Apr 25 2014
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness
I don’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for the many wonderful, wise, touching, playful emails and blog comments I receive from you all each week. Although I can’t respond to them all individually, I read every one, and they make up an important part of my day. Your notes remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.
During the past year, many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help — but I need to ask more of you to join in and support the Poetry Chaikhana. It is still challenging to dedicate as much time and energy as I do each week and still meet my family’s basic financial needs. As amazing as it sounds, more than 9,000 people are receiving this email! Together we can cover the expenses of one person (me) dedicating part of each day to sharing this amazing poetry.
Behind the Scenes
You may wonder what I’m actually doing here on the other end of these poetry emails. Here is a sketch of what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like each morning. I thought you might find it interesting…
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 may spend some time researching the life of the poet so I can pass along a few biographical 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.
If I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, I may choose to send the poem with just a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a few years previously, 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 supports the feeling of the poem.
I also select a “Thought for the Day” from among a list I’ve written out over the years, and I find a music CD. And I select a card from the Dharma Gaia Card folks.
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 more than 9,000 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 5,000 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!
/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /
Around the World
The results of that work is amazing to me. The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe.
Since the beginning of 2008 (when I first started tracking web statistics), the Poetry Chaikhana has had visits from more than 220 different countries and territories!
It would be much easier to list the few countries that haven’t had visitors to the site… but it’s much more fun to list those that have! So, here goes! In order of visitor traffic…
United Arab Emirates
Trinidad and Tobago
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Serbia and Montenegro
U.S. Virgin Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
Antigua and Barbuda
Isle of Man
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saint Kitts and Nevis
British Virgin Islands
Papua New Guinea
Turks and Caicos Islands
Falkland Islands [Islas Malvinas]
French Southern Territories
…Pretty much every country and territory in the world. We’re just awaiting visits from Greenland and a few countries in central Africa. Oh, and what about you scientists down in Antarctica?
We make up quite a community, don’t we? Through the Poetry Chaikhana, we are all connected to every part of this planet we share.
The next time a poem touches that warm ember deep in your chest, and your thoughts stop, and your mind clears, and a quiet smile spreads across your face… reach out and feel who else on this planet is feeling exactly the same thing. It could be someone who wears different clothes or has different colored skin, someone who speaks with a different accent or an entirely different language, someone who sits or kneels or bows to worship. Reach out and recognize that person as a brother or sister who, like us all, is walking through the human journey, pausing occasionally to sing songs of the Divine.
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.
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 some 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.
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 for me to not earn enough income 😉 And, as many of you know, I balance both the Poetry Chaikhana and my day job with ongoing health challenges. It is a joy to do all of this, but it isn’t easy, and I can use your help.
For me to keep doing this work, I need the support of the Poetry Chaikhana community.
If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.
(But, please, never 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 make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page – http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com
- 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 http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com.
(A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)
- You can send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
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!