Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Feb 04 2015

Shiwu (Stonehouse) – To glorify the Way what should people turn to

Published by under Poetry

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
by Shiwu (Stonehouse)

English version by Red Pine

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
to words and deeds that agree
but oceans of greed never fill up
and sprouts of delusion keep growing
a plum tree in bloom purifies a recluse
a patch of potatoes cheers a lone monk
but those who follow rules in their huts
never see the Way or get past the mountain

— from The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit, Translated by Red Pine


/ Image by JeanFrancois /

I had to read this poem a few times and let it grow in my mind before I finally recognized just how much I actually liked it. If you didn’t have a strong reaction to this poem, try reading it again, savoring and contemplating the lines, and see if it grows on you…

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
to words and deeds that agree
but oceans of greed never fill up
and sprouts of delusion keep growing

These opening lines touch on one of the great challenges of the spiritual path: We all hunger for something… or many things — experiences, accomplishments, loves, money, stuff… Pursuing a certain amount of these aspects of life is normal, perhaps even healthy, but at some point the pursuit of these desires becomes a compulsion that distracts us from the deeper, more important goals of life. When do we have enough of those experiences and things we crave that we give ourselves to simply open? When are we satisfied?

There’s the rub! They aren’t satisfying, not in any lasting way. A great life goal is met, and a day, week, a month later, there is something new we hunger for. Ultimately, these sorts of psychological hungers are never fed through acquisition or experience. Craving is self-perpetuating and never satisfied though the experiences we feed it.

This discussion of hunger and greed inspires me to go off on a tangent… When I am out shopping at the supermarket, sometimes I will turn down the cereal aisle just to stare agog at the row upon row of brightly colored boxes of sugary cereals we market to our children. I can’t imagine eating a single bite of that stuff without shuddering at the intense sugar they contain. Yet, when I was a child, I was obsessed with sugary cereals. Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Crispies. (I know.) To keep my voracious hunger for sugar in check, my mother had a rule that I could only eat one bowl of cereal a day. I clearly remember one afternoon, when I was perhaps eight, desperately trying to convince my mother that she should let me eat all the sugary cereal I wanted. I reasoned that I would eat so much that I would get sick and never want to eat it again. My supremely reasonable logic of addiction did not move my mother, for which I am now thankful. She well knew that, to a child fixated on sugar, “oceans of greed never fill up.”

Whether we’re talking about addictive patterns or general desires in life, at some point we have to recognize that real fulfillment does not come in that way. We decide the amount of energy that is appropriate to the pursuit of surface goals and satisfactions, and beyond that we begin to learn new ways of inhabiting reality that awaken real fulfillment–

a plum tree in bloom purifies a recluse
a patch of potatoes cheers a lone monk

But, to make sure we haven’t missed the point, Stonehouse gives us one final twist:

but those who follow rules in their huts
never see the Way or get past the mountain

What is important is not that we construct the “right” rules for ourselves and then follow them perfectly. Guiding our behavior through rules and rituals may be helpful at certain stages of our growth, but simply adhering to rules alone cannot lead to either fulfillment or enlightenment. What is truly necessary is that we come to rest in the present moment, that we become present with awareness. The truly necessary element is ourselves. That is when a plum tree in bloom or a patch of potatoes reveals to us the full and blissful reality that is alive all around us.

Have a beautiful day. (And watch out for brightly colored boxes of sugary cereals.)


Recommended Books: Shiwu (Stonehouse)

The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit


Shiwu (Stonehouse)

China (1272 – 1352) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Feb 03 2015

Video: Ivan M. Granger – Nonduality & Sacred Poetry pt 1

The video version of my recent interview on Nonduality Talk Radio. I hope you enjoy it!

Nonduality Talk Radio – Host Jerry Katz in conversation with Ivan M. Granger, founder of Poetry Chaikhana (www.poetry-chaikhana.com) and author of The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World.

Part 1 topics: Is all poetry sacred poetry? The alchemical nature of poetry. Metaphor as the language of sacred poetry. Poetry selections by Mahmud Shabistari (Persia, 14th century) and Kobayashi Issa (Japan, 19th century), with an exploration of the insight they can evoke in us.

Originally aired 1/7/2015

http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

More about Ivan M. Granger and Poetry Chaikhana:

http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 12:33 What is sacred poetry?

12:33 – 16:52 Ivan reads a poem by Shabistari and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku by Issa.

…Part 2 includes a discussion of the importance of sacred poetry during periods of religious conflict, along with several poems by modern poet-mystics.

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Feb 01 2015

Collage: The Sum of Perfection

SumofPerfection_sm

I was going through some old files on my computer, and I found this art project I worked on several years ago. I thought I’d share it with you…

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Jan 23 2015

Robinson Jeffers – Carmel Point

Published by under Poetry

Carmel Point
by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses–
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads–
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. –As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.


/ Image by LilyFlowerr /

This poem by Robinson Jeffers has always affected me on several levels. First, the poet paints for us a serene, one might say timeless, image of the cliffs overlooking Carmel Point: fields and rock outcrops, a few horses and cows. But then time, and humanity, do begin to impose themselves in the form of houses whose presence “deface” the perfect scene.

Then an insight: The land in its pristine beauty will last; the intruding houses will not.

“…It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve…”

This could be a disturbing thought, the fleeting nature of human presence; but, no,observing the world through the poet’s eyes, it is an immense relief! Because the natural world possesses a patience beyond the time frames understood by humans, that natural harmony waits and rests, safe from the unthinking disruptions of people.

(A corollary: If we want the products human activity and culture to last longer, then they must be in harmony with the larger reality of the natural world that is always, unavoidably their underlying foundation.)

…Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff…

The lesson for us? We are passing phenomena upon an immense canvas of interbeing. Far better to dwell in that larger reality, that patient and lasting reality. But to do so we must take a heroic step outside of ourselves and our obsessive self-fixation as humans and, instead, see the larger community of being we inhabit. That’s when we can see the world around us clearly and be at home.

–As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

A good day for a leisurely walk… Who knows what patient marvels await recognition right beneath our feet?


Recommended Books: Robinson Jeffers

The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers Cawdor and Medea Excesses of God: Robinson Jeffers As a Religious Figure The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers: Vol. 3, 1939-1962


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US (1887 – 1962) Timeline
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Jan 21 2015

Emily Dickinson – Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church

Published by under Poetry

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

— from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson


/ Image by doug88888 /

Here Emily Dickinson seems to suggest that true worship occurs at home — or within oneself — rather than in the public domain of church. She celebrates a worship that is simple, essential, direct.

For her, trees form the roof of her church (“an Orchard, for a Dome”). The living world near-at-hand is her place of worship. Local songbirds form her choir. It is in her solitary moments and her private communions with nearby nature that Dickinson encounters the sacred.

She finds within this interior world that God preaches to her directly — “a noted Clergyman” indeed!

I especially love the closing lines:

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

The journey to heaven has become a part of her, it fills her entire world. It is not relegated to the future, after death or at some end time, but a continuous unfolding in the present.


Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich
More Books >>


Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Emily Dickinson

US (1830 – 1886) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Protestant

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Jan 16 2015

Jiddu Krishnamurti – I have no name

Published by under Poetry

I have no name (from The Song of Life)
by Jiddu Krishnamurti

I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

— from From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables, by J. Krishnamurti


/ Image by blue-a /

I have no name…
I have no shelter…

Whoever this “I” is that is speaking, is formless, fluid, impossible to define.

I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains…
I am as the wandering waters…

Very quickly Krishnamurti contrasts this “I” against the trappings of religion:

I have no sacred books…
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars…

It seems obvious that the speaker is God or, perhaps, one’s own true Being. Krishnamurti is reminding us God in the truest sense is the living, flowing, unbound Reality that underpins all existence. When the deep mystic has a direct experience of the Divine, religion, in its superficial aspects, crumbles. The reality of God is far too immense to be contained in our ideas of God. Our ceremonies and writings about God at best can point us in the right direction, but they cannot contain or absolutely define the Reality they describe any more than a printed map of a country can actually contain the living reality of that nation.

Does that sound impious? Well, let’s be bold and explore a few steps further…

I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies…

I don’t read this as a condemnation of religion or belief; rather, it is telling us something about the greater Reality.

I understand it this way: A great soul comes along, someone with keen eyes and a pure heart. Through this individual the human consciousness has opened itself to Great Reality that we may call God. Compassionate, and a member of the human community, he or she naturally seeks to communicate what has been witnessed in ways that may be understood that the experience of truth may spread.

But there is an unavoidable dilemma here: Even the most honest, heartful, and pure description of reality falls short of the actual experience, always. To make it even more problematic, we humans have a very bad habit of confusing our descriptions of reality for the reality itself. We confuse our thoughts about reality for actuality. We confuse other people’s descriptions of reality for reality. Far too easily, we mistake religion for God. In its best expressions, religion may be profound, deeply meaningful, inspiring, and, hopefully, enlightening — but what we call God is a fluid, living Reality that is much too big to be contained by any one religion or philosophy, or even all of them together.

There’s another element to this dynamic that I think is worth mentioning as it relates to religious extremism. Those of us who believe that sincere religion and spirituality must incorporate an open mind, a compassionate heart, and a willingness to be of service in the world, we naturally see religious extremism in all its forms as a terrible corruption. I certainly have my moments when I am deeply offended by the cruelties and foolish beliefs of people who call themselves religious. So many people thump their Bible/Quran/Torah/Gita and shout “God!” yet, clearly, they have only a thin and strangled relationship with the great living Reality that is God. But here’s the thing: No matter how tortured and twisted their ideas about God may be, the basic nature of God remains untainted. We can only corrupt our ideas about God, not the reality that is God. Human ideas about God may blossom or collapse within culture, but even when large portions of the population succumb to very limited and cold ideas about God, the living, shining Reality remains, ready to be discovered anew — and communicated anew — by sincere souls.

I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Jiddu Krishnamurti

From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables


Jiddu Krishnamurti, Jiddu Krishnamurti poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Jiddu Krishnamurti

India/US (1895 – 1986) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Jan 14 2015

Yamei – Swallowing the open field

Published by under Poetry

Swallowing
by Yamei

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Swallowing
the open field —
pheasant’s cry

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by TheLizardQueen /

I’ll say it now, this poem by Yamei is one of my favorite examples of haiku.

I lived for several years in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. It’s a largely rural island, and I lived “upcountry” where you’ll find lots of hilly fields and cow pastures. I’d drive my car through the winding country roads of Maui, and every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a burst of color — a pheasant startled from its hiding place. It’s ascent was always full of effort, churning earthen wings pushing its sunburst bright head aloft. But then, landing a few yards away, its dignity restored, breast out, watchful eye upon the yellowing sea of grass, the pheasant left no doubt as to who ruled that quiet field. One shrill cry confirmed it.

This haiku reminds me of those island moments.

And something about the way Yamei describes the cry as “swallowing” the field. You can almost hear the sharp sound hanging over the field’s dewy silence, defining the space. It is a wild cry, an assertion of self, an assertion of being and improbable lordship, Whitman’s “barbaric yawp.” It’s as if the pheasant’s cry casts out a net that draws in its whole world, making it his, making it a part of himself. That call creates union.

That pheasant’s call, it wants to burst from your breast too. Let it loose. See what it draws into you.


Recommended Books: Yamei

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics


Yamei

Japan (1662? – 1713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 09 2015

Juan Ramon Jimenez – Oceans

Published by under Poetry

Oceans
by Juan Ramon Jimenez

English version by Robert Bly

      I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                        And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

      –Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

— from News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, Edited by Robert Bly


/ Image by inottawa /

I was introduced to this poem several years ago, and its words are still with me.

The poem is haunting, isn’t it? It speaks to us of depths and a hidden “great thing.”

This is the encounter with the great Mystery. And the truth is that every moment we stand at that threshold. At the beginning of the New Year, more than at any other time of year, we are aware of the threshold of time. The past is laid out behind us, and the future stretches out before us, and here we each stand, eager yet hesitant to take the next step. For here, in this fragile forward tilting moment is an invitation into new territory full of surprising possibilities, beauty, and danger too. Who knows what the next moment truly holds? Every step is a step into mystery. We are everywhere surrounded by depths of being, eager to swallow up our surface perception of reality.

It’s terrifying! And exhilarating. And that is the state of being alive. Certainty and comfort have no part in this equation. Our thoughts about thoughts are a thin sort of armor.

The most momentous encounter with mystery is mute. Silent. As if nothing happens. Or…

Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?


Recommended Books: Juan Ramon Jimenez

The Winged Energy of Delight News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Invisible Reality Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography
More Books >>


Juan Ramon Jimenez, Juan Ramon Jimenez poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Juan Ramon Jimenez

Spain (1881 – 1958) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 08 2015

Interview on Nonduality Talk Radio

I recently spoke with Jerry Katz of Nonduality Talk Radio about sacred poetry, The Longing in Between, and the relationship between poetry, language, and nondual awareness. I read a few poems, of course, and share my thoughts on the alchemical nature of sacred poetry, and also explain my personal approach as to why I comment on sacred poetry in the unusual ways that I do. The interview officially aired on January 7.

You can listen to the full one hour interview online at:

http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 16:52 What is sacred poetry? Ivan reads a poem and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku.

30:24 – 38:03 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed and his haiku read and discussed. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey.

38:03 – 44:45 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath.

44:45 – 45:40 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

45:40 – 49:42 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Longing recognizing itself.

49:42 – 52:41 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

52:41 – Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Closing words and music.

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Dec 23 2014

Li-Young Lee – Nativity

Published by under Poetry

Nativity
by Li-Young Lee

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night’s darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.

— from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee


/ Image by stoneage11 /

How about another poem for the Christmas season today?

Maybe we should first ask, just what does this poem have to do with the Nativity anyway? What does it have to do with the traditional scene of the Christ child lying in a manger?

The poem starts with a question asked in the dark by a child: What is the world? The responses he gets are beautiful and soothing, but also fleeting. There is something haunting about asking such a question in the darkness.

So, back to the Nativity. In the Nativity, we discover the pure spark of light that is the Christ child, surrounded by the vast emptiness of the night. The Nativity is an image of light in the darkness. A small child, vulnerable, humble, poor, a tiny point of existence, surrounded by the immensity of the night… but with the promise that the light will increase until it floods the world with its light. (It’s no accident that Christmas occurs near the Winter Solstice, when the world is plunged in darkness and awaits the rebirth of the sun.)

Li-Young Lee, asking his question into the night, feels that smallness. The boy first asking the question is small, the man grown feels small too. Even the question itself seems ready to be swallowed up in the dark. But it isn’t. The question persists. It persists and grows and shines.

The question is alchemical. It causes the child to become aware of existence. As he grows, he notices the process of coagula et solve of existence, the way life both gathers together and then dissolves. He discovers “earth and duration,” but also the “immense good-bye.” Though they seem opposites, one flows into the other. And from their living, dynamic tension, the mind is stretched open. And the heart, broken and warmed, broken and warmed, it too opens.

That question — What is the world? — haunting the nights and the years, working its quiet alchemy, becomes an invitation and a challenge in the awareness, coaxing us to make of the heart the true manger:

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.


Recommended Books: Li-Young Lee

Book of My Nights Rose The City in Which I Love You Behind My Eyes: Poems


Li-Young Lee, Li-Young Lee poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Li-Young Lee

US (1957 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Dec 17 2014

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov – Where I wander — You!

Published by under Poetry

Where I wander — You!
by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

English version by Perle Besserman

Where I wander — You!
Where I ponder — You!
Only You everywhere, You, always You.
You, You, You.
When I am gladdened — You!
And when I am saddened — You!
Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.
Sky is You!
Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, everywhere You!

— from The Way of the Jewish Mystics, Edited by Perle Besserman


/ Image by Lidusha /

Happy Hanukkah! I thought this poem would be a nice celebration for us during this season of light…

I love the way this simple poem fills us with the ecstatic recognition that God is in everything, IS everything. All of existence becomes a grand game of hide-and-seek.

A chant that can open the heart and eyes:

Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.


Recommended Books: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry The Way of the Jewish Mystics


Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Poland (1740 – 1810) Timeline
Jewish

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov is a greatly beloved figure in Eastern European Jewish history. He introduced Hassidism to Poland as part of a spiritual reform movement that confronted the more rigid, intellectual, and unengaged forms of Judaism that dominated rabbinical practice in the region. Rabbi Levi was a student of the Hassidic master Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezhirech, who was the chief disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi Levi’s teachings emphasized joy, intensely devout prayer, and the importance of recognizing good in all people.

More poetry by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

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Dec 10 2014

Jacopone da Todi – How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures

Published by under Poetry

How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

O Love, divine Love, why do You lay siege to me?
In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.

From five sides You move against me,
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.

If I come out through sight I see Love
Painted in every form and color,
Inviting me to come to You, to dwell in You.

If I leave through the door of hearing,
What I hear points only to You, Lord;
I cannot escape Love through this gage.

If I come out through taste, every flavor proclaims:
“Love, divine Love, hungering Love!
You have caught me on Your hook, for you want to reign in me.”

If I leave through the door of scent
I sense You in all creation; You have caught me
And wounded me through that fragrance.

If I come out through the sense of touch
I find Your lineaments in every creature;
To try to flee from You is madness.

— from Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes


/ Image by psychicLexa /

We are in the midst of the Christmas Advent season, so I thought I would select a poem by Jacopone da Todi. His meditations on the power of love always move me, and sometimes startle me.

This is an interesting selection to me, the way it reverses several common ideas in sacred literature. Jacopone addresses Love — Divine Love — as a force laying siege to him.

O Love, divine Love, why do You lay siege to me?

So often, on the spiritual journey, we imagine that Divine Love is something we must struggle to attain or awaken, yet, to the poet, Love is all around him, trying to claim him, not the other way around.

Love’s “attack” naturally takes the form of love:

In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.

Once we get past the violence of the image, I find I really like this reversal. When we seek to attain something, that comes hand-in-hand with the assumption that we lack what we seek. But in Jacopone’s vision of Love as the assailant, Love is already there, and all we have to do is drop our defenses. There is no lack and no effort, simply a pure yielding into the Divine Presence already with us. We come to recognize that all of our effort is used in avoiding Love, not in attaining it.

The other reversal of this poem is how it meditates on the five senses as reminders of God.

From five sides You move against me,
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.

Much of sacred writing, especially from the monastic world, is about transcending the world of the senses, yet in this poem Jacopone describes each sense as a sort of divine trap, designed to unavoidably lead him to the awareness of Love’s presence everywhere. Sight, hearing, taste, scent, and touch — they all reflect something of the divine nature of reality.

There is an interesting duality of approach here. I myself have engaged in meditative practices that withdraw the awareness and energies that tend to flow out through the senses. And this can be such a powerful thing, creating a profound sense of completeness within oneself while breaking the normal compulsion to always be outwardly focused. Yet, when we perceive the sensory world in such a way that we no longer engage in the constant categorization of “I want this sensation, but I don’t want that sensation,” the senses don’t hide; they reveal. When we engage with the senses but leave the ego’s desire to possess experiences behind, we find that the senses themselves reveal the most heavenly expressions of Reality. When we really learn to look (or feel, or hear, or smell, or taste) we discover that everything is part of the playful mask that never fully hides the Beloved’s smiling Face.

To try to flee from You is madness.


Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality) All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time


Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti), Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti) poetry, Christian poetry Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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4 responses so far

Dec 03 2014

Request for Reader Reviews

I have received so many wonderful and warm-hearted responses to The Longing in Between via email — which have touched me deeply. I would love to introduce this anthology to a wider readership, to people who may have never heard of the Poetry Chaikhana. One of the best ways to do that is through reader reviews posted to key book sites online. If you already have a copy of The Longing in Between and want to encourage more people to discover it, consider going to one of these sites and sharing your thoughts about the book:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
GoodReads

Mostly, I hope the book speaks to you in some important way!

No responses yet

Dec 03 2014

Kindle Edition is Now Available

Several of you asked when The Longing in Between would be available in ebook form for the Kindle. Well, the answer is today! Here is the link.

Depending on interest, I may also release the new anthology in other ebook formats, like iBook, Nook, and Kobo. If you would like to read The Longing in Between in one of these formats, please let me know.

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Dec 03 2014

A Reminder: Poetry Reading this Saturday

If you are in the Boulder/Longmont area of Colorado this weekend, I invite you to come by for a poetry reading and book signing I will be doing in celebration of the publication of The Longing in Between.

It will be held on Saturday at 2:00 pm at a cozy community coffee shop called La Vita Bella at 475 Main St. in downtown Longmont. Come by and say hello in person. Here are more event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/656145737831417/

See you there!

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Dec 03 2014

Santoka – If there are mountains

Published by under Poetry

If there are mountains, I look at the mountains
by Santoka (Santoka Taneda)

English version by John Stevens

If there are mountains, I look at the mountains;
On rainy days I listen to the rain.
Spring, summer, autumn, winter.
Tomorrow too will be good.
Tonight too will be good.

— from Mountain Tasting: The Haiku and Journals of Santoka Taneda, by Santoka Taneda / Translated by John Stevens


/ Image by Uchinan-Chu /

Should I say something about this lovely poem? No, I think I’ll just read it again, and maybe go for a walk…

Have a beautiful day!

Tomorrow too will be good.
Tonight too will be good.


Recommended Books: Santoka (Santoka Taneda)

Mountain Tasting: The Haiku and Journals of Santoka Taneda For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku Teneda Santoka with Excerpts from His Diary


Santoka (Santoka Taneda), Santoka (Santoka Taneda) poetry, Buddhist poetry Santoka (Santoka Taneda)

Japan (1882 – 1940) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Santoka (Santoka Taneda)

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Dec 01 2014

Holiday Book Recommendations 2014

I realized this weekend that Thanksgiving has already come and gone and I haven’t yet sent out my annual list of poetry book recommendations for the holidays. It’s time I got on the ball, don’t you agree?

I put together this list of book recommendations for the holidays as a reminder that books of sacred poetry make wonderful gifts of the heart.

Here is a a holiday sampler to consider as gifts for you and your loved ones:

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To satisfy that longing (or awaken it)…

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey
Sacred Poetry from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

We have to celebrate the publication of The Longing in Between by listing it first!

This is a delightful collection of soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by Ivan M. Granger’s meditative thoughts and commentary. Rumi, Whitman, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Lalla, and many others. These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.

“The Longing in Between… presents some of the choicest fruit from the flowering of mystics across time, across traditions and from around the world. After each of the poems in this anthology Ivan M. Granger shares his reflections and contemplations, inviting the reader to new and deeper views of the Divine Presence. This is a grace-filled collection which the reader will gladly return to over and over again.”
~ LAWRENCE EDWARDS, Ph.D. author of Awakening Kundalini and Kali’s Bazaar

READ MOREPURCHASE

also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Real Thirst US Real Thirst UK Real Thirst CAN Real Thirst IND
and wherever books are sold

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For the modern mystic…

Marrow of the Flame: Poems of the Spiritual Journey
by Dorothy Walters

Every time I feature a poem by Dorothy Walters on the Poetry Chaikhana, I receive a flood of enthusiastic emails. Andrew Harvey praises her poetry as a “…record shameless but unhysterical of an extreme love affair with the Divine.”

For the poetic cryptozoologist…

Sasquatch
by Gabriel Rosenstock

It sounds strange, I know, but this collection of short poems, told from the perspective of a solitary sasquatch, gives us a truly profound meditation on nature and humanity, isolation and connection, perception and mind… with moments of stunning beauty and occasional laughter. You can never go wrong with Gabriel Rosenstock.

==

For the eclectic seeker…

The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions
Edited by Andrew Harvey

An excellent anthology from Andrew Harvey. Poetry and brief excerpts from sacred writings among many world traditions: primal cultures, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Ancient Greece, Christianity, and Islam. Open to any random page and you’ll find an uplifting verse, saying, explanation, or wisdom story.
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For the wise woman…..

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
Edited by Jane Hirshfield

This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.

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The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
by Stephen Mitchell

This is a compact anthology, but a wonderful collection that includes Li Po, Wu-Men, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, Rilke… And the added bonus of Stephen Mitchell’s way with words. One of my personal favorites.

In the Company of Rilke
by Stephanie Dowrick

A lovely, insightful meditation of the poetry of Rilke and why it speaks so powerfully to us today. Recommended for any fan of Rilke.

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For Nourishment…

Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds
Edited by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce

I came across this collection by accident, through a random recommendation on the Internet — and it has quickly become a favorite! A rich, tasty mixture of poetry by ancient and modern visionaries, from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry to Kabir and Dogen, and several you may not have heard of before. Open to any page and discover a new treasure.

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A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton

A very nice sampler of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry. Han Shan, Li Po, Wang Wei, Basho, Soseki, Ryokan, Issa… The book fits well in your hand when you’re walking to the riverside or the local coffee shop.

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For the Jewish mystic…

The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
Translated and Annotated by Peter Cole

Finally we have a truly excellent collection of sacred Jewish poetry. While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole’s The Poetry of Kabbalah has more of a poet’s sense of language and even catches of few sparks from the mystic’s fire. This is poetry that startles and transports. The Poetry of Kabbalah has become my favorite source for Jewish mystical poetry in English. Very highly recommended.

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For the Christian contemplative…

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
by Roger Housden

This has quickly become one of my favorite collections of sacred poetry within the many Christian traditions. John of the Cross, Merton, Hildegard von Bingen, Gibran, Dante, Meister Eckhart, Blake… and Roger Housden’s brief, thoughtful insights.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. Merton, in addition to being a deep mystic, was a truly excellent contemporary poet. His poems feel entirely modern, yet touch on the eternal. While drawing on Catholic imagery, one can hear whispers of Eastern philosophy and insight in his words. Poems to reread and meditate deeply upon.

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For the contemplative activist…

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Poetry by the beloved modern master Thich Nhat Hanh, exploring service and suffering, humanity and interbeing, breath and stillness, beauty and bliss.

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Lovers and the Beloved…

Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir
Translated by Vraje Abramian

I read this book early in my exploration of Sufi poetry — and I was hooked! Abu Said Abil-Kheir’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance. This book remains a personal favorite of mine.

I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded
Translated by Ranjit Hoskote

This has become my favorite translation of poems by the great Kashmiri mystic poet, Lal Ded. Sharp insight, flashes of humor, and vast timeless spaces.

Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation
by Omar Khayyam/Parmahansa Yogananda

A 20th century Indian Yogi commenting on the spiritual meaning of an 11th century Persian Sufi’s poetry. That combination yields both perfume and controversy — but plenty to contemplate. Lovely artwork and border scrollwork. And Fitzgerald’s delightful translation of this classic. Recommended.

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And for blessings…

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
by John O’Donohue

I keep being told by people how much they love this book of poetic blessings from the Irish philosopher, poet, and mystic, John O’Donohue. These poetically crafted blessings and meditations on the passages of life manage to elevate the spirit, warm the heart, and, on occasion, bring a tear to the eye.

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For even more book recommendations, click here.

May you and your loved ones have a special holiday season during this time when the sacred light renews itself in the midst of darkness —

— and may the new year bring you bright blessings!

Ivan

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