Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

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

Here’s a senior haiku, not a senior moment, yet.

January 3, 2019

I’ve been retired, yet managed to stay busy working. And it’s a new year. One of my intentions for this year was to do more creative things. I do like writing, especially poetry, and in particular, haiku and tanka.

Since I also recently moved, and I’m getting older, two things are inevitable: downsizing—getting rid of stuff, and upgrading—improving my quality of life with newer stuff. Seems to be an unending cycle.

Retirement brings more time to do stuff. Just need the motivation. This is not a senior moment. Not there yet. But here’s a senior haiku.

A Senior Haiku

Might as well Enjoy
[Downsizing and Upgrading]
The rest of my Life

Who knows how much time we have left. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not meant to sound pessimistic, just a realistic assessment of where I’m at in my life right now.

I do have a lot to be thankful for—good health, enough to get by (so far), family and friends, and a special community to live in.

Let’s see what challenges and gifts this year has in store for us. Hopefully better than the last!

A little poem about work, and getting things done

January 3, 2019

I moved last year and still have boxes of books and papers around my office. Yesterday as I was sorting through the junk I found a sheet of folded paper with Emily Dickinson’s cosmic poem about The Brain typed on it. On the other side was the playful little poem I had typed, For—Emily D— From—Kenny C—. On that same piece of paper was a short poem I had scribbled about the nature of work, and getting stuff done.

WORK

When you don’t have to work
You get the most work done.
Doing while non-doing
Transforms work into fun.

Don’t remember when I wrote it, probably last year, as I did the one for the Divine Miss D. I think I may have been working on a particular blog post. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I just lose track of time and enjoy the process. If it’s a job I have to do, then it becomes work, and can drag on. If I’m stuck, I usually start with following my passion first, and write something to express a creative urge. It’s my way of dealing with procrastination, and usually frees me up to then get down to the work at hand. After it was done, I reflected on the distinction, and wrote that little poem. I had scrawled underneath it: My little ditties for the day.

I remember something Maharishi once told us about work: “See the job; do the job; stay out of the misery.” That kept me going when I was doing blue-collar work for Vancouver Parks and Recreation. I also wrote a lot of poetry while working as a park attendant for Queen Elizabeth Park, and during visits to other Vancouver Parks, and while living in Fairfield, Iowa.

Poem: For—Emily D— From—Kenny C—

January 2, 2019

Emily Dickinson’s amazing poem of the Brain being wider than the Sky inspired me to write a playful little poem in her style. I had posted it as a Comment, and now decided to reproduce it here:

For—Emily D—
From—Kenny C—

I am Part of what I See—
An Unlimited Reality
If the Whole is contained in Each Part—
Then I End up—where I Start

New Haiku: Late Autumn in Santa Barbara

November 21, 2018

I’m back visiting my son for Thanksgiving in Santa Barbara. The first time I was there, a little over 2 ½ years ago, I wrote Threshold Haiku upon entering his house. Here’s a new haiku, which starts where the previous one ends, inspired by those pillars of jasmine plants.

Late Autumn in Santa Barbara

Pillars of jasmine
Stand dormant for the winter
Waiting to blossom

Ken Chawkin
Santa Barbara
Nov 20, 2018

The temporary paradox of death in life: writing a tanka for our family pet on his passing

October 27, 2018

The first Wednesday evening of this month, (October 3, 2018) our family’s Great Dane passed away peacefully resting under a cedar tree. His body had been breaking down; it was his time. Dakar had lived a full life, longer than expected for his breed. Even though he was no longer physically with us, I still felt his presence into the next day. It led me to contemplate the paradoxical nature of death and wrote this tanka for him that next morning as a way to try and understand this temporary contradiction, and express what I was feeling at the time.

Maybe some of you have had a similar experience after losing a loved one—a pet, a close friend, or a family member. I read this out this morning at a Death Café after hearing other people describe their experiences of grief, and unexpected surprises when a loved one passed. It was healing for all of us to share.

The Temporary Paradox of Death in Life
A tanka for Dakar on his passing

Silence, Peacefulness
A Fullness of Emptiness
Feeling you still here

An Absence of your Presence
A Presence of your Absence

© Ken Chawkin
October 27, 2018
Fairfield, Iowa

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


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