Monday, April 17, 2017

small dash of Mary Oliver for the evening....

"The world is: fun, and familiar, and healthful, and unbelievably refreshing, and lovely. And it is the theater of the spiritual; it is the multiform utterly obedient to a mystery." - Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Renunciation, Longing and Leonard Cohen

"Leaving Mt. Baldy"
by Leonard Cohen
I come down from the mountain
after many years of study
and rigorous practice.
I left my robes hanging on a peg
in the old cabin
where I had sat so long
and slept so little.
I finally understood
I had no gift
for Spiritual Matters.
"Thank you Beloved,"
I heard a heart cry out
as I entered the stream of cars
on the Santa Monica Freeway,
westbound for L.A.
A number of people
(some of them practitioners)
have begun to ask me angry questions
about the Ultimate Reality.
I suppose they don't like to see
Old Jikan smoking.

At least once a week, some line from a Leonard Cohen song will rise up to mirror whatever sorrow, desire, epiphany is on the horizon of my consciousness. The lyrics well up and show my conscious mind whatever angel or demon my subconscious has been wrestling.
I saw Cohen perform a three-hour concert in Memphis a few years ago. It mattered not that he was nearly 80; he was one of the sexiest men I'd ever seen, and when he went down on one knee (out of passion, not aged joints), while reading "1,000 Kisses Deep," everything in me moved. Everything.
In Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again & Again, Roger Housden gives us a Cohen poem to contemplate, and explains that "besides (Cohen's) evident love of women and beauty, one of the themes that has pervaded all of his work from the very beginning is what he calls, in his novel Beautiful Losers, the theme of Tibetan Desire, 'the unholy union between renunciation and longing and the difficulty in divorcing one from the other'....
Housden tells us how Cohen, after five years in a monastery "putting on twenty pounds of robes every morning at 2:30 a.m....he realizes it is time to call it a day..." and that "nothing is more real than everyday experience, which constantly invites us to let go of any spiritual persona we may have carefully developed and cherished over the years and to join everyone else in the chaos and the light and the dark of this imperfect world. . . . In Beautiful Losers, (Cohen) suggests that 'contact with this energy (love) results in the exercise of a kind of balance the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. . . Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid blood landscape. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of the heart.'"
The last line of the poem shows that Cohen's smoking habit is "a problem for someone who has definite ideas about what it means to be spiritual. . . . Underlying our false notion (that there are some thing that are innately against the love of an examined life) is an implicit schism between body and spirit. . . . When we no longer distance ourselves from anything or anyone, when we give equal value to this messy world and the world of spirit, we may catch the scent of what Rumi refers to when he says
Out beyond ideas
Of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I'll meet you there."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Moon Language

You have GOT to be kidding me. Has it really been FOUR years since I’ve written in this blog? Well…. It’s mostly for my benefit: something to keep me reading and writing and thinking. I need all these lately, so I offer up a poem I read this past summer in Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again and Again:

“With That Moon Language” by Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud; otherwise, someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

Yeah. I don’t even have commentary. Well, that’s a lie; of course I do, but it is short: I want to have a full moon in each eye. I want every other eye to hear me.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Gift from Tatiana: Nikiforos Vrettakos

Tatiana, a new friend from Greece, recently introduced me to Greek poet Nikiforos Vrettakos. I LOVE finding a new poet to love, and this one's spectacular. He reminds me a bit of Pablo Neruda, and when I peeked at Wikipedia, there were several similarities. Both published their first collections of poetry around 17-18 years of age. Both were involved in military/government and were dissidents in some way. And the poems of both are thoughtful, sensual, spiritual, yet earthy. 
The local public library does not have his books, so I just ordered a book of his selected poetry, Thirty Years in the Rain, used from Thank you Tatiana!

A smaller world (from Diary, translated by Rick M. Newton)

I seek a shore where I can fence in
a patch of the horizon with
trees or reeds. Where, gathering infinity,
I can have the sense that: there are no machines
or very few; there are no soldiers
or very few; there are no weapons
or very few, and those few aimed at the exit
of the forests with wolves; or that there are no merchants
or very few at remote
points on the earth where
paved roads have not yet been laid.
God hopes that
at least in the poets' sobs paradise will never cease to exist.

The field of words (translated by Marjorie Chambers)

Like the bee round a wild
flower, so am I. I prowl
continuously around the word.
I thank the long lines
of ancestors who moulded the voice.
Cutting it into links, they made
meanings. Like smelters they
forged it into gold and it became
Homer, Aeschylus, the Gospels
and other jewels.
With the thread
of words, this gold
from gold, which comes from the depths
of my heart, I am linked, I take part in
the world.
I said and wrote, "I love."

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gwendolyn Brooks

I was introduced to Gwendolyn Brooks via Bedford’s Introduction to Literature. I liked her rhythm, easy rhyme, the simplicity then reveal. But it was just that. Simple. And I like simple. A lot. But this poem alone is not a proper introduction:

“We Real Cool”

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Okay, fast forward just a few years and I was introduced to Gwendolyn Brooks in real life while working as a peon at Poetry magazine. She was sweet and delightful and we chatted and I told her I came across a flyer from when had been the Poetry Day poet years ago and she said she’d love to have one of those flyers, so I sent her one and she sent me a sweet thank-you note. And that is one of my stories you will probably hear again should I ever have the chance to tell it.
Of course, when I chatted with her, I only had in mind the “We Real Cool” poem. I wish, upon first introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks, Bedford had given me a sampling of her poetic diversity, cause HERE she is again:

“gay chaps at the bar”

We knew how to order. Just the dash
Necessary. The length of gaiety in good taste.
Whether the raillery should be slightly iced
And given green, or served up hot and lush,
And we knew beautifully how to give to women
The summer spread, the tropics, of our love,
When to persist, or hold a hunger off.
Knew white speech. How to make a look an omen.
But nothing ever taught us to be islands.
And smart, athletic language for this hour
Was not in the curriculum. No stout
Lesson showed how to chat with death. We brought
No brass fortissimo, among our talents,
To holler down the lions in this air.

Sigh. The “We Real Cool” poem for which she is so well known was published in 1960. Poetry magazine published “gay chaps at the bar” in 1944. No excuse, Bedford. You had them both at your disposal.
I’m not knocking “We Real Cool,” it’s just that it would be beneficial for students of all races to hear something more “sophisticated” from the pen of this incredibly talented African-American woman. To at least know the scope and diversity of her talent. "To holler down the lions in this air"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bukowski's got your number

My poetry teacher wrote books about Charles Bukowski. My poetry teacher writes good poetry. So I assumed Bukowski would too. And maybe he does. I don’t know. I DO know that I was going to read just a few poems of his the other evening and found myself up til past midnight nearly finishing off his Love is a Dog From Hell tome. Appalled and enthralled, but mostly appalled, yet applauding his honesty – as ugly as it may be. I can’t even begin to explain (though I have tried anyway). Let the poems speak for themselves. But first, you must know that I purposely chose an example that is not X-rated.  

how come you’re not unlisted?

The men phone and ask me that.
are you really Charles Bukowski
the writer? they ask.

I’m a sometimes writer, I say,
most often I don’t do anything.

listen, they ask, I like your
stuff–do you mind if I come
 over and bring a couple of 6

you an bring them, I say
if you don’t come in . . .

when the women phone, I say,
o yes, I write, I’m a writer
only I’m not writing right now.

I feel foolish phoning you,
they say, and I was surprised
to find you listed in the phone book.

I have reasons, I say,
by the way why don’t you come over
for a beer?

you wouldn’t mind?

and they arrive
handsome women
good of mind and body and eye.

often there isn’t sex
but I’m used to that
yet it’s good
very good just to look at them–
and some rare times
I have unexpected good luck

for a man of 55 who didn’t get laid
until he was 23
and not very often until he was 50
I think that I should stay listed
via Pacific Telephone
until I get as much as
the average man has had.

of course, I’ll have to keep
writing immortal poems
but the inspiration is there.


And then he has this oddly gentle side – not present in much of his poetry (at least what I read in Love is a Dog From Hell. I'm really clueless about him.):

we will taste the islands and the sea

I know that some night
in some bedroom
my fingers will
soft clean hair

songs such as no radio

all sadness, grinning
into flow.