Monthly Archives: January 2017

I’m back. Did you miss me? (A brief reflection on my long, strange journey.)

I haven’t blogged for a while. I think Trump’s presidency threw me off, but maybe that’s just an excuse. Hillary’s presidency would have also messed with my reality. I’m not a simple person. I don’t even think Jesus could fix things at this point!

But I am back to dreaming — remembering my dreams, and that is a very good sign. A start. Paying attention to my dreams brings a certain dimension of depth back into my life. They show me what my life looks like from the perspective of inside out. But when you are inside, that is, dreaming, you are in the dream and you are in your dream-body. The inside is the whole reality. When you wake up, if you remember the dream, the dream is a memory and you are back in your body-self, which likes to think it’s in charge. You are back in your head.

Our waking life thrives on all of the attention we can spare it. We are committed to living our waking lives on many levels simultaneously. And that seems to suffice when the world is not in crisis, or at least when we perceive that the world is not in crisis, we can focus on our lives, our commitments. Trouble is, as a poetic soul, and a dreamer, in my life, there have been few contiguous years when I can say the world wasn’t in crisis.

I was a child of the 50s (post WW2). That was the beginning of the Cold War. And the nuclear threat. The battle for civil rights was heating up.

In the 60s, our leaders were being assassinated, China was in revolution. Vietnam was escalating, the civil rights movement was in full swing. The working class was being screwed. The living wage was frozen. The environment was going down the tubes.

The seventies were a time to catch my breath, I suppose, even though our government was morphing into a modern Roman Empire, I sat tight. I pretty much minded my own business, reading, filling notebooks with dreams and journaling, trying to grow up, trying to figure out Continue reading

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Poet’s notebook: My poem, “From the land of giants” (a birthday poem to myself) followed by a reflection

From the land of giants

Who wants to take on some giants?
Heal the poison river?
Grieve the broken mountain?
Release the waterfall?
Learn the hundred names for rain?

When I was here the other day
And asked you to come out and play,
The grass was still dewy,
And the birds were cheerful.
It was Spring just yesterday!

It was Summer when I saw my mother
Weeding in the garden,
Wearing a kerchief.
She was no taller than the tomato vines,
Singing to herself, singing to the garden.

And when she stood up to see where I was
I was hiding in the chard.
Their ruby stems were trunks of trees
Of a forest that hid me well
Until I was bigger than a mouse

And could steal among the giants:
Mountain Destroyer, Elephant Killer,
He-who-kicks-sand-in-the-eyes-of-stars,
Blue Giant, Twister, One-Eye, Fracker,
Missile Tosser, War Maker, Water-fouler . . .

My mother never dreamed of a world like this!
She never quested on a mountain of chalk.
She never saw a mountain of stone
Disappear for a mountain of coal.
Always her son, I befriended the hermit

In the desert of my heart.
I turned my ankle on the high path to the cedar.
I made my peace with the butterfly
With the tattered wing,
I made no bones about my desolation.

I ranted, foaming at the mouth.
They locked me up and threw away the key.
I wrote myself out of prison after prison,
I found my freedom.
That’s what they call it
When they let you get away

Because they don’t think you have any power.
But here I am in Giant Land,
Still here on my 66th birthday!
And I’m asking, for my mother’s sake:
(Planter of tomatoes, Singer-in-the-garden)

Who wants to take on some giants?
Heal the poison river?
Grieve the broken mountain?
Release the waterfall?
Learn the hundred names for rain?

Reflection: When I woke up this morning I was already tired, kind of headachy, weary. I forgot it was my birthday until my wife, Shirley reminded me. 66 years. Ye-gads, how did I live that long? I’m doing OK though. Life is pretty good, considering. I don’t think the world is doing very well however, and that tends to get me down. I decided to address this in a poem. What’s wrong with the world is huge. It’s almost as we’re living in a land of giants where the giants are running amok. This was an odd poem. I wrote a few stanzas without having the slightest clue where it was going. Giant Land? I’ve been reading a book of poetry by Gary Lawless, Caribou Planet. He plays with scale a lot . . . He depicts the animals and the spirits of the animals as larger than life while dramatizing the relative smallness of humanity. Truly, we’re not as important as we think, except as spoilers in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I feel like a giant when I am with my cats and I try to be a kind and gentle giant. But out in the world I see huge damage being wrought by enormous powers (in the form of corporations, governments, runaway capitalism, consumerism) but whatever you call them they are essentially monstrous spirits of violence and greed. I personified them, gave them names. I also thought of my mother and how she raised me to love and honor life. I guess she also raised me to stand up to giants, and the poem became an invitation for all of us to become giant slayers. That very early memory of my mother in the garden has come up before but this is the first time I’ve put it into a poem.

Poet’s Notebook: Poetry is like coffee

Reflection: Poetry is like coffee

Now what?

Nobody seemed to be interested in the last poem I posted in December, “Endless war”. The thing is, I get it. It’s a difficult poem for anyone to find their way into, but it is a style of poem that I find myself returning to and needing to explore. Is it too obscure? Is it too subjective? Am I backing myself into a corner? Should I bother arguing my case for writing poetry like this? Listen . . . poetry needs to respond to the Zeitgeist. I have always felt that there has to be survival value in poetry. It’s not mind-candy. It’s good for us but above all, it’s good for our souls and our souls are tough. They have been around the block so to speak.

A ”good” poem, a strong poem shouldn’t shy from addressing serious, even life and death, issues, and sometimes I find that convention, conventional forms of language, erect barriers against directness and inhibit the potential of language to evoke the rawness of certain realities. Poetry, at its best, goes ahead of us, a few steps or a mile. It clears a small path to move forward from where we were before we read the poem. How many poems do this? I don’t know, but I do know that some poets write with this awareness. They put their own psychologies aside and trust the voice that animates the poem, that infuses the language to call the shots. But there is another piece to this: A poem has to be readable or palatable or accessible, otherwise, it slips away. It languishes, like a fusty quote from Emerson or the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare or even the wisdoms of Rumi. It carries exactly what the medicine doctor ordered but if it isn’t accessible, it might as well not have been conceived.

The alchemists of the Middle Ages were discovering amazing things about the transmutation or sublimation of matter through observing their own projections onto their profoundly Continue reading