Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

August 17, 2018

I saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) on Netflix, based on the #1 best-selling book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s a period piece that takes place shortly after WWII. The war’s emotional aftermath still weighs heavily on the lives of these isolated islanders. Juliet Ashton, a London journalist and author, visits this small book club to explore the idea of an article about how they survived the war, and forms an unexpected bond with them. Writing, literature, life and love intersect in surprising ways. 

These lines from the trailer resonated deeply. “Do you suppose it’s possible for us to already belong to someone before we’ve met them? I feel keenly how the arc of her life has changed the arc of mine forever. If books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.” It did, as does the film.

shares some revealing research on the writing of the book and the making of the movie in her review for the Los Angeles Times. Definitely worth reading and watching.

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films, including this 2009 Korea-China co-production, A Good Rain Knows when to come, (a.k.a. Season of Good Rain). See The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu. Most of these films reveal the power of love to transform individuals challenged by some kind of adversity.

Artist Ananda Kesler is featured in The Hawk Eye: Abstract art as meditation in action, by Bob Saar

July 11, 2018

Last week I received an invitation from Ananda Kesler to the official opening of her art exhibit, “Longing for Another Realm,” at the Art Center of Burlington. I passed it on to my friend Bob Saar who writes for The Hawk Eye, and introduced them via email.

Intrigued, Bob went to the Art Center to interview Ananda as she was putting up her paintings for the show. They shared a deep conversation and he wrote an amazing piece for the newspaper. Titled “Abstract art as meditation in action,” it made the cover of the WEEKEND Section C1, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Bob was kind enough to put it together in a PDF for us to share. I know the print is small, but if you can expand your page (command and shift +), the text will become easier to read.

The opening sentence really captures the essence of Ananda and her work. It is the essential message, the seed containing the whole tree: “Ananda Kesler pursues her art in search of the one realm within which all things are connected.”

Bob discovers Ananda’s eclectic upbringing, starting in Israel and immigrating with her family to Fairfield, Iowa when she was 12 years old. She told him about her education. Ananda attended MSAE, started college at MUM, then switched to U of I where she graduated with a BFA. She continued her studies in art and textiles at various art schools in California, Thailand, and Italy. Her work has been featured in many shows and articles.

Bob mentions the meditating Fairfield community and MUM and writes, “Her unconventional education — rooted in eastern philosophy, spirituality and metaphysics — led her to search for the intersection of form, beauty, and the mysteries of the esoteric and unknown. Her abstract paintings have been described as invoking feelings that have yet to emerge as language.”

I like how Bob set up the topic of control in life and in painting, and how Ananda’s approach is the opposite. This idea illuminates her practice. Towards the end of the article she explains: “I practice painting as a kind of meditation in action,” from which he derived the title for the article.

She then describes what the process does for her: “I let the process of mark-making take me on a journey into the unknown.” This next part surprised me: “The marks teach me patience, teach me self-forgiveness; they are a constant reminder of how to abdicate control.”

Enjoy this brilliantly written and insightful article.

Ananda Kesler THE July 2018

KBUR also interviewed Ananda Kesler. See Dive into Another Realm.

Ananda’s description of her process, and the difference between feelings expressed in art, which are pre-verbal, and words, remind me of an experience I had during an intuitive art class I had taken years ago in Vancouver, Canada. See ArtWords—poem about a creative awakening.

A related topic, on the difference between words and art, is played out in the movie, Words and Pictures. The story, set in a New England prep school, was actually shot at St. George’s School, an independent boarding and day university-preparatory school for boys in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a.k.a., Hollywood North. A poem, Who Are You?, is central to the film. I posted it, with the movie trailer, and a magical coincidence told by an English teacher from that school on a radio talk show I had heard while living there. See A poem in a movie inviting you to be who you are, to find out the connection, and what famous actor he meets while walking in the woods during a lunch break.

A Whisper Across Time: My Family’s Story of the Holocaust Told Through Art and Poetry, by Olga Campbell

May 1, 2018

I wanted to share something special with you. A friend of mine had been repressing, then actively processing an inherited trauma for most of her life. By educating herself, seeking professional help, writing and creating art, she has been able to make sense of it all. She just published a book about her powerful healing journey. She hopes it will resonate with those going through a trauma-induced grief, deepen our understanding and prevent such future catastrophes. I’ve seen the book. It’s a stunning artistic record of her ongoing transformation. Here’s what she sent me.

A Whisper Across Time book coverA Whisper Across Time is the story of one family’s experiences in the Holocaust. Olga Campbell tells a very personal and moving story through prose, art and poetry, creating a multi-dimensional snapshot of family losses and inter-generational trauma. Campbell’s art and poetry reflect the theme of sorrow and sadness created by this dark period of history. This is a story of remembering and healing. It is also a cautionary tale asking the reader to look at what is happening in the world today. Part memoir, part poetry, and art, A Whisper Across Time will make you stop, feel and reflect.

Seventeen years ago, after listening to a radio program about second generation Holocaust survivors, Olga Campbell experienced feelings she had spent a lifetime repressing. Her experience of grief, sorrow and sadness had their origins in events that happened to her family during the Holocaust. She started to confront these feelings by creating a solo multimedia exhibition in 2005 called Whispers Across Time. 

A year ago she felt compelled to write her family’s story. It felt as if her ancestors were whispering to her, encouraging her to do this. A Whisper Across Time is the result of these whispers.

Olga Campbell is a visual artist living in Vancouver, B. C. Her art work includes photography, sculpture, mixed media painting, and digital photo collage. She is also the author of Graffiti Alphabet. See more of Olga’s work at www.olgacampbell.com and olgacampbellart.

Olga has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1967. She became at teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India in 1970 and is a recertified Governor.

In her book she writes: “This personal journey was at times very difficult. However, there were and continue to be experiences in my life which make it easier … This daily practice of meditation for over half a century of time, has been transformational and life-affirming.

Praise for A Whisper Across Time

Olga Campbell’s poignant tribute to family murdered in the Shoa is a personal triumph. With words and art she has created an emotional response to a psychologically wounded mother and her inadvertent legacy of trauma. Her enormous artistic talents and insights provide not only a measure of healing but also of faithfulness to memory — the lives unlived are not forgotten. This is a precious contribution to the literature of the Holocaust and to resolving the consequences of catastrophic trauma. — Dr. Robert Krell, Founding President, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

A Whisper Across Time is a profoundly moving experience. It is a healing ritual, a Shamanic soul retrieval, a celebration of life, and a gift of gratitude to the family Olga Campbell never really knew. She reminds us that it is never too late to heal the sorrows of the past or to protect the future from the dangers of forgetting.Ann Mortifee, Performing Artist, Writer for theatre, ballet and films

A Whisper Across Time by Olga Campbell is now available in Vancouver, BC, Canada. To order a copy, contact Olga at olgac1@telus.net. The cost is $25 US plus $6 shipping and handling.

Norman Zierold: Hollywood biographer, novelist, TM Teacher, member of Maharishi’s Purusha program, raconteur, publicist, beloved by all

March 9, 2018
Norman Zierold photo by Mary Drew

Norman Zierold: 7/26/1927–3/7/2018

A close friend and colleague, Norman Zierold, passed from this world early Wednesday morning, March 7, 2018. Beloved by all, he lived a long, culturally rich and spiritually devoted life.

Born and raised in the Amana Colonies, Norman enlisted in the navy, graduated cum laude from Harvard, and earned a master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Iowa. He spent two years in France on a French Government Teaching Assistantship, then a decade in New York City, where he taught at Brearley School, worked at Collier’s Encyclopedia, then Theater Arts Magazine and Show.

Norman wrote eight books: true crime novels, tales of Hollywood’s golden age, and science fiction: The Child Stars, (1966); Little Charlie Ross, (1967); Three Sisters in Black, (1968), which won a Special Edgar Allen Poe Award; The Moguls; Garbo; (both 1969); The Skyscraper Doom, (1972); Sex Goddesses of the Silent Screen, (1973); and his final book, That Reminds Me, A Conversational Memoir (2013).

In 1972, Norman began the practice of Transcendental Meditation. He became a TM teacher and taught the technique to hundreds in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He later joined Maharishi’s Purusha program and eventually moved to Fairfield, Iowa in 2002. Norman became part of a dynamic media team at Maharishi University of Management under the direction of Bob Roth. Norman’s accomplishments there were legendary!

Those of us who worked with Norman over the years were always impressed by his work ethic and ability to charm writers, editors, and producers into reporting on TM. Bob Roth, now CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, is fond of telling the story of how Norman inspired a national TV profile on the NBC Today Show for TM and the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse in inner city Detroit.

A few years later, when Bob and David Lynch showed it to Ray Dalio in a private meeting, it inspired him to give the David Lynch Foundation a donation of one million dollars for more school projects. This was the start of an ongoing relationship with DLF, now in 35 countries, and led to millions more over the years for many at-risk groups. Bob feels the successful launch of the Foundation was largely due to Norman’s efforts, and prepared a special message about him for today’s memorial service.

Norman is survived by his sister Loretta Wolf, nephews Geoffrey and Mark, and niece Candice. A memorial service and cremation ceremony will take place Friday, March 9, 2018 at Behner Funeral Home in Fairfield.

Rustin Larson, published poet and MUM librarian, interviewed Norman Zierold on the publication of his book, That Reminds Me, A Conversational Memoir. Enjoy this interview, which took place in the MUM Library. There is a short separate introduction by librarian Suzanne Vesely. Both videos were posted March 2, 2013 on mumlibrary. Margot Suettmann posted a link to this video on Facebook when she found out about Norman’s passing. She also posted a lovely comment there about Norman that captures him perfectly. I’ve included them both below.

Margot Suettmann: I did not know Norman that well for a long time, but he left a deep impression on me as a very gentle, refined and also intellectual or let’s say: well educated person. I saw him often on the road walking up and down and doing his errands. He was tall and slim and his gait was very typical for him. He immediately learned my name – soon after I had arrived in Fairfield – and thus greeted me always with my name “Margot” which is something special. One feels appreciated and familiar with a person who takes the effort. I also knew he was a good friend of Ken Chawkin’s whom I consider a good and old friend myself. I knew Ken before I came to MUM. I also may have read some of Norman’s media press releases at times. He was working in the media department of MUM. I got to know him a little better at the memorial or obituary lunch for Sally Peden which Ken Chawkin had organized at Revelations as I happened to sit next to Norman. Of course we started to talk about different subjects and I noticed his refined personality and his rich educational background and the way he expressed himself verbally in a cautious and knowledgeable way. Probably what I appreciated most was his gentleness and his intuition for other’s feelings and handling them with caution and tenderness. I also admired his bravery how he mastered his life in his old age. He never complained and trod his way up and down the road unperturbed – and of course he loved and appreciated deeply to live in Fairfield. He was very independent in his inner Self and a noble personality in some way. And I remember most his kindness.

Linda Egenes sent this note. It says a lot! “Thank you, Ken. What a lovely memorial post of Norman! I think we all felt connected to him because he was so deeply settled in himself, and made everyone feel appreciated, loved and respected.”

Linda also sent this: Here’s a link to a “My Story” feature by Norman for Enlightenment magazine. It features a moving chapter from his book, about how he started to meditate and then why he became a TM teacher: From Utopia to Hollywood and Back.

“Today, I believe that omniscient Mother Nature remembered my youthful spiritual stirrings even when I did not, and also noted my disillusion with metropolitan high life and my attempts to find a better road to fulfillment.” —Norman Zierold

Jim Turner sent a wonderful Letter to the Editor of The Fairfield Ledger, which they published on March 22, 2018: A tribute to Norman Zierold.

Earlier related blog posts on Norman Zierold: The Chronicle of Higher Education: Notes From Academe: The Spokesman Who Kept CallingDiane Vance and Norman Zierold discuss his new memoir, That Reminds Me, at Revelations Café | You can read more lovely articles and listen to a few fascinating interviews with Norman about his book in this post by scrolling down to Articles, Interviews, and Update: That Reminds Me: A Conversational Memoir by Hollywood biographer Norman Zierold is now out!Norman Zierold: A Charmed Life: Celebrated Hollywood Author Reminisces on Six Decades of Extraordinary Encounters | THE REMARKABLE DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION — written by Norman Zierold for Healthy Referral | Celebrating Norman Zierold’s 90th birthday at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant we met Marie.

KYOU FOX 15.1 reports on MUM Film Class

February 15, 2018

Maharishi University of Management offers a program called the David Lynch MFA in Screenwriting…and for 10 days… 16 students from Maine to California …are staying in Fairfield with dreams of one day being able to share their writing with the world…

Watch a 2:43 minute news report by KYOU news anchor Chase Scheuer: KYOU FOX 15.1 News Story, Wednesday, 2/14/2018, MUM Film Class.

Watch an earlier report from KTVO’s Aish Menon on this program: New David Lynch MFA Screenwriting students use #TranscendentalMeditation to unfold creativity.

To find out more about MUM’s David Lynch MFA in Screenwriting, visit www.mum.edu/mfa-in-screenwriting.

New David Lynch MFA Screenwriting students use #TranscendentalMeditation to unfold creativity

February 11, 2018

KTVO’S Aish Menon reports for ABC 3 & CBS 3.2: MUM students use Transcendental Meditation in new screenwriting program

@GMA’s @RobinRoberts & @GStephanopoulos interview @meditationbob on his new book #StrengthInStillness: The Power of #TranscendentalMeditation

February 6, 2018

Celebrity meditation guru shares simple guide to meditating live on GMA

Good Morning America Marquee

Bob Roth sat down with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos to discuss the benefits of Transcendental Meditation on Good Morning America Live in Times Square. His new book, Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation, came out today, Feb 6, 2018.

Along with many A-list celebrities who have learned TM from Bob Roth—Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, Ellen Degeneres, Hugh Jackman, Russell Brand, Katy Perry, Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks, Martin Scorsese, Stella McCartney, and many more—Robin and George are also students of his.

Bob says, “We’re talking in Transcendental Meditation a medical tool that can just give anyone access whether they believe in it or not. You can be a 100% skeptical. And anyone can learn it—how to allow the active thinking mind to just access calm. And when that happens, your body, according to research, gains a profound state of rest.”

George Stephanopolous and Robin Roberts listen to Bob Roth describe how TM works

Bob Roth describes how TM works to George Stephanopolous & Robin Roberts

Bob explains, “In Transcendental Meditation we just effortlessly access these deeper, quieter, calmer levels that are already there. And it happens effortlessly because the nature of the mind is to be drawn to something more satisfying, and inside, most satisfying.”

Robin adds the notion of having no expectations, then brings up the issue of time, the amount of time needed to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day. Bobby then relates a true, funny story about that.

George says, “I think it creates time. If you do 40 minutes a day, you go through the rest of the 22, 23 hours, feeling more calm, more focused, more connected to everyone around you, and that’s invaluable.”

Robin says, “It calms you and energizes you at the same time. It’s the oddest thing.” George, who was very skeptical when he learned, reiterates, “Exactly!”

I really appreciate how Bob keeps coming back to TM basics in this interview when he describes the nature of our minds at the surface and at the depth. “Transcendental Meditation is a very natural technique that gives effortless access to the stillness that lies within.”

There will be a book launch at Joe’s Pub at The Public in New York City tonight: Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, and More To Celebrate The Release of Bob Roth’s STRENGTH IN STILLNESS: THE POWER OF TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION. The event will be webcast live Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7:15 pm EST / 6:15pm CST / 4:15 pm PST on Events at TM.org and Facebook.

They actually started 15 minutes later, so fast forward to watch it below. Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness open the evening, then invite Bob Roth up to the stage. Bobby later invites Jerry Seinfeld to join him on stage around 40 minutes in.

Jerry is on for 15 minutes. In the first 7 minutes he shares where he first learned TM as a college student and says it gave him “the greatest rest that there is in the world.” Joking about how busy and tiring it is to live and work in New York City, he tells everyone they need to learn how to recharge naturally. Jerry loves life and says, “TM is the greatest tool for work.”

In the next half of the discussion Jerry talks about his work for the David Lynch Foundation. Bob starts to tell the story of how they asked Jerry to perform for a fundraiser. Jerry takes over and tells it like it was in his own hilarious way, when he found out he was going to be on the same stage that night with Beatles Paul and Ringo who were headlining the first Change Begins Within benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall. He also takes questions from the audience. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening!

Proceeds from today’s event and sales of the book will go towards teaching women and children who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to meditate through the Manhattan Family Justice Center.

Visit the book’s website www.stillnessbook.com and scroll down to see Events & Tour Dates for book signings at locations around the country, some with other celebrities joining Bob Roth. Below that you will also find featured print and online news and stories, as well as a video library with event, television, radio, and podcast appearances.

More News Coverage on Bob Roth and his Book Launch

On Wed, Feb 7, Bob was interviewed by Rosanna Scotto and Lori Stokes on Good Day NY FOX 5 | WNYW. Rosanna posted a photo on Instagram of the 3 of them. The next book event followed that evening at the 92Y On Demand. It was moderated by Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress and writer Mary-Louise Parker. Watch their wonderful conversation here.

More news coverage continues to come out. Feb 10, 2018, The Guardian published this excellent article: Top US meditation teacher brings his message to stressed-out BritonsGuru Bob Roth, who numbers Katy Perry and Hugh Jackman among his fans, is to set up a TM project in London schools.

Bob Roth cropped

Bob Roth @Alexander Berg

Bob Roth is the most experienced and sought-after meditation teacher in America. Over the past forty-five years, Bob has taught Transcendental Meditation to thousands of people, from billionaire CEOs to combat-scarred veterans, to at-risk students in violence-filled schools, to leading figures in government, business, medicine, media, the arts, and more. In addition to serving as the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation he also directs the Center for Leadership Performance.

Strength in Stillness—The Power of Transcendental Meditation by Bob RothIn Strength in Stillness, Roth breaks down the science behind meditation in a new, accessible way. He highlights the three distinct types of meditation—focused attention, open monitoring, and self-transcending—and showcases the evidence that the third, Transcendental Meditation, is the most effective and efficient way to reduce stress, access inner power, and build resilience. Free of gimmicks, mystical verbiage, and over-inflated research studies, the book is a simple and straightforward guide to calming mind, body, and spirit.

Watch this excellent book promo containing excerpts from various presentations, interviews, and famous meditators talking about what TM does for them, and others in need, posted on Bob Roth’s @meditationbob Twitter feed and on Amazon: How Transcendental Meditation Helps Relieve Stress and Drive Success.

I just love this funny video clip of Russell Brand and Bob Roth promoting the British and American cover versions of Strength In Stillness. Bob says it’s available in 9 different languages. Watch what Russell has to say about it all.

• Watch a replay of Bob Roth and David Lynch talk about Transcendental Meditation and the work of the David Lynch Foundation. The evening, hosted by Writers Bloc Presents, took place at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb 12, 2018.

• Watch Maria Shriver interview Bob Roth on her show Architects of Change.

• Listen to Bob Roth on Marketplace with David Brancaccio.

• Listen to 10% Happier with Dan Harris interview “Bob Roth, Meditation Teacher to the Stars,” Episode #122. Also on iTunes. Apple Podcasts: Spotify: Google Play Music: .

• Town Hall Seattle Feb 15, 2018: Bob Roth and David Lynch Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation.

• Enjoy TM News: Strength in Stillness: Bob Roth Talks about His New Book, the Rise of Meditation in Our Culture, and the Future of TM. Q&A with the longtime TM teacher and DLF CEO.

• Bob spoke at The Free Library of Philadelphia on Feb 20, 2018. Watch the 51:35 replay on Livestream.

• This ET clip, published Feb 22nd, is going viral: Why Celebs Are Obsessed With Transcendental Meditation | Entertainment Tonight. Here’s why so many stars are using this silent practice to really unplug.

Bob Roth in conversation with Daisy Lowe on Facebook, UK, Feb 27, 2018. Fast-forward about five and a half minutes to start the interview.

• The Bookseller: Tyler, Lowe and McCartney turn out for Roth’s book launch, published February 27, 2018 by Heloise Wood.

• Liz Connor of TV3Exposé in Ireland asks: Could Transcendental Meditation be the key to beating Britain’s stress epidemic?

Bob Roth promotes Strength In Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation on Today Extra, Australia’s popular TV morning show.

Consciousness and Creativity with David Lynch and Bob Roth at Arts Centre Melbourne, Australia, March 10, 2018, on Facebook.

• Consciousness and Creativity with David Lynch and Bob Roth at Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, March 10, 2018, on Facebook.

Hollywood’s guru on how to meditate like Oprah, March 14, 2018, stuff: well&good.

•  Ellen Welcomes Transcendental Meditation Expert Bob Roth, April 2, 2018.

• Red Dirt Report: BOOK REVIEW: “Strength in Stillness” by Bob Roth​, April 17, 2018.

Related: Watch an earlier lively interview with Bob Roth on BUILD. Find more articles and interviews with Bob Roth on TM and DLF on The Uncarved Blog.

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.

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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