Tag Archives: poetry writing

The Charm Bracelet of a Silly Song and Dance

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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!

The Cure for Gloomy Heart Shadows of Loneliness

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Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

PR5–49
How Close We Always Are to Tears

“Eric, your problem is that you had an expectation.”
–Lud Dimpfl (Sufi preceptor)

Have you ever been cruising along
On an even emotional keel and then
Some hidden expectation gets shattered?
And you are surprised

It after all came out of the blue
Which surprise is truly odd
Since we’ve all had the blues
And even the sky is a regular thing

It makes you wonder about surprises
Sudden unwelcome surmises
And just when you’d thought
You were over that drought

But still (As in waters running deep)
One has to admit it’s a useful sting
To see how close we always are to tears
How far we are in arrears vis a vis the stars

~.~.~

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,

First, I draw your attention to my dedication of the above poem to Lud Dimpfl (rhymes with blood,–short for Ludwig) my erst beloved Sufi teacher. I am in the top row, the only guy in front of the left white doorjamb. The framed object on the wall above is a quote from an old Jewish proverb, that says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.”

And now, to the post!

As you who are regular readers probably know, this blog is often about poetry production. Or any artistic production, actually, which is a cure for unhappiness, at least if (and I stress this if) the art in question is an expression of the heart. Though I do tend to stress poetry because that’s where most of my artistic experience lies.

Of course the heart can go both ways. (It can be manic depressive, bless its heart).

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. Which needs to be emphasized, especially if, in the case of the lows (as opposed to the highs one can reach–even approximating ecstasy) this expression is a curative thing.

Okay just as an example, take the above poem I wrote a few days ago, just after I had a curious reaction to the news that a lady I had never met or talked to, was suddenly announcing she had a boyfriend. (It took me by surprise because I could swear there had occurred some mild flirting before this) A handsome guy in fact! (I saw his pic, and how ya gonna compete with that?)

Now she lives in California and I live in Guatemala. Not that that has stopped me before. Twice in fact in recent years, I got involved with ladies in California, where I visit every year to see friends and family. And I would have abandoned my cushy poetry-rich environment and beautiful garden which I enjoy here, to move to be with these ladies. (Asi son nosotros romanticos)

And this merely online (and to reiterate, slight) flirtation was with a lady who didn’t even live in the parts of CA where I normally hang out. But a tenuous possibility existed by the fact of Amtrak which within a two hour scenic ocean view route would have gotten me to where she was.

We romantics don’t need much more than that to hang our hat on.

But this was an unconscious hope that I hadn’t really known was there, or certainly that, if frustrated, was powerful enough to spoil my day with gloomy heart shadows of loneliness.

But it was instructive-constructive! My instinctive reaction these days is when my heart is moved, I turn it into a poem. Yes, the very poem posted above.

Amazing how sad I got! (I speak several sad languages–I’m a sad polyglot. Not so bad as it sounds but don’t get me started on ecstatic stuff)

Good job my last ten years worth of on the job poetry training has blessedly taught me how to turn everyday living into fodder for meditating on the great scope of things, which it turns out is a cure for sadness. If only for these two reasons:

The mere expression of the heart is cathartic. It lets off steam. The heart feels listened to. (Probably the main secret why talk therapy works)

And in my case, since I am pretty much a full time poet these days, it gave me a theme to write about and the emotional charge needed to produce good art.

It reminds me of a scene in a favorite movie, Children of Paradise.*

An actor has just lost his woman to another man, and suddenly he has hitherto unfelt pangs of jealousy. Does he let that bum him out? Hell no! Now, he says, he can play Othello!

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*97 % on rottentomatoes.com
Check it out!

Rachmaninoff’s Huge Hands*

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Mystery Lady

Mystery Lady

 

PR5–5

Night Skies Finish Last

“The heavenly bodies, in their courses,
have it in their power to move human
minds to unknown heights of delight.”
–Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa)

E. E. Cummings wrote:
“Thy fingers make early flowers of all things”
I know this because the phrase has stalked me
All these years you see

I read him a lot in high school where I needed help
And I am a romantic
But I guess that’s what poetry means
It sticks with you in the teeth of forgetfulness

And yes literally
God knows why
Robert Frost said poetry is at its best
With a tantalizing ambiguity

And I still dream of “early” flowers
Though I know not what they may be
It clearly predates the sunset
Hence the stars are not yet out

Yet it does make me dream
And I guess as poet Jesus said
By their fruits shall ye know them
And this is a fruit

That has left stains on my lips
All these years
I guess then there is hope
Always hope

For a sudden romance that personifies the stars
Because I still have faith somehow
In the night sky
Even if it does finish last

~.~.~

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,

This post I think, though a segue from the romantic theme of last time yet is of the same silk ilk (pardon my romantic bias).

I have pushed poetry production on this blog. Here are three of the previous posts to prove that:

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/08/ambulance-therapy-territory/
and
https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/15/a-big-blog-emphasis-on-poetry-production/

And in an ancillary fashion, this, my first post (from April Fool’s Day, 2013):

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/01/sufism-the-science-of-happiness/

This post, once again, is of the romantic ilk mostly for the psychological reparations. Because to me what romantic merely means is it appeals to the heart. And sometimes I generalize to the opinion that a good way to repair the heart is to express the heart through art. Because then the heart feels listened to.

But two things: first, these days my art form is poetry, though I have dabbled in drawing. And even there was one painting. For an example, see above. Can you guess whom it’s meant to represent? (Bonus points if you can guess. But I bet you didn’t know she was quite popular with the Anatolian Sufis! The answer will be in the next post) If so, my art may have succeeded, at least for starters.

And so I emphasize what I am best at, and I hope I am not off on some ego trip when I say I think it may help budding poets if I sometimes talk about how I do it or since I am not quite sure myself about that, at least, how I got the inspiration (My muse was knocking at my door, and I was profoundly amused). And second, I have a broad definition of “art.” I hope not as Cummings satirized (”O world, o art!). I mean one shouldn’t feel intimidated, and say for instance, “But I can’t paint . . . I can’t dance . . .”

But poetry is feeling. As Cummings said to the students:

“Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself–in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

Which reminds me of the wonderful line from Lily Tomlin’s Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe:

“I always had wanted to be someone. But now I realize I should have been more specific.”

What a simple key (Cummings’ heart business) to pick the lock of originality!

So it seems one surefire poetry trick is to write lines that make you cry. Or dance.
Or laugh. All the things then that good art (art from the heart) does is at your fingertips and then you have mastered the piano and in that, you even have Rachmaninoff’s huge hands.*

But I digress.

But first, before we leave Cummings, I suggest you check out on youtube, Cummings himself reading what to me is the greatest living love poem, “somewhere I have never traveled”:

Yes indeedy. Cummings was a romantic.

But back to therapy. Para precisar, (I love that useful Spanish phrase, which means “in order to explain exactly”) I do believe life itself is performance art. And conversation is an art as well, especially if you use it to express your heart.

And so once again, dear ones, my gentle readers, I will do a post a bit about poetry.

The poem above is an example (I wrote it three days ago, para precisar).

But first, I should elaborate on the background. In a recent series of posts (can two be a series?) I talked of the spiritual dimensions of romance.

Of course, if you look up the word romance in the dictionary, the love affair aspect is given but seventh shrift. (although we “romantics” may call that akin to the famous seventh heaven.”**) The other six definitions deal with derring-do tales, etc. And interestingly the French word for novel is “roman.” So you see that tradition comes from way back.

But as the poem says, in high school, I was lonely and sought refuge in the poetry of E. E. Cummings.

Also true is that I have had that line from his poetry floating through my head all these years,*** and when it came to mind I decided to use it as a springboard to the above poem. (As I do with any spontaneous charged line which comes to me. It’s one of the miracles that keep my happiness afloat that I can almost invariably assume that if I start a poem like that, the rest of the poem will ensue. And since I am a grateful sort, and perhaps solely on that account, a believer in God (but that’s another story probably at least a thrice-told tale in my series of blog posts), I consider it my sacred obligation, even my prayer practice, to stop everything when such a line appears. I do believe that faithfulness is a partial explanation for the fact that my muses rarely let me down, so I show fealty to that sacred impulse.

Of course, too, I often start a poem with a quote to start the ball rolling. But this time for some reason I decided to incorporate it into the poem proper. Which turned out a good thing when the Isak Dinesen quote turned up.

But again, I digress (hopefully not to any crabgrass degree). I had better hurry up and get to the point or this post will have to be a two parter.

So, yes, as you can surmise from the poem, I’d be in danger of being a lonely boy (for lack of an inspiring girlfriend) if it weren’t for having the stars at my back.

There. I think I have gotten to the point. I have the stars at my back.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Yes Rachmaninoff had veritably huge hands which drove the pianists nuts with his music having chords that only a person of his huge fingerspan could easily manage. Indeed an amusing comedy sketch based on that is hereby included:

** According to wikipedia.com, seventh heaven is “the abode of immortal beings, or the visible sky.” Which of course fits right in with my introductory poem, does it not?

***As well as the even better known ending. Here’s the whole poem:

Thy Fingers Make Early Flowers
–By E. E. Cummings

Thy fingers make early flowers
of all things.
thy hair mostly the hours love:
a smoothness which
sings,saying
(though love be a day)
do not fear,we will go amaying.

thy whitest feet crisply are straying.
Always
thy moist eyes are at kisses playing,
whose strangeness much
says;singing
(though love be a day)
for which girl art thou flowers bringing?

To be thy lips is a sweet thing
and small.
Death,thee i call rich beyond wishing
if this thou catch,
else missing.
(though love be a day
and life be nothing,it shall not stop kissing).

And for those who also like to hear the poem:


(Read by Christina Chu)