The Sweet Birdsong and Beethoven’s Tears
Up in the sky!
Stars and moons
A planet that’s a huge diamond
(Look down now)
All manner of wonder
Turn to the roses
The sweet birdsong
And Beethoven’s tears:
They want proof of existence
But one thing has been proven
Beyond any reasonable doubt:
Somebody knows how to make an entrance
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:
“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”
Hmmm . . . Looks like this post is going to be a two or three parter. Which explains a part of my delay since the last post. You pretty much have to get all three posts done first, if only to know where to break them up. And I do put a lot of effort into getting these as good as I can make them, just as if I were in an English class and I was being graded on these essays. And I take these things seriously. Like when I got into nursing school, I had all A’s on the seven prerequisites. And when I graduated from Humboldt State, I had a perfect score from all three judges on the de rigueur for a diploma, exit essay-writing exam. Only because I bore down, just on general principles. And this bearing down, blog-wise, involves a lot of time and effort. Especially since I tend to have to also do research.
So–I am pushing three thousand words, and I haven’t yet covered all the issues that seem to be connected to the theme I have started with, which is how my poetry relates to my “mission” which is–to put it succinctly–to express my feelings about metaphysical issues. And by metaphysical I mean Sufi things–things that can be analyzed by the heart, as opposed to the mere mind. I say “mere” even though it’s true, the mind is the glue I use to fuse these things together. I read somewhere that poetry itself (and fiction-writing too) is not like some arts, like say dance, which is all heart, and the mind is pretty apart from that. But poetry is a partnership with the mind. With even the left brain part of it. It’s true that my words must be imbued with some manifestation of love (which has myriad manifestations and ramifications, and so I do have trouble understanding complaints about “writer’s block.”).
And yet my mind’s facility with words I think is like a nurse at the operating table who hands the surgeon her tools, as necessary (e. g. scalpel, etc). And this nurse gets very intuitive about what the surgeon will need and ask for. Often I am told (I was, don’t forget, a student nurse at Humboldt State University), this nurse doesn’t need to even be asked.
However, though this post today is about poetry, it’s only ancillarily about the nuts and bolts of poetry production. Of course ancillary does not scare us digression freaks, and so hang on to your hat (and fasten your seat belts, as Bette Davis would say) there is still more to come today (or as I say, perhaps another day since this is going to be a three parter, looks like) about poetry production.
(Have I mentioned my secret hope that I am with my blog and poetry encouraging people to write poetry?* I think it’s a shortcut to happiness, frankly. But so many people seem to be intimidated by it, it seems in order to have an occasional thread dealing with how a poem is or can be arrived at, how so many things often thought to matter really don’t, you know as E. E. Cummings would say, “a lot of sweet bull like that.”)
That segue aside, I wish to say this:
I have a confession to make.
About my “profession” to be a poet.
I am not sure if my “poetry” is perhaps more propaganda for my mystical point of view than it is poetry in its own right. Can there be both? Of course many poets (especially including my big favorite E. E. Cummings, and John Donne as well, and Gerard Manley Hopkins . . .the list goes on) have pushed their mystical point of view. (And their political one too) In Cummings’ case, for instance he disdained artificiality (as opposed to the sciences which can be allied with the heart. And they surely can, just as in poetry-writing the mind and heart cooperate).
As in this:
(from voices to voices, lip to lip)
bring on your fireworks, which are a mixed
splendor of piston and pistil; very well
provided an instant may be fixed
so that it will not rub, like any other pastel.
(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?
Or this, by Robinson Jeffers:
The Atlantic is a stormy moat; and the Mediterranean,
The blue pool in the old garden,
More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice
Of ships and blood, and shines in the sun; but here the Pacific–
Our ships, planes, wars are perfectly irrelevant.
Neither our present blood-feud with the brave dwarfs
Nor any future world-quarrel of westering
And eastering man, the bloody migrations, greed of power, clash of
Is a speck of dust on the great scale-pan.
Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland
plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke
Into pale sea–look west at the hill of water: it is half the
this dome, this half-globe, this bulging
Eyeball of water, arched over to Asia,
Australia and white Antartica: those are the eyelids that never
this is the staring unsleeping
Eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars.
So I’m not saying here that there is anything wrong with my using my poetry as a vehicle for my philosophy. Indeed, since the essence of poetry is to make very concise what would otherwise wander all over the map, it brings me to the old writer’s edict to show, don’t simply tell. If it doesn’t “sell the sizzle, not the steak” the poem is perforce (possibly per farce) a big mistake.
But not so many people are into philosophy of any sort, let alone the more metaphysical variety (Of the proverbial religious experences). But fortunately, the relatively few people who do follow my blog are concerned, if not in fact preoccupied, with my brand of metaphysics. Or open to it if only as a way to put in some relief their own beliefs.
Yes, I do tend to focus on the sort of “spiritual” issues which would apparently be boring to more than a few self-selected aficionados.
But that’s cool.
It’s not like I need to make a living with this blog and poetry. Which does though bring me to want to say this to the over two hundred followers of my blog:
It’s not important that I have a mass audience (indeed, which could well be a danger to my ego. I refer here to the “sin” of pride.**). But it’s so nice to have an audience. Therapy really for me. And you guys don’t charge a hundred bucks an hour!
A further confession:
I may value my philosophy more than my artistry as a poet. (Though this is complicated by the fact that my philosophy does ordain the concern of doing my best at whatever I undertake) Because for instance my philosophy has saved my life.*** As for the artistry, I was reassured today to read a Facebook post from a poet friend,**** quoting Gary Snyder, one of the last remaining of the Jack Kerouac/Allan Ginsberg old north beach hip poets. (Have I mentioned that I once met met Allen Ginsberg?)
Speaking about his new collection of poems, Gary Snyder (who is now 85), said: “Its strength is that I let it be imperfect. [Laughs] That’s what I’m learning. There’s a Japanese saying: “Imperfection is best.”… I decided I’m not going to hold it down to the line and get it just right. There are things in there that I don’t know what I think of.”
I especially am struck by this: “There are things in there that I don’t know what I think of.” Indeed, sometimes when I am contemplating an editorial change in one of my poems, I remember the old dictum about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.
And this reminds me of the old (was it from the Navajo?) story of the American indigenous tribe that deliberately included an imperfection in their basket weaving so as not to “compete with the gods.”
Well, this post has gone on too long, and this is the best place to stop. I didn’t want to stop it sooner as it needed to include the news (see below at ****) of the pre-Christmas sale of my friend Alice’s book.
So I will carry on with the rest of this post next time.
God be with you,
*I stress this because it sure happened to me that way. As I related in the first blog post,
the one for April Fool’s Day 2013,in which I was on my way to learning to paint with oils, and suchlike art stuff, when I came across a book of ecstatic mystical poems from Dan Ladinsky, called “Love Poems from God.”
And they were so much up my alley that I said to myself, So that’s poetry? Hey I can write that kind of stuff!
And so I switched back to my original art form. (I’d been writing poetry (even in French!) since I was fourteen.
What fun! And that was ten years and six thousand “poems” ago. And coincidentally I have never been happier (I think expressing the heart as eloquently as you can does that). And I don’t even have a girlfriend!
** I am not so naïve as to believe in the fairy tale of a non-existent ego. Or even a necessarily subordinate one, when it comes for instance to roses, or other such beauty emblematics. I draw support in this from Benjamin Franklin who I believe in his autobiography spoke of attempts to quash pride with humility. I remember him saying that even if he found that mythical unicorn, it would in itself go to his head because he would then “be proud of my humility.”
***A reference to that is in this old post:
Suffice to say it’s like in this Tolstoy quote from Anna Karenna:
“…life was impossible like that, and that he must either interpret life so that it would not present itself to him as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself.”
–Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, Garnett translation)
**** This friend Alice Klein is the author of a fine book of poetry denombre “What the Heart Wants” a book I very heartily recommend. And which is available here (with a great for the holidays special sale price):