Archive for the ‘Other poems’ Category

Mary Oliver’s poem, Sunrise, gives us a larger, wiser perspective on life

January 15, 2019

Mary Oliver is the high priestess of poetry. She translates Earth’s wisdom through her own way of looking at things. I love her insights. They sneak up on you. I smile every time I come to the end of this poem with it’s wise conclusion.

thehillsriversunrise

Sunrise

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it–
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

(From: New and Selected Poems)

Photo of The Hills in New Zealand at sunrise found on Photography Begins.

This wonderful conclusion reminds me of a poem by another great female poet: We have reasons to be sad, but happiness cannot be pinned down, explains poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

You can see more poems by Mary Oliver posted on this blog.

Mary Oliver is definitely in touch with her muse, is at one with her. It reminds me of a line in this great little poem by William Stafford—When I Met My Muse.

Thanks to Joe Riley of Panhala for sharing Mary Oliver’s poem Sunrise. To subscribe to Panhala, send a blank email to Panhala-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

David Whyte’s poem, The Journey, describes a leaving as a new beginning, as did Mary Oliver

January 15, 2019

Having read The Journey by Mary Oliver, I found a poem by David Whyte with the same title. Oliver’s poem is about leaving her suffocating home to live her own life, breaking away from other voices to discover her own.

Whyte said he secretly wrote The Journey for a friend who’s life had come undone to give her hope for renewal. She was going through another kind of leaving, from a long-term marriage. He describes it in the introduction to this poem, which you can hear him read below.

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

From House of Belonging by David Whyte

I’ve posted two other poems of his: David Whyte describes the mysterious way a poem starts inside you with the lightest touch and What To Remember When Waking by David Whyte.

My haiku response to Billy Collins’ poem, Japan

January 3, 2019

I love the poetry of Billy Collins and have a few favorite poems, readings, and interviews posted on my blog. They’re so accessible and humorous.

His poem, Japan, is about a favorite haiku. He wrote each of the 12 stanzas to look like a 3-line haiku. The imagery in the last half of the poem unravels in the most mind-bending of ways as he interchanges perspectives! You can hear Billy Collins read Japan on YouTube.

I remember first reading it in his collection, Sailing Alone Around the Room, I bought over 15 years ago. Today, I found my two-haiku response written on a napkin among scraps of paper. It was also on the back of the receipt, bookmarking that poem! It inspired me to post both.

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

###

My humorous response to the moth and temple bell in the poem.

Haiku for Billy Collins’ poem, Japan, by Ken Chawkin

The weight of a moth
on a one-ton temple bell
excruciating

The sound of the bell
all hinges on the moth’s tongue
tapping the surface

###

On a more serious note, using the imagery of a tower bell, read a profound poem by Rainer Maria Rilke posted in my Response below: Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XXIX.

Thomas Merton’s golden poem, Song for Nobody

October 27, 2018

Another poem from Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds is Song for Nobody by Thomas Merton. This golden poem is Beautiful, Enigmatic, and Profound. Below are some reactions to it as I try to fathom the poet’s spiritual perspective. If you have any comments please feel free to post them below. I’d be curious to hear your take on it.

Black-Eyed-Susan Flower

Song for Nobody
by Thomas Merton

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)

A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

(more…)

Two profound poems by Stephen Levine: in the realm of the passing away & millennium blessing

October 16, 2018

I just discovered a fine poet, Stephen Levine, on this wonderful blogspot, THE BEAUTY WE LOVE. He was an American poet, author and teacher best known for his work on death and dying. He drew upon the teachings of a variety of wisdom traditions. Stephen and his wife Ondrea were also grief counselors. His poetry offers much wisdom on this subject. Here are two beautiful poems that deal with the ephemeral nature of existence; its deathless, limitless source; and a grace that draws us to it, our ultimate destination — in the realm of the passing away and millennium blessing — both taken from his book, Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace.

In the realm of the passing away

This is the realm of the passing away. All that
exists does not for long.
…….Whatever comes into this world never stops sliding
toward the edge of eternity.
…….Form arises from formlessness and passes back,
arising and dissolving in a few dance steps between
creation and destruction.
…….We are born passing away.
…….Seedlings and deadfall all face forward.
…….Earthworms eat what remains.
…….We sing not for that which dies but for that which
never does.

* * *

Millennium blessing

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
…….but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
…….beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
…….none-the-less
through forgotten ghosts
…….and unexpected angels,
luminous.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

* * *

Stephen Levine (July 17, 1937 – January 17, 2016)

* * *

Related posts worth seeing: Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, Buddha in Glory, reminds us of our eternal nature within; John Glenday’s poem, Concerning the Atoms of the Soul, illuminates and nourishes the mind; and The temporary paradox of death in life: writing a tanka for our family pet on his passing.

Wendell Berry’s stepping over stones in a stream shows us how he writes a poem and takes a stand

September 5, 2018

“What I stand for is what I stand on.” — Wendell Berry

I love the playful music in this brilliant little poem by Wendell Berry from Leavings: Poems. As if imitating the sounds and poetry of nature, Berry’s stepping over stones in a flowing stream demonstrates his own creative flow, the way he uses words to show us how he writes a poem, and takes a stand for nature and his place in it.

The Book of Camp Branch

How much delight I’ve known
in navigating down the flow
by stepping stones, by sounding
stones, by words that are
stepping and sounding stones.

Going down stone by stone,
the song of the water changes,
changing the way I walk
which changes my thought
as I go. Stone to stone
the stream flows. Stone to stone
the walker goes. The words
stand stone still until
the flow moves them, changing
the sound – a new word –
a new place to step or stand.

Here’s another of his poems I posted: Wendell Berry’s “No going back” is about the generosity of the evolving self through time.

For more on this environmental legend and writer, see Wendell Berry: Poet and Prophet. Produced by Bill Moyers, it aired on PBS 10/03/13.

Denise Levertov’s The Avowel reminds me of the effortlessness of transcending in @TMmeditation

September 5, 2018

The Avowal
By Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

These poems also reference such a transforming experience:

Denise Levertov’s poem “Of Being” describes that mysterious moment of expansive inner stillness, joy and reverence

Denise Levertov’s Primary Wonder is being present to the quiet mystery that sustains us

The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu

August 17, 2018

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.

I appreciate believable romantic movies. For some reason this one deeply moved me. I’ve watched A Good Rain Knows (when to come) (2009) several times. Also titled, Season of Good Rain, the film’s theme was inspired by a poem from Du Fu (Tu Fu). Love, like the right season, can come around again and potentially renew one’s life.

HUR Jin-ho directs this Korean-Chinese co-production. The love story stars South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung (Dong-ha) and Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan (Mei).

Season of Good Rain (A Good Rain Knows)

Synopsis: Timely like the spring rain, so has he come back into my life… Dong-ha is a thirty-something Korean man on a business trip to Chengdu, China where his company is carrying out construction projects to rebuild the city after the earthquake of 2008. There, totally by chance, he meets an old friend from his school days in the U.S.. Mei (May) is originally from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. She returned home after graduation and now works as a tour guide. Dong-ha and Mei were perhaps more than friends and had feelings for each other back then, but they parted ways before they had a chance to define or declare them. Now that their paths have crossed again, they find the old feelings remained, and new ones are forming that may resemble love.

This Du Fu poem inspired the film: Welcome Rain on a Spring Night.

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.

The brocade city is Chengdu, in south-west China, where the story takes place. The park where Mei works contains a statue of Du Fu and a replica of the hut that he lived in, along with the kind of flowering trees he had planted. Dong-ha was also a poet, but got caught up in his work instead. He is later seen reading a poem by Du Fu titled, A Spring View.

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

The subject matter about the destruction of war from the past resonates with the physical and emotional losses in the city after a recent earthquake. Mei’s life was also affected, as we find out later in the film.

This romantic film carries feelings of loss and longing, uncertainty and hopeful renewal brought about symbolically by the spring rains arriving in time. The theme song, with scenes from the film in the trailer, emotionally conveys those feelings: A Good Rain Knows When to Come – Falling Down / Song by Sungbin Cho / Sondtrack by Jaejin Lee.

The rain and silence in the song, like the ones described in the poems, seem to carry a mystical quality about them, similar to the mysterious ways of love. The English translation leaves the listener wondering if there will be a more committed reunion. Here it is sung in English: Falling down – (A good rain knows when to come).

Maybe sometime
It could be here again.
Trying to find out.
We don’t know yet.

Maybe it’s something
To make us come around.
The rain will be something
To let me calm down.

There is silence
Flowing around me
In the air
When you approach.

Maybe it’s something
To make you turn around
The raining is something
Just holding me now.

(Musical bridge)

I know that you wonder
Where we stay around.
Maybe I found you
Always here in my mind.

It’s falling around me
I’m feeling like lost in time.
I’m waiting behind you.
Just don’t let me down.

You’re running away now.
You’re sinking in flowing time.
The raining reminds me of your smile.
Don’t bring me down.

This love song, sensitively and beautifully performed, captures the uncertainty of their situation after meeting again years later by chance. The attraction between them is still there, but it never had a chance to develop into a serious relationship. Will it now? The song plays at the end of the film and as the credits roll.

Two different endings?

For some reason the ending seems slightly different in this version, which has better picture and sound quality on YouTube. At this last moment of the film, we see Dong-ha pacing back and forth, hoping that Mei will come out of the park entrance, but she doesn’t appear. It leaves the viewer hoping and waiting, with him. Did he return after much soul-searching ready to commit to her? Was she ready to commit to him? Will he wait in vain?

In this similar version, with English subtitles, at that last scene, as he turns away, we see someone pushing a yellow bicycle with a basket out of the park entrance, but can’t quite make out if it’s Mei as it cuts to black and the credits roll. Maybe they did that to keep us in suspense. You get the feeling they will see each other, but we’re left to wonder what will happen next.

The reason why I think it’s Mei is because he had mailed a bicycle to her as a gift. She had sold the first one he had given her when they were students, since she didn’t ride a bike. When they meet again, and it comes up in conversation, he gets upset. Now, at the end of the film, her co-workers assemble the new yellow bike with basket. We see her awkwardly riding it at first, then with more confidence, and finally smiling with the wind blowing in her hair. Fade to black, then wait for who I think might be her. I found another copy on YouTube where you see clearly the same bike and someone like her. Click on this 3-second clip to see for yourself.

For some reason it was left out in the other version. Maybe they decided to make it purposefully ambiguous to keep viewers guessing? Or it might have something to do with which version was shown in which country — Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, or elsewhere. If you watch the film with both endings, post a comment; I’d like to know your take on it. Assuming those links will still be active. Here’s a BluRay 720p version.

Updated footnote: I emailed an American film critic living in South Korea about the two different endings. He had reviewed this film. When I pointed out the different endings he was surprised, and said “that was a very good eye catch on your part.”

He didn’t remember which version he had seen and wouldn’t have noticed or guessed that it was Mei with her bicycle. But he did give this surprising answer. “If I were to hazard a guess I would say the version without the woman and the bicycle is the original version and the one with the woman and the bicycle was added in for international release (or at least, the release in whichever market CHC operates in) for the sake of implying a happier ending. This is a fairly common practice with exported South Korean films from this time period.”

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films. They reveal the transforming power of love triumphing over adversity through time. Here is a new one I share in this post: Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Poets Belong In Pastures—In praise of Bill Graeser

April 13, 2018

I found this poem among my papers as I was sorting through stuff during a move. I wrote it for a friend and fellow poet Bill Graeser. I checked my computer and it was created March 4, 2005. It’s seven couplets with seven syllables per line.

Poets Belong In Pastures
In praise of Bill Graeser

Poets belong in pastures.
Like cows, they contemplate life.

Bill is a Graeser, of words.
He often ponders green grass.

He chews on a phrase or two
While remembering a friend.

The milk of human kindness
Flows within Bill and transforms

The grass, the friend, into light,
Appearing in a poem.

His occupation complete,
He returns home, contented.

Bill sleeps, soundly, in his bed,
And dreams, a cow, in his head.

                        ###

I posted a brilliant poem that Bill Graeser wrote about an unusual poet: What You May Not Know About Frankenstein. Bill also memorializes photographer Ansel Adams in his award-winning poem Magic Light. See more of Bill’s poems and some of his own photographs on his blog, https://billgraeser.com. He came out with a book of poems called, Fire in a Nutshell.

Here are a few poems about “The Poet” an earlier one I had written about Bill Graeser, and one Rolf Erickson wrote about me.

Denise Levertov’s poem “Of Being” describes that mysterious moment of expansive inner stillness, joy and reverence

March 6, 2018

Denise Levertov, in her poem, Of Being, describes the mysterious experience of inner happiness, of just being. Though provisional in time, it is removed from great suffering and fear, and hails from an eternal inner source. Her description sounds like a taste of bliss consciousness, which is self-sufficient, not dependent on anything outside itself, and out of time — transcendental pure Being.

Of Being

By Denise Levertov

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences—
great suffering, great fear—

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

this mystery:

# # #

Denise Levertov must have also written Primary Wonder after becoming present to the “quiet mystery” that sustains everything.

Denise Levertov’s The Avowel reminds me of the effortlessness of transcending in @TMmeditation

Naomi Shihab Nye says something similar in her poem, So Much Happiness, where “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.”

William Stafford also describes something similar in his poem, Just Thinking, where he appreciates the value “of just being there.”

Here is a poem I wrote on this subject in the early 90’s: Seeing Is Being.

Speaking Of Being, a mysterious bird in this Wallace Stevens poem, Of Mere Being, also uses the image of wind moving slowly in the branches, and teaches us the wonder of just being our self.

Derek Walcott, when he wrote his poem Love After Love, described it as withdrawing into a world of silence, and creating from there, as if in a trance, being blessed by “a kind of fleeting grace” if something happens.

Besides the magical experience of writing such a poem, I also see it as an experience of inner transformation, a time when you first acknowledge the value of just your self. Walcott instructs the reader to “Give back your heart / to itself, to the stranger who has loved you / all your life, whom you ignored / for another, who knows you by heart.”

Watch an excerpt from this CBC film where Maharishi describes the nature of inner life: bondage and liberation, and gaining bliss consciousness through Transcendental Meditation. If you’re interested to know more, watch the whole 1968 film of Maharishi at Lake Louise.


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