Nov 16 2012

Behind the Scenes of the Poetry Chaikhana

Published by at 9:17 am under Poetry Chaikhana Misc.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~ Rumi

Do you wonder what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like?

I often start my morning off with a meditation, and then I see which poem seems eager to speak that day. I let my computer suggest a poem at random, and then I try to sense if the poem is “right” for the day. Some mornings I select the first poem that comes up. Other days I’ll spend an hour sorting through possibilities. I try to make sure I have a good balance of spiritual traditions represented over the month. I also make a point of including women’s voices regularly. Occasionally I look for a series of poems that follow a sacred theme or metaphor.

Once I’ve selected the daily poem, I often spend a little time researching the life of the poet so I can pass along a few notes with the poem.

Then I sit with the poem, contemplate it, speak it aloud, let it dance in my mind, and I watch the ideas rise for my commentary. Occasionally I slip back into meditation and when I emerge the commentary is just waiting to be written out.

Some mornings I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, and I just send the poem with a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a couple of years ago, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”

Then I spend a while searching through photos and art among the Flickr or Deviantart “Creative Commons” libraries and look for one that somehow expresses an image or feeling from the poem.

I select a “Thought for the Day” from among the many I’ve written over the years, and I find a music CD.

Then I update the Poetry Chaikhana home page and post the poem and commentary to the Poetry Chaikhana blog. I spend a while adding new sign-ups and removing cancellations from the email list. Finally, I format everything and send out the poem email.

The Poetry Chaikhana poem email now goes out to nearly 10,000 people! It takes my computer more than 4 hours to send the poem email out each day.

Most days I also select a short poem or excerpt to post on the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page. Sometimes two posts. I often post accompanying artwork, as well. We’ve got another 3,500 fans there.

I spend time each month looking for new voices of wisdom in books and on the Internet. I try to add new poems and poets regularly. I’ve become quite a speedy typist!

Some weeks I also have to spend time maintaining and troubleshooting the Poetry Chaikhana database and website. Occasionally, I have to wrangle with spam-blocker sites to convince them that the Poetry Chaikhana emails are not spam.

I get dozens of emails each week, sometimes hundreds — which I love! I read every email and, when I can, I send responses.

…And then I start my day job. Whew!

Poetry and Personal Transformation

We forget how fundamental poetry is, not only to culture, but to consciousness. Poetry is meditation in the form of words. I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana website years ago, and it’s just as true today:

“Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drumbeats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”

The Politics of Poetry

In addition to the spiritual importance of this sacred poetry, there is also a cultural, even a political motivation behind the Poetry Chaikhana. Here’s how I described it in a interview a few years ago:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma. In the United States, for example, there is an increasing prejudice and fear about the Muslim world. But who can read Jelaluddin Rumi without immediately recognizing the deep truth that Islam can express? The same is true for a non-Hindu reading Lal Ded or a non-Christian reading St. John of the Cross. Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level.

The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe. We have visitors from every continent and more than 220 countries and territories! (See Poetry Chaikhana Around the World.)

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

Your Support as a Community

It is still a struggle to find a workable balance in time and money to bring you the Poetry Chaikhana on a regular basis. I support myself and my family by working part-time as a computer programmer. My computer work is flexible enough to allow me to spend a lot of time with the Poetry Chaikhana, but that also means it’s flexible enough to allow me to earn very little income 😉

To continue this work, the Poetry Chaikhana needs community support.

If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.

(I want to be clear, though, that I am not asking you to contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a small amount – from many people – is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.)

Ways you can contribute:

  • You can send a check or money order in US funds made out to “Poetry Chaikhana”, addressed to:

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

  • You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page –
  • You can sign up for a voluntary subscription of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button, also at (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)

Many of you have been generous with your contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, whether financial or energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

A warm thank you to everyone!


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9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Behind the Scenes of the Poetry Chaikhana”

  1. Kathy Stewarton 16 Nov 2012 at 1:44 pm

    As always, your commitment to this adventure is so appreciated! I do look forward to every email (and FB post) – poetry for me stops my brain, and opens my heart, and allows silence to be here, presence to arise, and my breathing to slow down. I thank you so much for what you do, and today’s post shows how much that is.
    Be well,

  2. Susanon 16 Nov 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Replying with heartfelt appreciation, Ivan, hoping it is received fully. Thank you for reflecting the Light of the One so clearly & beautifully. You brighten my days in this life. Blessings… ~

  3. Lisaon 16 Nov 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Ivan – you are just brilliant. Your words and the realness eminating from them just shines through. Thanks.

  4. ebrahimon 17 Nov 2012 at 2:12 am

    The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
    Are of imagination all compact…
    And as imagination bodies forth
    The form of things unknown, the poets pen
    Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name.

    William Shakespeare’s – A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Ivan, your work brings light to many minds and hearts. Brings blessings and clarity. On behalf of your whole community, We thank thee. What you do is not easy, and we are most sincerely grateful for your time and effort. May god bless you and take you and your work from strength to strength and make it a comfort to many more.

  5. hassan Alion 17 Nov 2012 at 12:43 pm

    i do understand and appreciate your hard work in fact one should follow his inner
    other way round we are humans in my opinion every human is like water bubble
    the day will come when bubble bursts and air will be with air to dance as per wishes of allmighty……so we must be prepared to be bursted any moment
    the selection of poetry by you is very good
    i would like to request you to pl. make selection of some poetrry regarding oneness of God
    thank you

  6. […] for the many donations that have come in since I sent out my note describing all that I do Behind the Scenes of the Poetry Chaikhana. Every donation of every amount is so helpful and appreciated — truly. My day job does not […]

  7. Nasseron 09 Dec 2012 at 5:09 am

    As an Iranian appreciating Iranian poetry, I have always admired the job you humbly are performing.
    The name Chaikhana you have depicted confines a grave meaning within and takes me bake to the mysterious atmosphere of the past like an etherized patient lingering around his mystic imagination.
    Hope I could be of any help. To share with those believers and supports who make this Chaikhana still run.

  8. Fahad F Ansarion 08 Feb 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you so much for serving God by even giving up some of your earning to help other humans who enjoy your hobby!!!

    May Allah reward you!!

    It is very important to try to actually experience what you read in poetry.

    Ever consider waking up at dawn before the sun comes up, have some contact with pure water if it is not cold as a cleaning agent something to take away the universe’s impurities to focus on clarities of God and nature, and meditate before the sun comes up. The first teacher of kabir used to take bath in the River Ganges at dawn before the sun came up. Focus on the beauty of that moment called Fajr.

    Also you should perhaps try to make a business out of this website, perhaps open to adverrtisemet

  9. Magsion 08 Jun 2013 at 10:57 am

    ur work is absolutely appreciate able

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