Tag Archives: poems

buddhist carnival: april 2009, poetry month

chaos in kanjithe 15th, buddhist carnival time. it’s april, poetry month, so i’ll post only poems and poetry-related articles.

from last month’s montreal zen poetry festival

i longed to visit the eastern cliff
countless years until today
i finally grabbed a vine and climbed
but halfway there met mist and wind
the trail was too narrow for clothes
the moss too slick for shoes
i stopped beneath this cinnamon tree
and slept with a cloud for a pillow

— han shan (translated by red pine)

if you have time …

from danny fisher’s blog

if you have time to chatter
read books
if you have time to read
walk into mountain, desert and ocean
if you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
if you have time to dance
sit quietly, you happy lucky idiot

— nanao sakai

the role of poetry in zen and meditation

zen mirror has an interview with zen master sÅ­ngsan about the role poetry plays in meditation practice as well as in teaching and conveying zen mind to the western world.

dc: thank you very much for all your wonderful gifts! that’s a very good answer. i was wondering about when you compose a poem, do you actually reflect on the situation and then write using “beautiful language?”

zmss: no. only whatever situation comes up or appears, then i will compose a poem. not so much checking situations, and not so much making something.

go here for the restof the interview.

haiku
buddhism.about.com posted a nice piece about haiku, with a few good examples, for instance

from the nostril
of the great buddha
comes a swallow

haiku database
and while we’re on the topic of haiku, i found this treasure of haiku related info – for example a whole section on the “season words” that are an important part of traditional haiku, or a whole section on the moon in haiku, this one, for example

calligraphy of geese
against the sky —
the moon seals it.

(not directly buddhist perhaps, but i just had to tell you about this great find!)

breaking haiku rules

on dragoncave, some musings on haiku rules. here is a haiku by issa, one of his best-known buddhist pieces:

this world of dew
is just a world of dew”
and yet . . . oh and yet . . .

inmensity taps at your life
poetry chaikhana is a blog about spiritual poetry from all over the world. here is a poem by jane hirshfield, who is described as a secular or eclectic buddhist

tree

it is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.
even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.
that great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books –
already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

i noticed …

and finally, allan ginsberg’s beautiful poem on the cremation of chögyam trungpa

i noticed the grass, i noticed the hills, i noticed the highways,
i noticed the dirt road; i noticed the car rows in the parking lot
i noticed the ticket takers, noticed the cash and the checks and credit cards,
i noticed the buses, noticed mourners, i noticed their children in red dresses,
i noticed the entrance sign, noticed retreat houses, noticed blue and yellow flags
noticed the devotees, their trucks and buses, guards in khaki uniforms,
i noticed the crowds, noticed misty skies, noticed the all -pervading smiles and empty eyes –
i noticed the pillows, coloured red and yellow, square pillows round and round –
i noticed the tori gate, passers-through bowing, a parade of men & women in formal dress –
noticed the procession, noticed the bagpipe, drums, horns, noticed high silk head crowns and saffron robes, noticed the three piece suits,
i noticed the palanquin, an umbrella, the stupa painted with jewels the colours of the four directions –
amber for generosity, green for karmic works, i noticed the white for buddha, red for the heart –
thirteen worlds on the stupa hat, noticed the bell handle and umbrella, the empty head of the white cement bell – noticed the corpse to be set in the head of the bell –
noticed the monks chanting, horn plaint in our ears, smoke rising from astep the firebrick empty bells –
noticed the crowds quiet, noticed the chilean poet, noticed a rainbow,
i noticed the guru was dead —

go here for the rest.

have a buddhist blog?  want to be featured here next month?  drop me a line.

the calligraphy here spells “chaos” and was done by ~C4Chaos

emily dickinson for sunday tea

emily dickinsonfor a leisurely sunday delight, please visit my friend ashok’s blog and a looong discussion of an emily dickinson poem – this one:

i could suffice for him, i knew –
he – could suffice for me –
yet hesitating fractions – both
surveyed infinity –

“would i be whole” he sudden broached –
my syllable rebelled –
’twas face to face with nature – forced –
’twas face to face with god –

withdrew the sun – to other wests –
withdrew the furthest star
before decision – stooped to speech –
and then – be audibler

the answer of the sea unto
the motion of the moon –
herself adjust her tides – unto –
could i – do else – with mine?

image by wpwend42

poetry, meaning and ‘arse dribble’

today, i’d like to serve you up – arse dribble! that’s what stephen fry calls experimental poetry.

don’t worry, there’s more on the menu.

jim murdoch over at the truth about lies has a good post on poetry and meaning, where he lays out two styles of experimental poetry – ‘decoder ring’ and ‘the emperor’s new clothes’. i’ve picked a few words off his post, and will give you examples of my poetry – i have one from each category he discusses.

jim: ‘decoder ring’ poems are fine up to a point. my wife writes them all the time, usually about me and i never get them. of course, when she tells me what the poem is about it’s obvious but no one else would have a clue to the poem’s ‘true’ meaning. that does not mean the poem is necessarily meaningless to them. they will impose their own meaning on it.

my poem:

ha’aha’a: humility.
beyond this and that,
above servitude,
below arrogance
not higher not lower –
just that:
here i am.
naked.
let the winds blow …
ha’aha’a.

here’s the decoder ring (i’ve written a whole book of decoder rings here, by the way)

these are words of aspiration. i aspire for them to be words of description, i aspire for this to be the truth: that i am indeed humble, equal, in no need for clothes that hide who i am, meeting the winds of what-is as they come.

i don’t know if i’ll ever get there – but i can reach for it. as i am reaching, i leave a trace, i leave crumbs like hansel and gretel, and together, these crumbs are a poem.

or: the poem is part of the path that leads to

ha’aha’a: humility

footnote: ha’aha’a is hawaiian for humility. when the spirit of aloha is explained, ha’aha’a has a place: A – akahi (tenderness); L – lokahi (unity, harmony, oneness); O – olu’olu (kindness, being pleasant and agreeable); H – ha’aha’a (humility); A – ahonui (patience and perseverance)

back to jim.

now, an ’emperor’s new clothes’ poem is another thing entirely. it is where you are presented with an arrangement of words on a page and are told, “this is a poem – make of it what you will,” whereupon you are left to your own devices. now, you can look stupid and say, “i don’t get this,” or you can hold you hands up and go, “this is simply wonderful!” to cover your embarrassment. i think too many of us are unwilling to play the role of the wee boy who shouts out, “hey, the emperor’s got no clothes on,” for fear of ridicule. we assume that the poem has a solution.

here’s one i dug up from sometime in 2005, and i have to tell you i don’t really know whether there even is an emperor

it’s all still better when
the crap stops
or the crab stops
running sideways
rouge
baton rouge
roller coaster baton
crab rouge stop
when all the crabs
stop over in baton
rouge when it’s over
it’ll better be over

and jim:

which brings me to the term ‘experimental poetry’ a one-size-fits-all expression which can be used to excuse the author no matter what, if i might quote stephen fry here, “arse dribble” is served up to us in the name of poetry. i have no problem with poets experimenting. i encourage it. i do it myself. i think it is essential. in the best scientific tradition that is how we learn; we have a crack at it and see what happens.

so here’s an example of arse dribble. i had completely forgotten about it. i rather like it:

i have a candle on my left of hand.
i have a candle on my left of amber-on-black that
beshadows itself from light –
candle not reach it for angle will not allow.

candlefire tip so light and bright and white on also-white
waxcandle. transluces many things. though
a-many questions beg: reaches it me, my inner
brainlight?

my inner brainlight as it lies these latter days
under a clog cloud of furry, heavy fog
drogged by itselves and other shrumpy co-oms and panions.

no-ony-bod will ever stand under the tree of this beminion.
no tressy croog will sot beneath or over shullden hexmons.

berwong sut yoot.

i have a candle on my hand that’s left of me.
that screen that sits bestaring me in yellow-black
can see not candle while it angles wrong.

bright fire stares at me, my eyes, my cheeks, my brows and lips
bright candle cuddle fire.
in midnight. while that brain of mine unsure is whether
it long have wait until it drinketh light.

(okay, i have to decode one thing for those of you who haven’t used computers before the internet: first monitor screens came only in green-on-black; the next great evolution was amber-on-black!)

jim: as far as i can tell, there are two kinds of poets: those who want to tell stories and sing songs, and those who want to work out the chemical equation for language and pass on their experiments as poetry.

here’s a poem that’s a song

take the braces off your legs
come sister, take the braces off your legs
tear the rags off your skin, sister, tear the rags off your skin
take them off and dance

take the shackles off your hands
come sister, take the shackles off your hands
tear the black glasses off your eyes, sister, tear the black glasses off your eyes
take them off and sing

take the irons off your feet
come sister, take the irons off your feet
tear the noose off from your neck, sister, tear the noose off from your neck
take them off and dance and sing

dance, sister, dance, be the wind
sing, sister, sing, be the moon and sun
let those chains and shackles be the instruments
that celebrate your freedom

dance, sister, dance, sing, dance

let me stand by and see you
dance, sister, dance, sing, dance
let me see you celebrate your freedom

and one final word from jim:

why can’t you just say what you mean?” is another good question. sometimes i do, sometimes however it’s easier to write about one thing when you’re really talking about something else. that’s nothing unique to poetry. i had a girlfriend once who used to let me know she was menstruating by using the colourful euphemism: “the painter’s arrived.” we use picturesque language all the time. we very rarely call a spade a spade.

here i call a spade a spade. or a tomcat a tomcat. it’s all pretty straightforward. or is it?

wet camelia leaves
glitter under the street lamps.
a tomcat runs home.

another frozen pea friday

last week i asked out loud, why is it that i keep writing about cancer?

when i don’t understand something, i sometimes write a poem or two. then i let it sit, and some time afterwards, it’s possible that the world makes a little more sense to me.

so i wrote these three little poems.

they’re sad.

but then life is, too, sometimes.


she called and she said
“oh by the way
i went to the doctor.”
and i, i heard nothing more
only my voice droning inside, screaming,
“no! no! no! not another one!”

“it’s not malign,” she said
“but we need to watch it.”

***

she makes cabbage rolls like before,
and i think even still tortellini soup,
her hair has started to grow again
and she jokes and tells stories like she used to.

inside, a dragon that roars all day and all night.
fierce warfare with chemical weapons.

***

can’t get that image out of my head,
a month before the other one threw himself
over the railing by the tall bridge
and all they found on him
was my phone number.

a month before, we were at the church,
there was a coffin,
the coffin where i almost saw her,
dangling her feet, grinning her big smile,
her lion’s curls wild by her
eyes always full of glint, even in sorrow, even
on her deathbed when she said,
you’ll see me sitting on the coffin,
laughing, waving at you.

beautiful, beautiful woman who
decided to leave peacefully,
no red poison in her veins,
just letting those strange cells
grow all over her
like morning glories.

mother’s day poems

for this mothers day, some poems i’ve written over the years:

ma durga, mother, warrior, goddess

mother of the centre

mother of the centre,
black madonna,
spirals around herself –
invisible and solid
iridescent and opaque
invincible and weak
irresistible and stark
irreverent and pious –
and dances: she is a dervish queen!
the dust that swirls around her feet
adores her.

 

mother haiku

waking up again
she cries; it’s a cold, cold night.
her mother holds her.

 

moon mama

. moon mama
……… in the sea
show her teeth
………….. wide grin
stars mirrored in those
……………….. wide ivory mama tusks

.. and when she burps
the fish laugh

(image by parag sankhe)

a poem, with love

william bouguereau: maternal admirationwhatever you say
it’s alright
i take your word
i take it in
into my ears
into my heart
into my bones
i take your words into the cradle of my arms
choobeechoocheecha
rock them to sleep in their own sound
and let them rest and let them dream
deep in my soul

when they wake up
i’ll give them back to you
fresh, young, awake, ready to sing:
your words – so right, so lovely …

thanks, violeta

the other day, i came across pensieve, who is challenging the blogosphere to come up with a thanksgiving limerick.

since i’ve been digging back into my chilean songs lately, i came up with this harebrained idea of trying to turn violeta parra’s gracias a la vida into a limerick. it doesn’t do justice to violeta’s beautiful poem and music – but it was a great opportunity to look more deeply into violeta parra’s art. maybe i’ll write a post about her one day – the story of her struggles with mental illness, her creativity and her social activism certainly fits well into this blog.

so, pensieve, here’s my thanksgiving limerick:

life, thank you, you’ve given me so much:
stars, mountains, words, legs, eyes and love.
a heart full of joy
and room, too, for sorrow,
and a song to share with my brothers.

for a link to mercedes sosa singing this song, the spanish lyrics and a translation into the english, visit mikkelina.