Tag Archives: poetry writing

Some Deep Spiritual Common Sense that Pervades the Universe

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

Why Is Poetry So Respectable an Itch?

Why is poetry so respectable an itch
And not so, beer
Or worse, whiskey which,
Too, provides rye verse, a peer

Perverse for its reputation only?
For from the spell of lonely
I cast or dwell in
With my poem I fell in

More with booze than muse:
I did but choose
To while in idle dream
My time away from seem.

The mood, once written, is broken
Just as Ginboy’s smitten token
Leaves ache and aching pain
When morning comes breaking again.

But it’s some consolation
From angels or some flower:
Last night’s lines were exhalation
Still redolent of power.

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,

I want to speak briefly of my poetry and how (and the fact that) I use it to clarify issues important to me, as a Sufi.

Of course as a Sufi (particularly my personal sort, these days*) I am quite free to decide things on my own, using my imagination and my own conception of religion a la Mohammed. That is, for instance, instead of following a catechism or other schism in the religious community, cleaving to one over another, I am free to pick and choose, inventing my own religion**

But I don’t want to veer off the main message of this post, which is how does my poetry fit in with my “Sufism?”

First thing that must be said (or admitted) is that my poetry is my Sunday School. It keeps me in line. You see, the thing with the poem is two-fold; one I am full of gratitude not just for saving me from the ignominy of writer’s block (there is always a new theme or better said, a descant on a familiar one (Was it Solomon or Goethe; I forget which, that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”)

The second thing is it is tailormade for me who perhaps has only one principal virtue (I am like Oscasr Wilde and temptation***) which is by God there is one “shit I will not eat.” **** Which is I will not be a hypocrite. If an idea comes to me in a poem suchwise I proclaim it as if I were a prophet (a proper thing according to Emerson; See his Self Reliance essay) well then I am honor bound to be bound by the wisdom of it. It’s interesting how easy one finds it to obey what is prompted by a grateful heart.

And it’s not just gratitude for no writer’s block; no, it is the appreciation of the honor of having been invited by something divine whispering what to write in my ear. It makes one humble to the point of tears. And you can imagine then how less difficult it is to reorient oneself towards a new conception of the light. (Like any well behaved plant would do)

It is also a meditation, and a true meditation on anything is a relaxing thing.

That’s what I liked many years back when I first hit Guatemala and started studying art. Just the intense focus on the drawing came out as a meditation. And again I was grateful. Of course I hadn’t thought I could do art worth a damn and it turned out if you just focus right, the spirit comes through like my principal chez d’ouevre, my drawing of the Virgin Mary***** (funny I just typed her as the virgin memory! Must be a lesson there somewhere). See above drawing for that. Sabes que it made me a professional artist? I sold it for $150 dollars! True it was to my best friend’s wife but Kebi never buys what she doesn’t want.

Anyway I was astonished how well it came out. Even Ralph (the best friend) and his usually Eric-deprecating daughter averred it showed “an amazing sensitivity.”

And what’s a corollary to this latter? (and ladder!) It’s this: all God (or angels, or some deep spiritual common sense that pervades the universe) comes to your aid when you are on the right road.

And so my main point is, I use my poetry largely as a meditation and a vehicle to clarify issues of importance to me. Issues such as what are the most useful metaphors for God?  Or in my case since God is inherently unknowable by the finite mind (yo!), it makes more sense to me to think of “God” in terms of His or Her ambassador. As in Kindness is God’s ambassador. As in tolerance and humility is God’s ambassador. As in whatever whichever quality that moves the heart is God’s ambassador.

But my mainest point here is I had been hearing all my Sufi life about the importance of meditation and breathing exercises.  But I struggled with both of these. Now the above-mentioned is how I substituted a to me miraculous meditation. But alas, I have never gotten the hang of breath exercises, which Inayat Khan (see above stuff just below my drawing) places an embarrassing emphasis on. See the ****** below and I will tell you an example of my moron status when it comes to breathing exercises. But I at least have “solved” the meditation problem. A shame about the breathing exercises. (probably why I can’t levitate) But one out of two ain’t bad. Looks pretty good; in fact in baseball . . . But I digress, which is a sign it’s time to sign off for this time.

God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

*As opposed to days of old, when I was an official (read “mureed” accepted by a bonified murshid, or guru in lay terms, and of course previous to my ignominious boot from the order (yes thereby hangs an interesting tale you can read about here: https://rumi-nations.com/2021/01/28/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-3/)

**referring to: “Every man has his own religion.”

–Mohammed (as cited by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

***  “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

          –Oscar Wilde

****The reference is to E. E. Cummings’ poem panegyric to the pacifist (“I sing of Olaf”)

***** Interestingly there is a subsect of Sufis in Turkey’s Anatolian Plateau that evinces an intense interest in the Virgin Mary.

****** Go fiqir!  We Sufis were taught a trick for deciding an important life issue. It was called “fiqir.” In that, one imagines the breath as a playground swing with inhaling and exhaling at opposite ends of the described arc. We were told to keep that in mind while thinking of the important decision. And if while contemplating the proposed course of action the breath faltered, then that was a sign it was not a desirable thing.  And here’s the humiliating part: I couldn’t even maintain the swinging. My perverse mind would step in and immobilize it and I’d be stuck motionless at the bottom of the arc!

“I Too, Would Like to Weep”

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My Painting of Meher Baba

A Grudging Little Miracle

In Guatemala the water stops a lot
So it was foolishness baking bread
With no water to wash off my sticky fingers

So there I was with my hands
Fresh from the masa
Looking at the water faucet

Fully open but nary a drip
I had a choice of whine or risa:
I just laughed and an instant later

The water started again but only a trickle
Barely sufficient to clean my hands
And then it stopped again

It was a grudging little miracle
But instructive: We get what we need
(With the right attitude)

~.~.~

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 Reader,
(A rewrite reprise from 2013)

I will call you that, perhaps because (apart from apropos) Gentle Reader was the name of the (now defunct) magazine in England where my first published poem appeared. (See above)

Today I saw on You Tube a very short video of Kurt Vonnegutt’s advice to writers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVcIhnvSx8). A key suggestion/point was to get to the reader as much information as soon as possible. So I start the blog rolling with this short bio that appeared in Umbrella, alongside my poem:

(http://www.umbrellajournal.com/fall2009/science/LikePicassoWhoNeverHadtoP.html)

Eric Halliwell has spent many years as student, carpenter, flunked-out nursing student (thereby hangs a tale) and then a first grade school teacher.

Through a tragic romantic misadventure he ended up in Guatemala where he lives on Lake Atitlan, writing poetry. It keeps him off the streets, or, rather, since there are no streets where he lives, off a dirt trail above the lake.

So that’s how I got to Guatemala, on Lake Atitlan, and the peace here seems to have facilitated a late blooming life-of-the-poet trip. In fact, I was just online and found an article (http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth.html?page=9) including Lake Atitlan on a list of ten most sacred spots on the planet. (I like that they use “sacred” as if it were objective fact. Because it is)

As you now see, my view is skewed toward the “sacred.” And as you might expect, my poetry is from a metaphysical, para precisar, Sufi perspective.

Yes, I was in a Sufi order in Walnut Creek, California for seven years. This order was founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died circa 1927. I will no doubt regularly regale you, my readers, with some favorite inspirations (quotes and stories) of his. Indeed I start each new post with both his invocation, and suggested daily mantra (see above)

I trust you will enjoy as much as I have, his lucid common sense and inspired ecumenical focus on what is, after all, the science of happiness.

So it’s no surprise that my poems have a Sufi (read very broad-based) theme. I’m not sure how familiar my readers may be with Sufism, which is best known by the writings of Sufi ecstatic poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Saadi, Farīd ud-Dīn Attar, Ibn Arabi, and Omar Khayyam (he of the Rubaiyat) .

I started out in Guatemala, hitching my wagon**to art (drawing, painting). But within a year, having read a book of poetry, Love Letters from God, by Daniel Ladinsky, I was inspired to try my hand at my own “ecstatic” poetry. It was ecstatic for sure in one sense: my intense happiness and gratitude to be given this sudden gift of a compulsion to listen to sweet stuff pouring out from my heart, and write it down and even presume to call it poetry. My touchstone for that is if it touches the heart. And we know that by the metaphor that we find in our salty tears, small miracles which are a microcosm of the ocean. We know by these small miracles when we’ve written a poem from the heart. And these small miracles keep coming regularly, like the lanchas on lake Atitlan.

Indeed the first poem I got published, (see above) dealt with such “small” miracles. (FYI that really happened)

In future/upcoming blog posts, I will muse (as it were) about metaphysical themes, about poetry writing, particularly proselytizing the art form, art in general, favorite heart stuff. The wonderful thing about Sufism is it has relevance to every interest. You know it doesn’t matter what pebbles you install in your kaleidoscope. So they be of translucent colors and you see to a light source.

As my late Grandma Dorothy used to say at bed time, “See you anonymous!”
God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

PS—In the original version of this post I was speaking of weeping, and though I seem to have edited that out, still this is worth mentioning: I am reminded of something from Jean Adriel’s memoir of Meher Baba **(Avatar). When she told her friend Princess Norina Matchabelli (yes of the perfume prince) that there was a holy man in the vicinity, and upon meeting him people would invariably weep. And Ms Matchabelli memorably replied, “I too, would like to weep.”

*Full disclosure: Ralph Waldo Emerson reference (“Hitch your wagon to a star”)
** Meher Baba, the silent Mystic, was co-founder (along with Hazrat Inayat Khan) of my erst Sufi order in Walnut Creek, CA (Sufism Reoriented) for a summary of the life of Meher Baba see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meher_Baba. For Hazrat Inayat Khan see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

The Only Vacation

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Thomas Wolfe

 

New Start–30

Attend to Falling Water

“A voice, sleep-strange and loud,
forever far-near, spoke.”
–Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel)

Do you ever hear voices?
It has a bad reputation but what if
It’s an angel whispering in your ear?

This I suspect because I hear
Voices who say things like this:
Stop and listen

Watch for what glistens
Attend to falling water from
The deep well of the stars

Haul up those dippers
Put on some Cinderella slippers
Shield your eyes to see from afar

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

“There are many ideas which intoxicate man, many feelings there are which act upon the soul as wine, but there is no stronger wine than the wine of selflessness. It is a might and it is a pride that no worldly rank can give. To become something is a limitation, whatever one may become. Even if a person were to be called the king of the world, he would still not be emperor of the universe. If he were the master of earth, he would still be the slave of Heaven. It is the person who is no one, who is no one and yet all. The Sufi, therefore, takes the path of being nothing instead of being something. It is this feeling of nothingness which turns the human heart into an empty cup into which the wine of immortality is poured. It is this state of bliss which every truth-seeking soul yearns to attain.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (The Privilege of Being Human)

Gentle Readers,
I apologize for the delayed post. I have been much under pressure all of January due to a complicated move. I still have boxes everywhere but my conscience is calling and so here we go:

This is a Sufi blog, and so it’s about love. Which is by definition a lovely theme. And there being various kinds of love, (as you may have noticed) I am pursuing various sub-themes. And it is a poetry blog, featuring my poems, (and those poems offered by readers in any comments) since that is both my meditation, and what I know about. If I know anything. Of course, this “knowing” is (I refer now to poetry) not to be disconnected from my audience. At least I hope not. Not if it’s successful, because good art doesn’t just lie in the heart of the artist. Good art is half in the audience. Just as electricity is a flow, an interaction between positive and negative poles. I mean I believe good art is good because the audience takes the ball tossed out by in this case the poet, and runs with it. Makes something of it in their own heart. I mean then, that if it’s good my audience turns artist and my poem is just the prompt, the jumping off place. And my personal belief is if it’s good, if it came from the heart, that is, it really came from outside oneself. Or outside one’s ego. It’s as if someone is whispering words in one’s ear and one is just writing them down, almost in a trance. And as soon as we think we’ve personally done it, something gets strained, damaged, and that voice is less likely to come again. Which is why I presume to call it a meditation, as who could call something not steeped in humility a meditation?

Of course, whatever “force” is doing the whispering, is privy to what I know, to my experience and just as in a kaleidoscope if you break it open there are only colored simple and translucent pebbles. But the light that passes through turns it beautiful. Gives it form and symmetry. But I and any poet, any artist, are just a set of tools for the use of this “voice,” this light. Which probably explains the refreshing response one has to making beautiful art. Hazrat Inayat Khan says in fact that all cure is a matter of getting outside oneself. It is the only vacation. And to get there requires a certain point of view. I called this the “romantic view” in a poem, which was one of my very first published poems (In 2007, in the Penwood Review):

The Romantic View

The romantic view
Is that if you give it your voice
It will speak

And also the romantic view
By definition

Reflects the heart
The way moonlight
Glints on glass

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell