Archive for the 'Poetry Chaikhana Misc.' Category

Feb 23 2018

Spirituality, Poetry, and the Florida Shootings

I have intentionally waited to share any new poetry following the terrible mass shooting in Florida. I wanted to give everyone time to recover from the shock (though, sadly, these experiences have become so frequent in the US that they are a little less shocking each time they happen), and to allow your thoughts and responses to this latest massacre to take shape.

I can’t ignore horrifying events like the Florida shooting. I feel the need to address them directly in these emails and blog posts. If don’t, it feels strangely disconnected, as if I am pretending that everything is just fine.

In moments like this, I am not a fan of the “all is light” school of spirituality. While that is definitely a foundational truth — all of existence is an expression of the universal light, and this can be witnessed directly — there is a tendency to use these ideas superficially as a way to dismiss our discomforts and to not engage with our lives.

I believe that spirituality, and art, for that matter, must directly address the whole of human experience, including the horrifying and the traumatic, in order to be fit food for the spirit. Just as much as we need our eyes turned toward the stars, we need our feet on the ground, with our hands reaching out to help. We are not meant to float off to heaven. We are meant to bridge heaven and earth within ourselves. Perceptions and beliefs and the conscience want expression through us, through our lives, our words, our actions.

It is not fulfilling to turn to our spirituality or religion as a place to get away and get godly, or to get another “hit of bliss.” Real spirituality is about truth, reality, life. It encompasses everything, helping us to encounter life with a fullness of awareness and a true sense of who we really are and what we are capable of. Real spirituality is not about escape, it is about being present. It teaches us to drop our comfortable illusions and see clearly. It invites us to open our minds and our hearts. It challenges us to be the full beings we are, not the limited survivors we imagine ourselves to be.

And, when society is not embodying its highest ideals, real spirituality demands that we embody our own divine nature even more brightly, knowing that through interaction, communication, and the resonance of one’s being, society must respond and integrate each of us within the whole. What else is spirituality but finding that divine spark within ourselves, recognizing the same spark in everyone else, and then living by that truth courageously?

2 responses so far

Oct 25 2017

Emails – Update

It looks like the bulk email service has been restored. Let the poetry resume!

No responses yet

Oct 25 2017

Poem Emails – Technical Problems

The Poetry Chaikhana poem emails are temporarily on hold. The bulk emailing service I have been using to send these emails out has discovered a potential vulnerability that can allow someone to send false emails out through their service. My understanding is that your data is fine, just that spammers may have used their system to send emails out. The tech folks have shut down their email server for the moment, and they will be switching over to a new, more reliable bulk email service as soon as possible.

I hope to resume the Poetry Chaikhana emails within a few days. Apologies about that.


No responses yet

Oct 23 2017

Popular Poets

I don’t point it out in the poem emails often, but on the Poetry Chaikhana website home page, I post a list of the most popular poets. This is essentially a list of the ten most visited pages organized by poet. The results may surprise you. Here is this week’s most popular poets:

Yunus Emre
Mary Oliver
Bulleh Shah
Jacopone da Todi

Jacopone da Todi showed up on the list because I featured one of his poems last week.

Featured poets usually get a bump in attention. Other poets that regularly show up on this list include Kobayashi Issa, Basava, Hafiz/Ladinsky, Dogen, Ikkyu, Lalla, Abu-Said Abil-Kheir, among others.

I love to see who is gaining attention out there in the world. Yunus Emre, for example, is still not widely known in the west, but he is clearly beloved in Turkey and by many followers of Sufi traditions around the world. My hope is that, over time, appreciation of his wisdom and humor and humble spiritual genius will expand, as it has done with widely known figures like Rumi and Kabir. And the Poetry Chaikhana plays a part in that.

I am also fascinated by how this list changes week-to-week and also over the years. There was a period a few years back when the great Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh Shah was the most visited page on the Poetry Chaikhana website week after week for months on end. But, like Yunus Emre, he is not well known in the West. Yet clearly there is a great love of his poetry and hunger for information on him out there.

Others that popped up regularly in this list only rarely do so now, like Han Shan (Cold Mountain), Basho, and Walt Whitman. What does that mean? I know the Poetry Chaikhana web statistics aren’t the best reflection of global interests, but does it suggest anything about the rising and falling popularity of specific poets? Or perhaps a general shift in attention as political and planetary crises vie for our focus? Are we just exploring different poetic and spiritual energies?

What do you think?

One response so far

Oct 06 2017

Pablo Neruda – Keeping Quiet (and thoughts on the Las Vegas shooting)

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Alastair Reid

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

— from Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition, Translated by Alastair Reid

/ Image by Maks Karochkin /

I live in Colorado, a state with lots of guns. Most of those guns are used in hunting and kept locked away and out of sight. But I have had the distinctly frightening experience of seeing someone walk into a local grocery store with a handgun strapped to his hip. This was not a police officer, not someone in uniform, but a “gun activist” asserting his “right” to walk around in public spaces with a weapon. When we later contacted the store manager to insist that they publicly declare themselves to be a weapons-free safe zone (as other stores have done in the state), the manager responded that the man was not breaking the law by openly carrying a gun into the store.

Another time, I found myself in the surreal position of holding a friend’s (unloaded) M-16 rifle while being told how simple it would be to convert it from semi-automatic to fully automatic, all while surrounded by several other rifles, handguns, and knives.

I don’t know what to make of this aspect of American culture. There is this sense that manhood is marked by the hard embrace of violence and death. And when that manhood is thwarted in its other social expressions, it then acts out through that violence and death. In that person’s dark moment, Lord help the society that makes these weapons of instant death and mass murder easily available.

Obviously, I have been meditating on this latest mass shooting in the United States, along with the fact that we seem to be getting used to this pattern in recent years. There is a certain comfortable insanity that is taking the place of problem solving in this country.

We accept shooting after shooting, rather than face difficult questions of gun control, underfunded mental health care, widespread economic desperation, re-emerging racism, and an increasingly dangerous cultural divide. Not all of those issues necessarily apply to the recent Las Vegas shooting, but they all add to the pressure cooker that keeps producing these terrible events.

We don’t need to “put our differences aside and come together as a nation.” Those differences are there. We need to be honest about it. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to look at the full picture, look at it honestly. And then we need to engage in real conversation, uncomfortable conversation. Only then can we begin to formulate practical measures of responsibility and prevention, rather than after-the-fact prayer.

That’s what we need.

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

The Book of Questions Neruda: Selected Poems On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition
More Books >>

Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

2 responses so far

Aug 16 2017

Charlottesville, White Supremecists, and the Cultural Mind

Most weeks paying attention to the news brings heartbreak for some part of the world. But I have been especially feeling the impact of the terrible actions and heightened emotions from the recent white supremecist rally in Charlottesville.

People of goodwill are rightfully horrified by the resurgence of blatant racism within the United States, but I have to say that I’m not as surprised as most. In the 1980s, when I was a teenager, I was aware, through reading materials by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, of just how intensely white supremecist groups were organizing and refashioning themselves to fit modern sensibilities. They have been playing a long-term strategy in the cultural shadows while searching for ways to move once again into the mainstream.

This racialized tendency is a deeply rooted, tenacious problem within the American cultural psyche. It requires real and sustained attention on a national level. And it needs honest explorations of our actual history beyond our cherished myths.

Partly what I’m saying is that this isn’t simply a question about what individuals will do — citizens, activists, police officers, government officials, extremists themselves — it is just as much a moment for the culture as a whole, to see how it responds. The culture is more than the mathematical sum of individual actions and ideas. It has a sort of life of its own. Each nation, each culture has its own character and personality, seeking to perpetuate itself and justify its existence. We might even say it has a path of spiritual growth along with challenges, both external and internal, to resolve. How it handles those challenges colors its character and journey as it moves forward through history.

We might view this moment, this period in our history as highlighted by Charlottesville, as a moment of testing the national character. How do we respond as individuals and, even more importantly, how do we respond as a nation, as a culture? Do we look deeply and deal with the real sickness, or do we act shocked and then turn away?

As individuals, we influence that cultural growth through our voices, our actions, our thoughts and, most importantly, through the energy we cultivate within the heart and radiate into the world.

Sending blessings and creative inspiration to the culture as a whole, as it seeks to navigate through its spiritual challenges.

No responses yet

May 24 2017

A Note about the Manchester Bombing

My heart breaks for the people of Manchester traumatized by the recent bombing there.

Every time a terrible incident like this happens, whether it occurs in the west, or Turkey, India, Pakistan, wherever, I always want to make a statement. But it is easy to sound bland or ineffective or, worse, hypocritical.

I won’t try to suggest simplistic solutions, political or spiritual. What it absolutely does require is an engaged heart, courage, rather than fear, and clear seeing.

One response so far

Apr 14 2017

Race Does Not Exist

Looking at me, most Americans would call me white. Ethnically, I’m a typical American mutt, with ancestry from numerous countries, not all of them European. I have always had a diverse group of friends, from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

My closest friend in early childhood was a Nigerian boy, the son of students who had moved to the United States to attend the local university. Though I certainly don’t claim to understand race from his perspective, our friendship alerted me to questions of race and racism early on.

More recently, my friendship with a Pawnee man has led to several fascinating conversations on race and identity. He said something that startled me: There is no such thing as race. There is culture, there is appearance, but there is no race. My initial reaction was that it’s a nice idea to espouse as a countermeasure to the ongoing problems of racism, but race itself is a simple fact, isn’t it? It took a bit of deeper thought on my part before the truth of what he was saying struck me — the actual, biological truth of the statement, not simply the ethical rightness behind it.

/ Image by Wonder woman0731 /

Let’s see if we can dismantle the underlying presumption of race itself…

There is no such thing as race. Yes, there are noticeable physical characteristics, and we can loosely identify some characteristics with populations from specific geographical areas, but there is no such thing as a white race, a black race, or any other race we want to name.

A white person may be someone with fair skin and blue eyes and we may be accurate in saying that he has some ancestry that goes back to northern Europe, but it is false to say he is a member of the white race, as distinct from other races.

The fact is that there is no central characteristic of a white race or black race or any race. How can that be, you ask? We could mention several details like hair or eyes, but the most obvious distinction is skin color.

Think about skin color for a moment. That northern European may have very pale skin, but if we travel south through Europe to the Mediterranean, the common skin tone is much darker. Are they still “white”? Are we still talking about the same “race”? (The 19th century was uncertain on this point, by the way.)

Let’s go further south, down the boot of Italy, through Sicily, and hop the Mediterranean to northern Africa. Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Apr 03 2017

Poetry, Politics, and Personal Transformation

I want to send a sincere thank you out to the several people who have sent in a donation in the last few days in response to my request for help. And also for the many sweet messages – including birthday wishes. The generosity and warm-heartedness of the Poetry Chaikhana community continues move me and inspire me. Thank you, all.

With the donations that have come in so far, the most immediate bills and expenses are now covered. The internet service provider is paid and happy, and I can continue to send out this large mailing of poem emails. But Poetry Chaikhana finances are still tight and more donations are needed.

If you have been thinking about sending in your own donation to the Poetry Chaikhana, now would be a wonderful time to help out.

And, once again, to everyone who has recently sent in a donation, and to everyone who makes a regular donation, your support is so appreciated. You keep the Poetry Chaikhana going in the world.


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.”

/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

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 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.

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. Could be someone who wears different clothes or 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.

No responses yet

Mar 30 2017

Springtime and Support for the Poetry Chaikhana

Spring and all its flowers
      now joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for celebration, not for lying low;
You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.

The Sabaa wind arrives;
      and in deep resonance, the flower
      passionately rips open its garments,
      thrusting itself from itself.

The Way of Truth, learn from the clarity of water,
Learn freedom from the spreading grass.

~ Hafiz
tr. Homayun Taba & Marguerite Theophil

/ Image by rkramer62 /

Spring has come! Daffodils are popping up in forgotten corners of neighbors’ yards. White blossoms spangle once bare branches. Winter brown grasses have found their green again. Light rainfall in the morning, followed by impossibly blue skies. The world is once again waking up…


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.

Over the past year many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help. Your contributions help me to cover my regular expenses as I dedicate much of my week to the Poetry Chaikhana.

I want to let you know that your donations mean more to me than their strictly financial value. Beyond the money you have sent in, I know that each donation came from a moment when you decided to change the path of your day, when you stopped whatever you might have been doing to create an online payment account or to sit down and write out and mail in a check. And, of course, access to the Poetry Chaikhana is free. You didn’t have to make a donation at all. You could have chosen to go on with your day instead, but instead you went to the effort to send a donation and possibly even write a personal note of thanks.

spring rain–
all things on earth
become beautiful

~ Fukuda Chiyo-ni

What your donation tells me is that the Poetry Chaikhana means something to you, that it has touched you or inspired you or helped you through a particularly difficult day, so much so that you wanted to reach out personally. It’s not just that you want the Poetry Chaikhana to continue, it is that you want to share your own personal, direct support, that you want to be a part of the Poetry Chaikhana’s support.

I don’t take that for granted. I am humbled and honored by every single donation, whether it is $2 or $200, because I know what it represents to you. I feel the message of support behind it.

spring rain–
pond and river
are one

~ Buson

Even with that wonderful support from several of you, I have to admit that I am struggling to make ends meet right now…

I like the ideal of the Poetry Chaikhana as a free offering, and I have no intention of changing that. But the truth is that the Poetry Chaikhana is not free. I put significant amounts of my time and energy into gathering the poems and translations, writing up commentary, maintaining the website, and now editing and publishing books.

I try, through sheer love for the work, to accomplish all of that in the mornings and on weekends without disrupting my regular job, but because of my chronic fatigue/ME I can’t maintain that pace for long periods without health consequences. Increasingly I am having to choose between paid work hours and the Poetry Chaikhana, and that balance doesn’t always work perfectly.

I need your help, the help of the Poetry Chaikhana community, to create a more sustainable balance over the long term.

If the Poetry Chaikhana is important to you, please consider making a donation.
Now is an especially helpful time to do so.

With several thousand people receiving this email, and many more who regularly visit the Poetry Chaikhana website and Facebook page, we should be able to collectively support my work.

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. Continue Reading »

One response so far

Mar 22 2017

New Interview with Ivan through Sacred Healing Telesummit

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had recorded an extended interview Susanne Steinel on the healing and transformative qualities of poetry. In that conversation, I discuss how poetry, especially sacred poetry, can be deeply healing to the psyche and help us to restore our connection to life, the world, and to spirit. I read a few of my favorite poems and discuss the healing responses we have to them simply by hearing them, speaking them. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you might too.

The interview will be available next week through a free telesummit called “Sacred Wounds – Sacred Shifts – Sacred Healing.” In addition to my talk, the summit will include discussions with Robert Moss, Normandi Ellis, Lynn V. Andrews, and several other fascinating teachers, healers, and shamans.

The telesummit is free. To register, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my talk or any of the conversations that are part of the summit.


No responses yet

Jan 23 2017

The Power of Poetry — and “Nasty Women”

I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana’s Facebook page over the weekend, but I thought I should share it here, as well. This is a video of the actress Ashley Judd reciting a poem by a 19-year-old young woman about “Nasty Women.” As she speaks this poem, she stalks across the stage and channeling the shared experience of outrage combined with a renewed spirit of self-assertion. It is blunt, the language and imagery will be uncomfortable for many. But I share it for this reason: This poem, and the way it is delivered, is undeniably powerful. This poem has become one of the focal points of this massive movement. Refusing to mince words, this poem gives voice to the feelings of so many women who participated in this weekend’s events.

That is the power of poetry. Crystalizing and magnifying the sense of identity and purpose within the collective awareness.

Whether or not you like the poem or the mood it represents, I encourage you to watch in order to see the power of poetry as it operates within society.

Ashley Judd’s “Nasty Woman” Speech

One response so far

Dec 05 2016

Holiday Book Recommendations – 2016

The winter holidays are coming quickly: Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day… It has become something of a tradition for me to send out a list of book recommendations for the holidays. (Since it is already well into December, I suppose I had better get to it!)

Perhaps a few of the gifts you give this year should wax poetic. Poetry lasts in ways few other gifts can. A really good poem unwraps itself a little more each time it is read, becoming a continuously opening gift to the mind and the heart.

Here is a a holiday sampler I have gathered for you and your loved ones. But let me start by giving you some updates on my latest book, Gathering Silence

Pre-Order Period Extended
Officially, the pre-order period for Gathering Silence was supposed to end today. But I’m not very good at sticking to official rules and regulations. So I am UNofficially extending the pre-order discount through Dec. 8 for orders placed directly through the Poetry Chaikhana.

Delivery of Pre-Orders
If you have already place a pre-order for Gathering Silence, your order is now being shipped! Standard delivery pre-orders in North America should arrive between Dec. 16 and 19. It’s on its way!

The next bit of news: Amazon surprised me by listing Gathering Silence early. If you prefer to order through Amazon, Gathering Silence is now available through Amazon. This is especially good news for those of you in the UK, Europe, and India who are eager for the book.

Reader Reviews
If you have ordered a copy of Gathering Silence, consider helping by posting your review of the book on Amazon. Good reviews are the best way to encourage new readers to discover this book. Nearly all of the Poetry Chaikhana publications are sold online, and your online reviews are an important part of that.

Most of all, I hope Gathering Silence feels like a special gift of color and inspiration and life to you this holiday season.

* Pre-Order Period Extended *
Gathering Silence, sayings, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

Pre-Order before Dec. 8



Now available through Amazon

The Poetry Chaikhana’s latest publication!

Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa.

Gathering Silence is a truly beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

I hope you will agree that this book is a work of art!

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

The individual is really a magical act of seeing with no fixed eye.

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.


also Amazon


== Other Poetry Chaikhana Publications ==

We have to start our list by highlighting the growing library of Poetry Chaikhana publications!

To satisfy that longing (or awaken it)…

The Longing in Between
Sacred Poetry from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

In many ways this is my most personal publication, combining favorite soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by the thoughts, meditations, commentary, and occasional tangents that have been central to the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails for years. Selections from Rumi, Whitman, Kabir, Machado, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Yunus Emre, John of the Cross, Lalla, and many others.

These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.

“The Longing in Between is a work of sheer beauty. Ivan M. Granger has done a great service, not only by bringing [these poems] to public attention, but by opening their deeper meaning with his own rare poetic and mystic sensibility.”
~ ROGER HOUSDEN, author of the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life series


also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

and wherever books are sold

For the modern mystic…

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

Introduction by Andrew Harvey

Dorothy Walters explores the spiritual journey through its ecstasies, struggles, and vistas. Each step is observed with the keen insight and clear voice of a modern woman who is both a skilled poet and genuine mystic.

Dorothy Walters’s poems are immediate and inviting, transcendent and often playful. Many of these poems are in dialog, with Rumi and Rilke, Denise Levertov and Lalla, each poem contributing its own wisdom and humor to the ongoing conversation that passes between visionaries and sages through history and across cultures.

Marrow of Flame has already become a modern classic among spiritual seekers.

These poems make me gasp. Dorothy Walters–part buddha, part elf–weaves mythic literacy with subversive compassion.” ~ Mirabai Starr


also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

and wherever books are sold

To slake that thirst (or awaken it)…

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey
Poems & Translations by Ivan M. Granger

Original poems by Ivan M. Granger (yours truly) with new translations of works by visionaries from both East and West: John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Symeon the New Theologian, Hakim Sanai, Tukaram, Sarmad, Bulleh Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Vladimir Solovyov, Tulsi Sahib, and Antonio Machado.

“I found Real Thirst to be a slow, cool and refreshing drink. I believe you will find these poems an antidote to the rush of your days.” ~ JOHN FOX author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making

== And so many more excellent books ==

For the eclectic…

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.

Illuminated and Illustrated…

One Song: A New Illuminated Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

A follow-up to the excellent Illuminated Rumi — excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.

Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation
by Omar Khayyam / Paramahansa 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.

Perfect Harmony: (Calligrapher’s Notebooks)
by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi

Brief selections from Ibn Arabi’s metaphysical love poem “The Interpreter of Desires” combined with the amazing Arabic calligraphy of Hassan Massoudy. If you didn’t think calligraphy could be fine art, you have to look at this book. Find a quiet place, open this book, and lose yourself in any page…

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.

Sufi samplers…

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

Something about Andrew Harvey’s selections and translations always strike a pure note. This book is a delightful collection of poetry and Sufi wisdom stories. Rumi, Kabir, al-Hallaj, Shabistari, Ansari… This is one I return to again and again.

Traveling the Path of Love: Sayings of the Sufi Masters
ed. by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has gathered together an excellent collection of short sayings and poetic excerpts from many of the great Sufi masters throughout the centuries. Gathered together in themed chapters, such as The Longing of the Heart, The Path, Mediatation and Prayer, and The Valley of Love. Open this book to any page late at night and find a hidden gem to contemplate.

A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by 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.

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.

The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent
Translated by John Anthony McGuckin

This is the book that, years ago, introduced me to the stunning poetry of Symeon the New Theologian, igniting my passion for his visionary poetry of light and transformation. You’ll also find poems and poetic renditions of writings from many other saints and mystics of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Still a favorite of mine.

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.

For the heartful 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.

Lovers and the Beloved…

The Lover of God
by Rabindranath Tagore

Bhakti love poems from Radha to Krishna, originally written by a 14-year-old Rabindranath Tagore – as a hoax! That teenage boy became one of the great poets of the early 20th century, and these poems touch the lover’s heart on so many levels.

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.

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master
by Daniel Ladinsky

Despite the book’s title, these are not poems by the historic Sufi poet Hafiz; instead, it is a delightful collection of contemporary poems infused with the spirit of Hafiz. These poems tease and wink, and lead us chuckling to surprising moments of insight.

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.

The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492
Translated and Edited by Peter Cole

A very good collection of the great Hebrew poets and writers who emerged from the flowering of Jewish culture in Medieval Spain. A nice sampling of important figures of Kabbalah, philosophy, and culture, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, Halevi, Abulafia, and many more.

For those early mornings…

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

You can’t go wrong with anything by Mary Oliver, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to her poetry, Why I Wake Early is a nice place to start. This collection is one to enjoy, one poem at a time, in those quiet moments before the busyness of the day starts.

Artist, Therapist, Shaman…

Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
By John Fox

Not a book of poetry, but a book that belongs on every poetry lover’s bookshelf. This is a book about the transformational nature of poetry – reading it, speaking it, writing it. Poetry as therapy. Poetry as a pathway to self-exploration. Poetry to rediscover your true voice. I was surprised how much I liked this book.

Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
by Kim Rosen

What can I say? Read the first few pages and you won’t want to stop. An exploration of the power of poetry to open our lives in surprising, healing ways and, at the same time, an engaging personal memoir. Highly recommended.

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.

For even more excellent book recommendations, click here.

Lets remember that, in the midst of winter’s dark, this is the time to renew the light — within ourselves and our world. Regardless of religion, may we recognize our shared brotherhood and sisterhood within the human family, all within the lap of the generous green earth that is our home.

I hope you and your loved ones celebrate this special season with warmth and joy —

— and that the new year brings you bright blessings!


No responses yet

Nov 21 2016

Surprise Announcement: A New Book!

I have a surprise announcement to make: The Poetry Chaikhana will be publishing two books in the near future. Yes, I said two books.

The first will be available in just a few days — Gathering Silence, a book of meditations, sayings, and breathtaking art. (The second book, which will be available by the spring, will be a new Poetry Chaikhana anthology. More about that in the next couple of months.)

* Pre-Order Now for the Holidays *
Gathering Silence, sayings, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

Pre-Order before Dec. 5



Available soon through Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa.

The sayings are brief, often just one or two per page, allowing each page to become a restful space for contemplation and inspiration.

Gathering Silence is a truly beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

Through you
the world learns to recognize itself — as heaven.

Protect the wild places in yourself.

There is something fierce in every saint and sage.

How else could they free love from its cage?

Regardless of belief,

everyone is agnostic
until gnosis.

Whittle yourself down

to the question at your core.
Let that empty ache
lead you to ecstasy!

When you know where the Beloved lives,
you are content,
no need to argue with others
over street names.

The individual is really a magical act of seeing with no fixed eye.

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.

* Note that pre-order shipments outside of the US and Canada may not arrive until after the new year — unless you request priority or expedited shipping.

About the sayings

I inherited my love of short, insightful statements from my grandfather. As a child, spending Christmas at my grandparents’ house, I remember playing with their roll-top desk, fascinated by the way the wooden slats rolled up and down along their grooved curving path. That’s when I discovered a small box tucked away in the desk containing dozens of index cards. Each card had just a sentence or two written in my grandfather’s neat hand. My grandfather had been collecting favorite quotes, jokes, even overheard snippets of conversation. This felt like a magical window into the private thoughts of a man I both loved and idolized.

I began to keep index cards with me, usually half-bent in my pocket, at the ready anytime I wanted to write down a random thought, lines from a novel, an uplifting quote, a half-remembered dream. I still do it today. I keep little stacks of index cards strategically placed throughout the house. Sometimes in meditation a thought or insight will pop into my head, fully formed in the silence, and I’ll write it down.

And that’s the interesting thing about my relationship to the short meditations and sayings in Gathering Silence. I wrote them, but sometimes I feel that I found them rather than formulated them. Am I their author or simply a transcriber? In my most lucid moments, they are my words in my voice. But they are also the guidance I turn to when life’s burdens weigh heavily and the spiritual path seems unclear. It is as if a larger self that is me is leaving helpful notes to a smaller, sometimes struggling self that is also me.

So I offer these sayings as both author and audience. I hope you find that they guide and illuminate, prod and awaken, as they continue to do for me. And, in your quiet moments, perhaps they will even speak to you in your own voice.

For the Holidays

We have the book’s artist, Rashani Réa, to thank for making this book available in time for the holidays. I imagined I would be publishing Gathering Silence early next year. But as I started sending these sayings to Rashani, she was inspired and spent several late nights creating her amazing collages for the book. Each morning I would wake up to find new works of stunning, colorful art waiting in my email In box. As the artwork poured out of her, I realized that I had better pick up my own pace in preparing Gathering Silence for publication.

And I couldn’t be happier that it is ready in time, because Gathering Silence makes a wonderful gift book. It is compact and filled with celebratory color. It is uplifting, inspiring, occasionally challenging, without promoting any particular system of belief. It will bring a smile to your favorite Christian contemplative, Sufi, yogic practitioner, painter, or poet.


At $18.95, Gathering Silence is a bit pricier than previous books published by the Poetry Chaikhana, but that is necessary to cover the costs of the full-color artwork throughout its pages. When you hold it in your hands and look through page after page of Rashani Réa’s stunning artwork, I think you’ll agree that it is worth a few extra dollars.

Pre-Order Offer

For those of you willing to place a pre-order, the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a special deal: Purchase a copy before December 5th to receive a discounted price of $17.95.

Pre-ordering is also a great way to show your support for new publications from the Poetry Chaikhana.

  • To purchase a special pre-order copy of Gathering Silence click here or the ‘Purchase’ link above for payment through PayPal.

A Note About Shipping: Pre-order copies will ship directly from the printer. Since the printer is in the US, overseas customers may need to request priority shipping, if you wish to receive your order before the end of the year.

If you look forward to purchasing a copy of Gathering Silence, but not as a pre-order, it will be available for general purchase through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in December.


I guess you can tell that I am enthusiastic about this latest publication. I hope this book brings a smile and acts as a soothing balm during this tumultuous time.

Sending love to everyone during this time of renewal and reawakening light that we variously call Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and the New Year.


No responses yet

Oct 26 2016

Video: Poetry as Transformative Experience

A short video in which I discuss poetry, mysticism, and transformation, exploring ideas, such as–

– There is something inherently esoteric in all poetry
– Poetry is the natural language of mystical experience
– Poetry affects thought patterns and rhythm of breath
– Poetry and trance
– Poetry is built of words, which are built of breath
– We participate in the poet’s breath
– Poetry can convey sacred experience directly

From a 2008 interview with Ivan M. Granger by the Ecstatic Arts and Theater Project

The Poetry Chaikhana
Poetry from all the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions. Explore by poet, tradition, theme, or timeline.
The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World
An anthology of sacred poetry edited with commentary by Ivan M. Granger — including this haiku by Issa.

Theme Music by The Yuval Ron Ensemble. Used by permission.

Copyright 2016 Poetry Chaikhana

No responses yet

Oct 05 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of my Jewish and Muslim friends. A time for new beginnings, new possibilities, new dreams.

No responses yet

Sep 30 2016

Thank you, everyone, for the donations that continue to come in

Thank you, everyone, for the donations that continue to come in.

I know how much of an effort it can be to set aside some amount of money and then go out of your way to fill out that online form or to write a check and mail it. I am truly humbled by your response. I recognize that every single donation is you reaching out in order to support something you care about. I strive to make the Poetry Chaikhana a project of peace and insight and beauty — something worthy of so much goodwill.

No responses yet

« Prev - Next »