Posts Tagged ‘silence’

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.

Emily Dickinson’s Solitude is Vedic Nivartatwam

August 17, 2014

Emily Dickinson beautifully, concisely describes the transcendental self-referral value of true inner solitude by realizing her unbounded Self.

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite infinity.

When Emily admits the self to the Self, she reiterates the Vedic injunction to transcend, retire, Nivartatwam, into that infinitely silent, Shivam, infinitely peaceful, Shantam, undivided, Advaitam, fourth, Chaturtham, state of consciousness, Atma, the Self.

Emily Dickinson succinctly describes the eternal nature of Love in this short but powerful poem.

Derek Walcott had his own way of describing this return to love, to one’s Self, in Love after Love.

Read how Emily Dickinson wanted her poems to look on the page, described in Rebecca Mead’s Back of the Envelope in The New Yorker: Poesy Dept. | January 27, 2014 Issue.

Redwood Forest Haiku, two versions, inspired by a photo my sister took in a Redwood Forest Park

August 24, 2013

I signed up with Instagram so I could see the pictures my sister took on her vacation to Mendocino in Northern California. They drove north to Humboldt County to see the California Redwood Coast Park Forest. Among the beautiful photos she posted, this one of the Giant Redwoods, considered the largest trees in the world, inspired me to write this haiku. Here is that photo, and two haiku versions, for your enjoyment.

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest Haiku

~1~

In Redwood Forests
There are Giants among us
Who Hold The Silence

~2~

In Redwood Forests
There are Giants among us
Holding The Silence

© Ken Chawkin
Fairfield, Iowa
written 8/23/2013
posted 8/24/2013

See Being in Nature, a gift from a tree, with links to other tree poems. See Redwood forest photo and haiku inspire others.

Varanasi by Mary Oliver in A Thousand Mornings

March 16, 2013

I previously posted Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying, and Philip Goldberg emailed me to say that someone recently showed him the last poem in her new collection (A Thousand Mornings). He said, “It’s called ‘Varanasi,’ and it’s exquisite.” I started looking for it and found the poem posted by another poet, Bob Arnold, on his website. After reading it I agreed – it’s stunning! That’s why I’m posting it here for you to enjoy. I also came across a musical video of the poem with images from the Ganges. After you’ve read the poem, see Diane Walker’s poetic reaction to it below. But take a break from this busy introduction, and then enjoy the enlightened peaceful simplicity of Mary Oliver’s visit to Varanasi.

VARANASI

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering,

and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can’t say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty.

I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back

to America.

Pray God I remember this.

_______________________

Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings
(Penguin, 2012)

Now read this beautiful poetic reaction to the poem, Mary Oliver’s Varanasi, that Diane Walker, a contemplative photographer, posted on her website.

Among the NPR Poetry series is this interview ‘A Thousand Mornings’ With Poet Mary Oliver. You can also read the transcript here. I especially love this remark she makes about poetry:

“One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are – they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.”

Enjoy this wonderful Maria Shriver Interview With Mary Oliver.

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

Speaking of another famous American visiting the Ganges, see Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela.

 

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.

Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin

September 13, 2012

Telling the Story of Silence
Yato vacho nivartante tad dhama-paramam mama*

That Silent place
From where speech returns
Is where Poetry begins

Scrawling across the page
It transforms itself
Into language

Standing up it walks
Straight into your heart
Singing its song

You have to emphasize
The nothingness
For something to be said

It speaks for itself

*From where the speech returns, that is my supreme abode.
Taittriya Upanishad 2.4.1 and Bhagavad-Gita 15.6, 8.21

© Ken Chawkin

This poem, What You May Not Know About Frankenstein, by Bill Graeser, was an inspiration! This poem by my son says it all: INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin.

Related poems on this theme: Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe  Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process | Poetry—The Art of the Voice | Silence | A Wake-Up Haiku.

Cliffhouse Deck at Dusk, 6th haiku in 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen, brings our attention to a tiny soft sound, making us aware of the ‘loud’ vast silence, a point that enlivens infinity. John Cage would agree.

Just came across this 16-second introduction by John Cage to his composition 4’33” which says the same thing, in his own inimitable way. His literal truth and sense of humor come through.

The material of music is sound and silence.
Integrating these is composing.
I have nothing to say,
and I am saying it.

For the musicians who ‘performed’ the piece, and the audience who listened, the silence was palpable, as you’ll hear from Tommy Pearson’s introduction and concluding comments with Tom Service in this BBC Symphony Orchestra performance of John Cage at the Barbican. Towards the end he quotes Cage as saying, “Everything we do is music.”

You may also enjoy Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers and the links at the end to other posts on writing.

Poetry—The Art of The Voice

September 12, 2009

Poetry—The Art of The Voice

How fine will your breath become
from listening to these words?
How soft will they seem to be
as they settle through the mind
like silent snowflakes falling
from a windless winter sky?

I often marvel at the mystery—
how words can work
on a listener’s heart and mind,
upon hearing a poet’s thoughts,
a poet’s breath, flowing
from an inner voice—
a windless wind, speaking
through a voiceless voice.

—Ken Chawkin

This poem was published in THIS ENDURING GIFT, A Flowering of Fairfield Poetry, 76 Poets Who Found Common Ground in One Small Prairie Town:, and later selected as the POEM OF THE DAY: Poetry – The Art of the Voice, by Ken Chawkin.

William Stafford—You and Art

September 10, 2009

You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

—William Stafford

Also see William Stafford—A Course in Creative Writing

Listen to You and Art performed by Daniel Sperry from his CD: William Stafford: Cutting Loose ~ A Tribute To William Stafford.

I later included the last stanza of this Stafford poem in response to The Poetry Society’s tweet of the last half of Wallace Stevens’s poem, The Snow Man, which they liked. The imagery is similar, and the GIF they used of snow falling also fits perfectly with both poems.

My poem, Poetry—The Art of the Voice, communicates that silent music from nature to poet to audience, where it “begins before it makes any sound” as Stafford wrote at the end of You and Art.

And my poem, Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin, allows that silence to tell its own story, the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is” as Stevens wrote in The Snow Man.

 


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