asked Cohen how long it took him to write it. Cohen was embarrassed to tell him the truth so he lied and said 2 years. Then Leonard asked Bob how long it took him to write “I And I“, and he replied 15 minutes. I think he said he wrote it in the back of a cab. Cohen later told this story to an interviewer and confessed that it took him more like 5 years to write that song. He never could complete it, even after 30 verses! Their styles reflect the different philosophical approaches of ‘first thought, best thought’ versus ‘revise, revise, revise’.

You can read the fascinating history of that song in Alan Light’s book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”. Malcolm Gladwell, in Season 1, Episode 7 of his Revisionist History podcast, discusses the history of “Hallelujah” with Alan Light, around 20 minutes into the conversation, for about 10 minutes. The theme is about two kinds of artists—those who seem to create spontaneously, and others who labor for a very long time—the differences between Mozart and Beethoven, or Picasso and Cezanne.

See Leonard Cohen’s website www.leonardcohen.com with links to more.

As  a footnote, I just tweeted (9-19-2107) Leonard Cohen’s biographer, Sylvie Simmons, asking her what he meant about the light getting in through the cracks, and she pointed me to Allan Showalter’s website, Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen Considered, and this post: Leonard Cohen On “The Light” In Anthem That “Allows You To Live A Life And Embrace The Disasters And Sorrows And Joys”.

Leonard later spent time in Bombay, India having conversations with Ramesh Balseka, a teacher of Advaita Vedanta. It made a profound impression on him; his life-long depression had finally lifted. He also befriended an Indian gentlemen, a fan, Ratnesh Mathur. You can read about their relationship and see photos on Cohencentric. Also read this BBC report: When the light got in for Leonard Cohen.

Murals mark 1-year anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death

Montreal murals of Leonard Cohen

Montreal murals made by Gene Pendon (l) and Kevin Ledo (r)

November 7, 2017 is the 1-year anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death. To personally commemorate this date, Sylvie Simmons tweeted a picture of herself standing in front of a large mural of Leonard Cohen painted by Kevin Ledo on the side of a 9-storey Montreal building close to where Leonard kept a home. It was the center piece for the fifth Mural International Public Art Festival in June. The Montreal Gazette’s Bill Brownstein had written an article about the making of it. He also mentions another mural, a tribute to Leonard Cohen made by artist Gene Pendon, which was painted on the side of a 20-storey downtown building, as part of Montreal’s 375th billion dollar birthday bash. The Globe and Mail described them in detail: Leonard Cohen and a tale of two Montreal murals. ET Canada reported on the official inauguration today, a year after Cohen’s passing. Josée Cloutier posted photos of both murals in one tweet, shown above.

CBC broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel tweeted that the photograph of Leonard Cohen, which served as the basis for the large downtown mural, was taken by his daughter Lorca. Interesting that Leonard named his daughter after the famous Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who had greatly influenced his work. “His books taught me that poetry can be pure and profound – and at the same time.”

The M.A.C.’s Exhibition on Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything

The Guardian published Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything – Montreal’s tribute to its favourite son. The new exhibition was conceived as part of the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations – but has morphed into a thorough investigation of all things Cohen. On 9 November, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (AKA the Mac) will open the doors to Leonard Cohen : une brèche en toute chose/A Crack in Everything, a tribute to the artist, poet and musician, filled with multi-disciplinary works inspired by Cohen’s songs of life. This special exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art will conclude 9 April 2018.

The show takes its title from Cohen’s song Anthem, which contains the famous line “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” The song also inspired artist Kara Blake’s piece for the show, an immersive installation called The Offerings. “The song apparently took Cohen 10 years to craft and is just one example of his many artistic offerings that get inside the beautifully flawed nature of being human,” says Blake. “I wanted my piece to present visitors with a sampling of the creativity, wit and insight Cohen has gifted us with.”

Julia Holter contributed a cover of Cohen’s Take This Waltz, which will play on rotation in the Listening Room. “I enjoyed getting into the feeling of this passionate, seductive, demented waltz,” says Holter, who incorporated field recordings she made during a visit to the Greek island of Hydra, where Cohen had a home. “Being there was incredible,” she says.

For Holter, being invited to contribute to the show is the perfect way for her to give back to an artist she was introduced to as a child and who inspired her love of poetry. “What was special about Leonard Cohen’s work was its calm mystery. I think that can be an inspiration to the world right now,” she says. “The world needs this subtle beauty right now.”

Leonard Cohen biographer Sylvie Simmons

As part of the week’s celebrations, Eleanor Wachtel interviewed Sylvie Simmons on CBC Books Writers and Company, for broadcast on Sunday, November 12, 2017: Remembering Leonard Cohen: biographer Sylvie Simmons on Montreal’s beloved poet.

I enjoyed reading Sylvie’s wonderful biography, I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. It will be published next year in a new French edition with an added afterword that will be included in a revised English edition by McClelland & Stewart.

The afterword is Cohen’s response to the question about what was the driving force that propelled his output. Simmons calls it Traveling Light, and quotes Cohen’s answer in this interview for The Senior Times: Biographer Sylvie Simmons pays tribute to Montreal’s favourite son.

Leonard Cohen was very active towards the end of his life. Due to his declining health he tried to bring as many projects to completion as possible. One of them was his last album, You Want It Darker, produced by his son Adam Cohen. A new poetry book, The Flame, will be released next year.

*My reply to Quora question about the crack and the light

Quora posted this question: What did Leonard Cohen mean by his lyrics: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in?” About a dozen people posted their suggestions. Here is my reply:

I agree with a number of interpretations posted here, quoting William Blake, the Kabbalah, and other esoteric sources, to explain what Leonard Cohen may be referring to in that line. They all make good sense to me. I also think that the light, of clarity, understanding, call it what you will, comes from within, not without. Metaphorically we may imagine light coming into a dark broken place from outside. But it can also light up the darkness from inside, if one knows how to turn on the switch. Another interpretation then, is no matter how broken, incomplete we are, with the proper approach, meditation technique, one can transcend, go beyond our limitations and just Be, experience that unbroken inner light of pure consciousness. With repeated exposures to one’s inner divine nature, the outer vessel, our body, can begin to heal, mend the broken cracks, and become whole. One way to experience this inner and outer development is with the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation.

Speaking of cracks and light, the Japanese art of kintugi turns damaged bowls into something even more beautiful. See my Japanese style poem, kintsugi tanka: japanese pottery inspires poetry.

‘In Our Loving Eyes’ a poem by @kenchawkin remembering a special love with Sally Peden

August 31, 2017

In Our Loving Eyes

Some people are stargazers
We were soul-gazers
Looking in each other’s eyes

Windows to the Soul
A Self-reflecting mirror
Drawing us nearer

Love … looking … at Love

© Ken Chawkin
August 31, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

Related: For Us—a tanka honoring Sali and what we shared

Related poem posted September 22, 2013: Haiku of the Heart – for Sali.

Added October 1, 2017, A tanka remembering Sali and her gift to me on the one-year anniversary of her passing.

This new post, added November 12, 2017, is relevant: 1st anniversary of my India trip to spread Sali’s ashes on the Narmada River, visit Bijouri campus and Maharishi Vedic Pandits at the Brahmasthan.

David Whyte describes the mysterious way a poem starts inside you with the lightest touch

August 18, 2017

David Whyte on the physical act of writing poetry

David Whyte recites a poem to Krista Tippett and audience describing the physical bodily act of writing poetry during an interview hosted by Cambridge Forum about her book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands
and walk toward the light.

River Flow: New and Selected Poems (RP)
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press (2012)

In a similar vein, before New York poet laureate Marie Howe read “Annunciation” to Krista Tippett On Being, she described how, after tearing up several versions, she gave up, and then, it just came through her. This revelatory description of mystical conception, in Mary’s words, parallels that of poetic creation, in Marie’s words.

My first published poem, ODE TO THE ARTIST: Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park, was a similar experience. After several attempts at writing a poem about the lotus pads in front of us, I got out of my self and wondered about their perspective. Much to my surprise the poem quickly wrote itself. Other parts of poems would present themselves while Being in Nature, which I would later complete.

This process of getting out of the way and allowing poetry to innocently come through you was expressed by my son after his class was assigned to write a poem for homework. He felt strongly that you couldn’t will a poem into existence; it had to be inspired. He was barely eleven years old when he wrote INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin.

With reference to “the silence that follows a great line,” Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards.


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