Posts Tagged ‘poets’

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.

Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human. ~ Mark Strand (1934–2014)

December 5, 2014

Mark Strand, former U.S. poet laureate (1990-1991) and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1999), felt strongly that writing and reading poetry could make us better human beings. “Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human,” he said in an Inscape interview last year.

Percy Bysshe Shelley had famously said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” When Mark Strand was asked what he thought the function of poetry was in today’s society, he replied: “It’s not going to change the world, but I believe if every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world. Poetry has a humanizing influence. Poetry delivers an inner life that is articulated to the reader.”

Indeed, especially if they were as transformed by poetry as Mark Strand, who wanted to feel himself “suddenly larger . . . in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment.”

Last week, one of my poet friends, Roger Pelizzari, emailed me about the passing of Mark Strand, and included a favorite poem of his, My Name. Roger included a link to an earlier Paris Review interview: Mark Strand, The Art of Poetry No. 77, with his friend Wallace Shawn, from which I’ve included interesting excerpts.

I was surprised and sorry to hear the news of Strand’s passing and checked the Paris Review for an update. I found Memoriam Mark Strand, 1934–2014, under The Daily by Dan Piepenbring, and sent it to Roger.

Media from around the world published Obituaries reviewing the Canadian-born, American poet’s accomplished literary career. The LA Times described Mark Strand as “a revelatory poet who addressed love and death in his poems, but in radically lyrical, revelatory ways.”

This poem is filled with the wonderment he sought, and seems a fitting memorial, prophetically written in the poet’s own magical words.

My Name

Once when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass,
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become and where I would find myself,
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.

(more…)

Poets Kenneth Rexroth and William Wordsworth Experienced Transcendence and Self-Awareness

December 3, 2014

Transcendence and a self-referral awareness are described by great poets when they interact deeply with nature. In the process, they experience their own inner nature. Their poetic expressions describe a state similar to what practitioners of Transcendental Meditation experience, where the body is deeply restful, more than deep sleep, and the mind is highly alert, peaceful, unobstructed by thoughts, unbounded.

Kenneth Rexroth describes this experience in his poem, The Heart of Herakles, (The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth). Looking up into the night sky through a telescope, he sees the enormous constellations and soon loses his sense of self. “My body is asleep. Only my eyes and brain are awake. … I can no longer tell where I begin and leave off.” In this expanded state he becomes aware of different aspects of nature being collectively self-aware with an “eye that sees itself.”

The Heart of Herakles

Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late, while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by
and watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith.
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.

William Wordsworth describes a similar experience of an inner physical suspension along with a deep seeing and joyful knowing while recalling a transcendental experience in his poem, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798. Here are some excerpts from that long poem.

That blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened: — that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on —
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul;
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

His initial experience of transcending within his own mind has matured as he recognizes that same transcendental essence throughout nature, thereby unifying his inner Self with the same Self of all conscious things.

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

(more…)

Wendell Berry’s “No going back” is about the generosity of the evolving self through time

July 29, 2014

No Going Back
(Wendell Berry)

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

(The Sabbath Poems, 1993, I)

Just added: Wendell Berry’s stepping over stones in a stream shows us how he writes a poem and takes a stand, which contains a link to a Bill Moyers PBS profile on the poet.

Here is a National Endowment For The Humanities interview with Wendell E. Berry, Awards & Honors: 2012 Jefferson Lecturer. These poems by Walcott, O’Donohue, Hafiz, and Oliver complement Berry’s theme: Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue, The Root of The Rose by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, and The Journey by Mary Oliver.

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

July 16, 2014

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Wallace Stevens

The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play

William Stafford in his poem, Just Thinking, also appreciates the value “of just being there.”

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

Poems by Rumi and Octavio Paz open our minds to a more cosmic perspective

June 27, 2014

Rumi and Octavio Paz on Discovering a more Cosmic Perspective

Rumi

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

(The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks)

~

Octavio Paz

Brotherhood
Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

(Collected Poems by Octavio Paz, translated with Eliot Weinberger)

~

Here is a haiku I wrote that shares a similar sentiment. It was published in 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen for The Dryland Fish, and in Five Haiku for This Enduring Gift.

 Forest Flowers

tiny white flowers
a constellation of stars
so low yet so high

© Ken Chawkin

 ~

An even more cosmic understanding our relationship to the universe comes from the Vedic Literature — “Yatha pinde tatha brahmande, yatha brahmande tatha pinde” — “As is the individual, so is the universe, as is the universe, so is the individual” or “As is the atom, so is the Universe” or “As is the human body, so is the Cosmic Body” or “As is the Microcosm, so is the Macrocosm”, or succinctly as “As Above, So Below.” See my poem As Above So Below.

Another expression is “Anor aniyan mahato mahiyan — “Smaller than the smallest is larger than the largest” i.e., our essential nature, our Self, is beyond measure, infinite, unbounded, transcendental.
 

Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying, is a lesson on attention, receptivity, listening and writing

March 14, 2013

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(Thirst)

An inspiration for a poem came to me from such receptivity to a tree. The first words entered my mind while admiring it. I wrote them down, and the next morning, I rewrote them as a stanza, and then the sequential stanzas naturally followed, reiterating what Mary Oliver describes. It was as if I was given a creative seed and it sprouted. This gift from the tree was much appreciated. I later called it Being in Nature. Its sequel, trees, was about the nature of trees, and what we can learn from them. Another poem once came to me from a rock with a sense of humor. You can read RIVER ROCK SPEAKS in my Vancouver Park Poems.

An early encounter with nature inspired my creativity. It turned into my first published poem, which won an award: ODE TO THE ARTIST, Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park.


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