Tag Archives: poetry writing

Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party

Standard

Elizabeth Herron

PR4–61

I’d Been Invited by the Queen

“I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
–Leonard Cohen (Bird on a Wire)

Some guys like me
We talk big about no fear
Of death I tend to say
If my time were drawing near

(My theory goes)
I would wax wise and declare
It was like a dinner party:
I’d been invited by the queen

And then inevitably I’d had to go home
And yet there’s complaint anent which
A case could be made for it’s just ungrateful greed
Considering all the wonders I’ve seen

All the free dinners and theater tickets
To ask for more
Although these things are far from unarbitrary
(It’s a subjective soul thing)

And maybe it’s more like the Leonard Cohen thing
Above and even
(Lots of times)
There’s Oliver Twists to this

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

In my youth my favorite TV show was Science Fiction Theater.

Every episode started out with the host saying, “Let me show you something interesting.”

And he would walk over to a sort of display which featured a scientific principle. Like how a phonograph works or radio signals or such. And then he would say something about how that tied in to the extrapolation which could be derived, allowing future scientists to do some amazing thing, but along the same lines.

I often try to do that with my poems, when I start off with a quote (to show you something interesting.)

Like the Leonard Cohen quote atop the above poem. And then I extrapolate from there. How amazing that is I do not claim except to say I tried, and to quote Emerson: “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

What got me started on this post, is a couple of quotes from a book I just finished reading. They are from Larry McMurtry’s Magnum opus, Lonesome Dove, which got him the Pulitzer Prize and whose screenplays of it (any other of his works) got him Emmys. And muchos Oscars.*

Apparently (by my standards) he is a metaphysically oriented kind of guy. Witness these (interesting) quotes from Lonesome Dove:

“ ‘When was you the happiest, Call?’ Augustus asked.
‘Happiest about what?’ Call asked.
‘Just about being a live human being, free on the earth,’ Augustus said.”

And

“He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.”

I hadn’t heard about him until many years ago when I got fortunate to have a writing teacher (Elizabeth Herron).**

Elizabeth (the professor at Sonoma State University) liked to tell us who her favorite writers were and high on her list was Larry McMurtry. This was before Lonesome Dove was written. I remember she especially recommended Somebody’s Darling, and All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.

I had a crush on her. And even though she was married, a guy could dream, couldn’t he? But the upside of that was I was motivated to impress her and so I tried my damnedest. And I wrote a poetry collection for my final project. (She said ONE good poem would have sufficed but I wanted to show off, and even dedicated it to her; I titled it, Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party and Other Poems.)

And guess what? Two of those sixtyish poems have been published (and one republished). Which gives me an excuse to put them in this blog post (which after all is also–apart from my concept of Sufism and mysticism in general–about poetry and poetry writing. And of course often some biographical stuff)

And so here they are:

(These journals below are now defunct, except for Tipton Poetry Journal)

Published in Word Catalyst and then republished in Tipton Poetry Review:

I Was a Prince

I was a prince who found you in a pond
Secure beneath a lily pad to hide
Your creamy body from the sun and me but
You squirmed out of my grasp and dived so deep
I dared not follow so I placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and I
Disguised myself and sat on top a frog
As any fool could see–when you came up
I quickly kissed your lips and magic things
Occurred like in the fairy tales to wit
I did become a frog and it turned out
You really fancied frogs’ legs but I squirmed
Out of your grasp and dived down deeper than
You dared to follow so you placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and when
I came back up again to sit on it
You kissed me back into a prince once more
And it turned out you fancied princes too
So you apologizing for the frogs’
Legs dinner episode said “Still it was
A lot of fun” And so we lived and dived
Quite happy ever after til one day
You were especially hungry and you knew
That when I was a frog you were supposed
To kiss me but you ate me and you said
“It was a boring game after a while”

Published in Umbrella Journal:

Einstein, God, and Picasso

Einstein thought things
Were pretty mysterious
And that made him “religious”

You can’t handle coal
Without getting your hands black
So I guess he couldn’t handle the universe
Without getting awestruck
It’s a pretty big place

If it isn’t distance it’s time so
Think about the Jurassic if you will
I mean actually seeing dinosaurs
Whose digestive juices and genes
Were just like ours

Only in a different pattern:
The style of the Artist
Is instantly recognizable

God I think is like Picasso
Who never had to pay for anything
He would just write a check
Which, of course, never got cashed
It was far more valuable as a collector’s item

And this has not been published but it was her favorite in the book of poems I wrote:

Trying to Write Something in the Air

Just come from visiting you
I wipe my eye
I wave good-bye

My hand lingers in the air
My finger pointing
Not to blame anyone

It is wet cool on one side
A secret moisture tells me
Which way the wind is blowing

My finger sways drunkenly
Trying to write something
In the air

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Larry McMurtry is an amazing guy who wrote lots of wonderful books and spin-off screenplays, many of which won Oscars and Emmys. For an interesting short bit about him and these, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McMurtry

**For more about her see: http://www.elizabethherron.net/

Refract Hope Through the Rainbow Window

Standard

Hazrat Inayat Khan, circa 1920

New Start—284

A Ploy Called Poetry

A word of explanation about my poetry
Or maybe it’s more a full disclosure bit:
I write poems about the issues in my face
Like the disgrace of poor meditation

Or breath control
But I defend myself with a ploy called poetry
Which works in place of my Sufi “meditation”
I qualify the word because I was never good

At meditation which in the Sufi ashram was de rigueur
For fifteen minutes a day (And on spiritual themes!)
My other bugaboo Waterloo was because the Sufis were
Big on the breath too for instance they have a thing

Called Fikr in which you imagine your breath being
A playground swing thing and as it swings
Back and forth you ponder a choice
To be decided in your life

And if all goes well
Well then that’s like fine wine
But if it’s a bad thing for you
Your breath will falter

Yet I could never get that far
You see my mind is a steel trap
And not in a good way
For instance if told to watch the swing

Go back and forth
My mind says “Watch this!”
And makes the swing come to a dead stop
But as I write a poem I meditate quite naturally

Because all meditation is is paying attention
And I love my little inchoate poem I do
Wouldn’t you? If only for gratitude
For somebody listening to your heart?

And this love breeds attention span so I can
Refract hope through the rainbow window
Of translucent colored pebbles in my heart
Like a Good Little Kaleidoscope

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

While I am on the subject of my poetry (see above), perhaps you have noticed that often the poem is not so much for artistic expression but is rather my medium for expressing a thing of importance to me metaphysically (see above). I even use a poem instead of prose to express a metaphysical idea. What I am getting at is sometimes my poems are also a sort of essay, which you’d think is perforce a prose thing.

But I do suspect something is lost when writing poems whose primary function is to explain ideas and so is not as dynamic as a lyrical poem for instance.

I like to think of it as a musical in which there is a switch from exposition to exhibition.

In other words the prosaic ideas are sort of dressed up (like for when company comes for Sunday dinner) as poetry inspired from the heart.

I guess it’s then this simple:

A lot of my poems are about how I approach how-to Sufi questions, (like a woodworker may read or write a woodworking magazine).

Whereas other poems have a different purpose and if you asked what was the purpose? It would be a meaningless question like asking Beethoven what was the purpose of an arpeggio.*

I should emphasize once again that Sufism is not like other “religions” in which one is given rules and a dogma to study. No, Sufis start from scratch. Although this Sufi believes in reincarnation which make starting from scratch like the old saying that scientists have stood on the shoulders of previous scientists.

It’s all a matter of successive progress. But I digress.

Anyway, to further clarify, I am like Will Rogers, who denied belonging to any “organized political party” on the grounds he was a Democrat.

Yup Sufis aren’t necessarily organized and if someone gathers a following it is on a case by case basis which depends on both the pupil’s interest and background but also his or her deepest longing which after millions of lifetimes well you add up the variables and then tell me how we should all just follow one size fits all rules.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS—I am imminently off to my annual California vacation, for a month or so (to visit family and old friends) and then a week or so back in Guatemala to visit my best friend here the nonpareil art restorer, Daniel Casimiro, who works for the Basilica in Esquipulas (home of world famous “Black Jesus”) as their art restorer for their cache of centuries old Christian art. And I just fell and broke my right arm, which may occasion a delay in my next post (Fortunately yhis post was about ready, and but it’s hard to type with only the left (non-dominant) hand.

PPS—Please forgive any typos. It’s hard to play copy editor with a broken dominant hand.

*Which brings to mind an amusing story about Robert Frost.

Once, when he was giving a reading, and during questions afterwards a lady asked him to explain what the poem meant.

He smiled and agreed to try, and proceeded to read the poem again.

When she still had the same question, he smiled encouragement and patiently read the poem again. And at some point she wised and shut up.

I will leave you to draw inferences as to how this applies to poems that are more like music or have that quality mixed and if you tried to dissect out which part was which and how it worked together, well now that reminds me of another story, this from E. B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web) who said “You can dissect a joke like you can dissect a frog. But it tends to die on you.”

The Charm Bracelet of a Silly Song and Dance

Standard

 

Magic Roses

 

New PR–191

You at Least Write a Poem

“Failure never let anybody down.”
–Murshida Ivy Duce

Do you ever get that sad feeling there’s
A poem in the background and sure
You sketch out its outlines but tragic

You can’t cross some perhaps picket line
To those magic roses which maddeningly
You sniff out but cannot paint or draw

What shines like something preternatural
Atop the tower of truth and which after glows
Independently of anything we can understand:

You can’t quite reach across the abyss unless . . .
.
So you start with undermine depressing:
Remembering poetry is the art of the attempt
At expressing the inexpressible and so impossible

Becomes possible the intention becomes God
And if and as you fail you at least write a poem like this:
To the tomb of some unknown poem

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers–
In Sufism, the issue arises of introspection.

Socrates famously said, “Know thyself.”

This is especially important for people who want to be happy. (Yes there are–alas–those who don’t. And they often take people with them.)

Sabes por que?

A while back I called a blog post, “Sufism, the Science of Happiness.” But lately (see last post, Geometric Theorems, and also this one) I am noticing some important mathematical considerations, as well.

And so here is some geometry stuff left over from last post, “Geometric Theorems”:

I believe Euclid called them corollaries. But before any corollaries, come axioms (things taken as truth without proof) Like this, for instance:

Axiom One:
A person is her own best doctor. (Why? Because it’s the doctor that sees the patient that has a leg up. And what we see in others is dwarfed by what we can see in ourselves. That’s to say we have the capacity to look inward. (Amazing stuff in there! Why am I excited? It’s because I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’m into Pollyanna extrapolations.*)

Axiom Two: Different people need different things to be happy (either through differing tastes or capacities, experiences, etc)

As you can see, axioms are often just matters of common sense. Like the famous Euclidean one I mentioned last post, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Corollary (something that logically follows) :

It therefore behooves a sincere investigator to look within. And sure the mystics all warn about the ego that lurks inside. But you just have to get your ego to notice what is more fun. And fun is important because the ego is like a child. And I found during my stint as a first grade teacher (subsequent to my carpentry career), that first rate students occur when they are amused. Because it’s amazing what ancillary knowledge you can hang on the charm bracelet of a silly song and dance. And besides, you know where ego-centric comes in handy? By God then you know what you like. You know what’s (for you) fun. And with time what you like ripens into a fine wine. Or a finer one, at any rate. (Okay, it helps if you believe in reincarnation, and the fact of millions of lifetimes . . . ) But you always start with what your gut likes. Your gut knows it very well. And this is good training too, to “go with your gut.” Lud Dimpfl, my old Sufi preceptor, once said that to train your intuition (read: gut) you had to start to trust it. Sure there will be mistakes. But it’s like learning to walk. You don’t go gloomy on the fall downs.

But let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Doesn’t it all come down to show don’t tell?

I mean all the small talk and banter on the platform about “looking within.” But isn’t that like saying a girl was beautiful instead of selling the sizzle of her discerning glance? The swizzle stick that got her to dance?

Because you are writing a story, and the neophyte writer would say, “He smiled a friendly smile.”

But you (the skilled artist) might say something more in this direction:

“He pushed out the result of an obvious struggle against whatever it is that doesn’t love a smile. And for that, it was a triumphant one–akin to the sun.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I used to have a frustrating hobby. I wanted to be a cartoonist but I couldn’t draw, at least not cartoons. It didn’t stop me from dreaming up the captions though. And every morning when I was unemployed (Happens a lot to union carpenters) I’d deploy my coffee and my large anthology of New Yorker cartoons. No, it’s not what you think, that I was cribbing from them (stealing as you might say).

But in my defense I say, No. Because if the cartoon I saw started out in a skyscraper, perhaps it ended up about chickens in a hen house. (for instance as the farmer is collecting the eggs, one sitting chicken says to another, “I understand they are all going to good homes.”)

I say sure there’s a connection. But it’s like with this story I’ve always remembered. It was an interview with the famous cartoonist Unger. (Wrote the Herman series, as I recall). He said something like “Here’s the difference between a creative person and an uncreative one. If you do a word association test on an uncreative person, and you say “shoes,” he will say laces. But if you say shoes to a creative person, he’ll yell “Strawberry jam!” Because he once had spilled strawberry jam on his shoes.)

You can see where I am going with this. I mean we’re all only six degrees of separation. Are we then all plagiarists?

But to undigress, one of my cartoon ideas was of two bums, one of whom was all excited–he had found a dime in the street. And the caption was to be, “Yesterday I found a nickel, and day before that, a penny. And I’ve done an extrapolation. At this rate by Christmas I’ll be worth a fortune!”

But alas I can’t draw. Not cartoons anyway (I need the crutch of something in my face, to reproduce). So any of you gentle folk who can draw cartoons, hey we could partner up!