Posts Tagged ‘poet’

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

February 27, 2021

Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He has published more than 50 books. Berry is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. He lives in Port Royal, Kentucky. Click here to listen to him read this poem, and 5 others posted at the On Being website.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, March 1, 2009)

Two other poems of his posted on this blog: Wendell Berry’s stepping over stones in a stream shows us how he writes a poem and takes a stand | Wendell Berry’s “No going back” is about the generosity of the evolving self through time.

Another great American nature poet is Mary Oliver. I created a memorial post after I discovered she had passed. It contains links to some of her beautiful poems that I liked and posted over the years, as well as articles, interviews, and readings: RIP: Mary Oliver. Thank you for sharing your poetic gifts with us. They are a national treasure!

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.

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

February 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

So Much Happiness

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

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

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

Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye

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

Nature’s Jewelry — haiku inspired by photograph

December 11, 2015

This week I went to my local Fairfield bank and picked up two copies of next year’s 2016 calendars for Sali and me. The pictures selected for each month were beautiful artistic photographs of local nature scenes. I recognized three of the photographers, friends of mine.

As I was showing and describing the pictures to Sali, one of them caught my eye and I was inspired to write a haiku, which happens around her! After many versions, here’s what I finally came up with.

Spider+Webs-8118

Nature’s Jewelry
A haiku based on a photograph by Jim Davis

tiny drops of dew
strung along a spider’s web
bright pearl necklaces

© Ken Chawkin
December 10+11, 2015
Fairfield, Iowa

Jim Davis, the photographer and a longtime friend, gave me permission to include this spider web photo from the First National Bank calendar, sponsored in part by the Jefferson County Trail Council. It was used for the month of May, Sali’s birth month. You can see more of his beautiful photographs in the calendar, if you have access to it. Visit his website: Jim Davis Images.

I asked Jim when and how he was able to take such a magical picture and he explained it this way:

The conditions for such a photo generally occur in late August and early September. It is an intersection of more spider webs due to onset of fall and warm days with cool nights creating early morning dew that drops off as the heat rises. Within those few days where the dew is created, there is the rare time when the air is still and the webs do not move. Without perfectly still air the dew drops would appear blurry or out of focus.

I turned the calendar upside down and noticed what appears to be Jim’s head and hat reflected in the large clear dewdrop under the leaf. He confirmed it saying his image would appear upside down in the drop.

Enjoy this other nature post and poem: The magic of fireflies is captured in this beautiful short film by @MaharishiU alum Radim Schreiber.

Publicist and Poet @KenChawkin featured @TMhome_com. Learning to let go to let magic happen #creativity #TMmeditation

June 30, 2015

I received an email this morning from a member of the TMhome Team, an international Transcendental Meditation news website. I’ve admired their wonderful work over the years representing TM internationally, especially their interesting interviews with famous, and not so famous people who have benefited from this unique meditation practice.

They wrote to say the article they had been putting together about me was now up. As a publicist who is always concerned with properly promoting other people and their work, this was a complete turnaround for me. I very much enjoyed sharing stories with Liisa of how I started TM, my work as a publicist, and the wonders of the creative process writing poetry. So when I read her article I was very moved; she did an excellent job representing me!

The article is currently featured on their home page and under the People section. I invite you to visit their website and enjoy reading it. They also did a lovely job laying it out with personal photos and two of my poems.

I am thrilled to share this milestone with you! Click on the title of the article to take you there.

PR to poetry – how things sometimes happen to Ken Chawkin

Ken Chawkin - TMhome

June 30, 2015

In 1967, Ken Chawkin walked into the local TM centre without any intention of learning Transcendental Meditation. He simply wanted to buy a copy of The Science of Being and Art of Living written by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Here are the two poems featured in the interview: Ode to the Artist and Sometimes Poetry Happens. This one is also mentioned and now linked: Indonesian Mystery Poem honoring Nyi Roro Kidul.

About 5 months later they followed up with Part 2 with the story behind the making of the International History Channel documentary on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris”

April 26, 2015

Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” on Page Meets Stage, November 12, 2005. The video was posted by Taylor Mali who shared the stage with Collins. A poet and teacher, Mali curates the Page Meets Stage series, which takes place at The DL Lounge in New York City. A version of this poem was published in “Ballistics” (Random House, 2010). I read it in my copy of Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, pages 89–91 (Random House, 2013).

January in Paris

Poems are never completed—they are only abandoned.
— Paul Valéry

That winter I had nothing to do
but tend the kettle in my shuttered room
on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery,

but I would sometimes descend the stairs,
unlock my bicycle, and pedal along the cold city streets
often turning from a wide boulevard
down a narrow side street
bearing the name of an obscure patriot.

I followed a few private rules,
never crossing a bridge without stopping
mid-point to lean my bike on the railing
and observe the flow of the river below
as I tried to better understand the French.

In my pale coat and my Basque cap
I pedaled past the windows of a patisserie
or sat up tall in the seat, arms folded,
and clicked downhill filling my nose with winter air.

I would see beggars and street cleaners
in their bright uniforms, and sometimes
I would see the poems of Valéry,
the ones he never finished but abandoned,
wandering the streets of the city half-clothed.

Most of them needed only a final line
or two, a little verbal flourish at the end,
but whenever I approached,
they would retreat from their ashcan fires
into the shadows—thin specters of incompletion,

forsaken for so many long decades
how could they ever trust another man with a pen?

I came across the one I wanted to tell you about
sitting with a glass of rosé at a café table—
beautiful, emaciated, unfinished,
cruelly abandoned with a flick of panache

by Monsieur Paul Valéry himself,
big fish in the school of Symbolism
and for a time, president of the Committee of Arts and Letters
of the League of Nations if you please.

Never mind how I got her out of the café,
past the concierge and up the flights of stairs—
remember that Paris is the capital of public kissing.

And never mind the holding and the pressing.
It is enough to know that I moved my pen
in such a way as to bring her to completion,

a simple final stanza, which ended,
as this poem will, with the image
of a gorgeous orphan lying on a rumpled bed,
her large eyes closed,
a painting of cows in a valley over her head,

and off to the side, me in a window seat
blowing smoke from a cigarette at dawn.

© Billy Collins

I love his clever association of completing a poem to an act of lovemaking with his pen as a sexual organ. Very funny! Reminds me of a poem I wrote about The Power of The Pen.

Enjoy other poems and videos: Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice | Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death | Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards.

The Library of Congress Web Guides: Billy Collins: Online Resources.

Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards

April 2, 2015

As we’ve seen in a recent post about the writing and teaching of poetry, Billy Collins wants the poem he’s writing to complete itself, to come to an end. When he writes a poem, he says meaning is the furthest thing on his mind. He’s just trying to get to the next line, to arrive at the ending. “It’s not a search for insight, particularly. It’s a search to be over with.”

In this interview with Ginger Murchison at the 9th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Billy Collins reveals more about the ending of a poem, how what happens is even more important than the last line of the poem.

During the interview, Ginger Murchison mentions something Billy Collins had alluded to about the end of a poem, and asks him:

What happens at the end of the poem? I want to know about that white space after the last period, for the poet and the reader. You said your poem goes towards somewhere. How do you see that as being more important than even the last line of the poem, that space at the end?

He answers her by describing the significance of the white space:

Well, the white space at the end is just like the white space around the rest of the poem. It stands for silence. And maybe the white space after the end of the poem is a little more silent than the other silences. I think of a poem as an interruption of silence.

He also talks about how satisfying it can be to find the ending to a poem. The implication being, the silence that follows the ending as something new that is created within the writer and the reader.

Once you find it, it’s incredibly satisfying. You found something that didn’t exist before. That the poem brings, calls into existence, through a series of steps, it gains some kind of ground, and out of that ground, there occurs something that had never existed before. It comes as a sort of gain, surprise.

I certainly can relate to that, and described in the previous post how certain poems completed themselves in ways I hadn’t imagined. When that happens, and when a poem enlivens a silence, within and between both the poet and the reader, or listener, it creates a deep feeling of fulfillment.

After hearing a discussion with Bill Moyers and 3 well-known poets on the Diane Rehm show discussing the creation of a poem and the effect it had on an audience when recited, I was inspired to write a poem about this mysterious creative process as something elemental, transcendental.

Poetry—The Art of The Voice, describes the source, course, and goal of poetry springing from and returning to silence, through a poet’s inner voice or consciousness, to a listener’s heart and mind. It also relates to the notion of a writer finding and expressing his or her own voice as a poet.

Another poem I wrote shows how Silence ultimately speaks for itself. See Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin.

Creation comes about through sounds and silences, expressions and gaps, within which the dynamics of transformation occur. See Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Uni-verse.

For a more detailed explanation of these dynamics in language and creation, see Singing Image of Fire, a poem by Kukai, with thoughts on language, translation, and creation, and Yunus Emre says Wisdom comes from Knowing Oneself — a Singularity that contains the Whole.

George Plimpton interviewed Billy Collins for Paris Review

As referenced by Ginger Murchison, George Plimpton had interviewed Billy Collins for The Paris Review in 2001 after news of his appointment as the new poet laureate by the Library of Congress. He would go on to serve two terms, 2001-2003. Although published 14 years ago, this interview is definitely worth reading:  Billy Collins, The Art of Poetry No. 83.

The interview opens with Plimpton asking Collins how he starts to write a poem. He says he doesn’t write that regularly, much of his time is waiting and watching; he’s vigilant. But when he’s engaged he usually writes a poem quickly, in one sitting.

I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines.

That makes perfect sense. He doesn’t know where he’s going and hopes the poem is one step ahead of him, holding his interest, leading him down the trail to that elusive mysterious ending. I love the different metaphors he uses to describe the pen as a tool to help him discover that something he’s not yet aware of.

Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.

He explains how he likes to invite the reader into a poem with something ordinary, then take him or her, and himself to a place he hasn’t been to yet.

I want to start in a very familiar place and end up in a strange place. The familiar place is often a comic place, and the strange place is indescribable except by reading the poem again.

There’s a lot more to the interview, but he concludes humbly by saying that he’s just trying to be a good writer.

No matter what I’m thinking about when I’m writing a poem, no matter what is captivating my attention, all I’m really trying to do is write good lines and good stanzas.

There’s a reason he’s called America’s most popular poet. He has made poetry accessible to millions of Americans. He continues to write, publish, sell books, teach, and is in constant demand to give poetry readings.

It is a delight to read his poetry. His subtle sense of humor puts a smile on my face. It’s also enjoyable to hear him recite his poems. Seemingly ordinary, they give you a unique perspective on things that were previously unimaginable, and that’s refreshing!

See the previous post: Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death. Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” and Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice.

The Library of Congress Web Guides: Billy Collins: Online Resources.

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

February 10, 2015

This beautiful profound little poem, Primary Wonder, by Denise Levertov (1923–1997), reminds us what is important when we get overshadowed by life’s little problems. When she became present to the mystery, experienced that joyful cosmic stillness within, she realized her life, and all of creation was sustained by the Creator. Life’s problems receded, became insignificant when presented with such primary wonder.

Primary Wonder

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.

…………………………………………….And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

The Upanishads say a similar thing for those who are awake or self-referral: Brahma bhavati sarathi: Brahman is the charioteer, all actions are conducted for you by the laws of nature. And another quote says: From bliss all these beings are born, in bliss they are sustained, and to bliss they go and merge again. (Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1)

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

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

Charles Bukowski sang the life victorious, thanks to his having learned Transcendental Meditation

August 17, 2014

I first posted this wonderful poem by Charles Bukowski in the summer of 2014 and later found out that he had learned Transcendental Meditation towards the end of his life. So I’ve updated it in early 2021 with three different sources behind this story.

a song with no end

when Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric”

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can’t cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.

“a song with no end” by Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), from The Night Torn with Mad Footsteps. © Black Sparrow Press, 2001.

he apparently loved meditation

Towards the end of a Dec 31, 2006 New York Times article, David Lynch’s Shockingly Peaceful Inner Life, Alex Williams writes: The filmmaker sees no contradiction between inner harmony and external edginess. “I heard Charles Bukowski started meditation late in his life,” Mr. Lynch said, referring to the poet laureate of Skid Row, who died in 1994. “He was an angry, angry guy, but he apparently loved meditation.”

meditation allowed him to be creative in his later months

In this 89.3 KPCC interview Bukowski’s wife said that he lost some ground after being diagnosed with leukemia at age 73. He got it back with transcendental meditation. “It allowed him to open up a space within himself to say these words about himself dying,” said Linda Bukowski. “These later poems, death poems, are so acute and so awake and aware and I think that had a lot to do with how meditation allowed him to be creative in his later months and write these poems, that I still cannot read.”

I checked with a friend who has taught TM to many celebrities and she replied: “I instructed Charles (or Hank as he liked to be called) and his wife, Linda, a few years before he passed away. He was a lovely man at that time of his life. I wonder if he was meditating when he wrote this beautiful piece.”

That’s probably how David Lynch would have known since they’re longtime TM friends. She later emailed to say that she had taught Bukowski around 1992. So based on this information and what Linda had said, chances are this poem could have been written during those final years of his life while he was meditating regularly.

a related post

Cartoon wisdom from Karl Stevens appears in this week’s print edition of The New Yorker. Time Out Boston wrote on the back of his book, Failure, “Karl Stevens may be the closet thing to a Charles Bukowski equivalent working in comic art. Except Stevens is way classier….” When Stevens was working on Failure, “I was struggling with alcoholism which I think was where the comparison lies. I stopped drinking a couple months before beginning to learn TM. Obviously the practice was crucial to helping me focus on living a cleaner life.”

For Hafiz the role of an enlightened poet is to connect humanity with the joy of the divine

July 16, 2014

A CRYSTAL RIM
by Hafiz

The
Earth
Lifts its glass to the sun
And light — light
Is poured.

A bird
Comes and sits on a crystal rim
And from my forest cave I
Hear singing.

So I run to the edge of existence
And join my soul in love.

I lift my heart to Beloved
And grace is poured.

An emerald bird rises from inside me
And now sits
Upon the Beloved’s
Glass.

I have left that dark cave forever.
My body has blended with His.

I lay my wing
As a bridge to you

So that you can join us
Singing.

(“The Gift” – versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

Canadian poet P.K. Page describes a phantom bird in This Heavy Craft.

A mysterious bird in this Wallace Stevens poem teaches us the wonder of just being our self.

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself.

Another poem by Hafiz via Ladinsky describes the spiritual transformation of loving deeply within himself.

See 3 beautiful and profound short poems by Hafiz about the nature of God within us.

Hafiz, via Ladinsky, reminds us when we love those in our care we are brought closer to God

Winding up the year with inspiration from Hafiz

Hafiz’s poem, God Pours Light, awakens the soul and frees the mind from debating words about it

Here is an enlightening article on Hafiz and Maharishi’s Science of Consciousness by Rebecca Busch.

Found this lovely YouTube channel by Enea B, which combines poetry with visuals and music.


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