Nov 02 2015
Life is this simple:
We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent
& the Divine is shining through it all the time.
~ Thomas Merton
I haven’t been a very good correspondent lately.
I feel badly about how many of your emails I haven’t responded to in recent weeks. Almost every day I receive at least one email telling me how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you. The daily poem brings a moment of calm to the morning, inspires creativity at work, offers comfort in a period of crisis, carries hope when assaulted by the headlines, suggests a focus for meditation or prayer before bed. These notes from you continuously 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.
Often your notes, even when brief, touch on something deeply personal and meaningful in your life and how that day’s poem spoke just the right words to you. Many of you send me your own poems in response. I know how much heart and attention you put into your correspondence with me, and I don’t like to let those pass without a reply. I have always felt that communication is essential to the vitality of the Poetry Chaikhana. For me, the emails I send out and your responses to me feel personal, a long-term conversation between us all on the nature of spirit and art and daily life, and how these interweave and contribute to each other — enlivening us all in the process
In the past year I have had to significantly increase my work hours in my day job to make up for rising expenses and lower income with the Poetry Chaikhana. All of that extra work gets tricky with my ongoing ME/chronic fatigue syndrome challenges. Unfortunately, that means I have very little extra focus for the Poetry Chaikhana beyond sending out the emails themselves once or twice a week. Not only is my communication with all of you suffering, new book projects are also on hold. I have halted plans for a few speaking engagements. The website itself isn’t getting updated or maintained properly.
I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious, but I consider the Poetry Chaikhana to be sacred work. And I don’t feel this sacred work is getting the attention it deserves from me. Without enough community support, my work with the Poetry Chaikhana may have to be trimmed back further, which would be a shame.
I think, instead, that it’s time to make some changes in order to restore balance, return more of my focus to the Poetry Chaikhana, and revitalize communication within this wonderful community we have built over the years.
That’s why I am reaching out to you for help.
I need to significantly cut expenses in order to lessen my work requirements. That requires a few big changes on my part, as well as a certain amount of extra income to help with the transition.
I have set a big goal: I would like to see if we can raise $5,000. I know that sounds like a big number, though it shouldn’t be for a group as large as ours. With a community of several thousand people across the globe, don’t you think that together we can raise that sum?
If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.
Ways you can help:
– You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page at www.poetry-chaikhana.com
– You can sign up for a voluntary monthly donation of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button.
(A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook — and easier to justify as less than the cost of one snack per month.)
– You can send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
I am also grateful for your help through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.
There. That’s my pitch. If you have thought about making a donation to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, if you have been touched by a poem or commentary featured in one of the Poetry Chaikhana emails, if you would like to help more people to discover this amazing poetry… now is an especially helpful time to make a donation.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /
Do you wonder what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like?
I realize that most of my work with the Poetry Chaikhana goes on behind the scenes and few of you have a clear sense of what I really do. Here is a slightly updated version something I wrote a while back that should give you a better sense of my daily work with the Poetry Chaikhana. I thought you might find this interesting reading…
I often start my morning off with a meditation, and then I see which poem seems eager to speak that day. I let my computer suggest a poem at random, and then I try to sense if the poem is “right” for the day. Some mornings I select the first poem that comes up. Other days I’ll spend an hour sorting through possibilities. I try to make sure I have a good balance of spiritual traditions represented over the month. I also make a point of including women’s voices regularly. Occasionally I look for a series of poems that follow a sacred theme or metaphor.
Once I’ve selected the daily poem, I often spend a little time researching the life of the poet so I can pass along a few notes with the poem.
Then I sit with the poem, contemplate it, speak it aloud, let it dance in my mind, and I watch the ideas rise for my commentary. Occasionally I slip back into meditation and when I emerge the commentary is just waiting to be written out.
Some mornings I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, and I just send the poem with a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a couple of years ago, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”
Then I spend a while searching through photos and art among the Flickr or Deviantart “Creative Commons” libraries and look for one that somehow expresses an image or feeling from the poem.
I also select a “Thought for the Day” from among the many I’ve written over the years, also by feel for the day.
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 about 9,000 people! It used to take my computer more than 4 hours to send the poem email out each day, but now I use an email service so my computer is free for other work while it is sending.
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 6,000 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.
When I am working on a new book for publication, there is a whole additional ‘to do’ list involving reprint permission requests, editing, proofreading, layout work, and lots of correspondence with poets and translators.
…And then I start my day job. Whew!
Poetry and Personal Transformation
We forget how fundamental poetry is, not only to culture, but to consciousness. Poetry is meditation in the form of words. I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana website years ago, and it’s just as true today:
“Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drumbeats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”
The Politics of Poetry
In addition to the spiritual importance of this sacred poetry, there is also a cultural, even a political motivation behind the Poetry Chaikhana. Here’s how I described it in a interview a few years ago:
“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma. In the United States, for example, there is an increasing prejudice and fear about the Muslim world. But who can read Jelaluddin Rumi without immediately recognizing the deep truth that Islam can express? The same is true for a non-Hindu reading Lal Ded or a non-Christian reading St. John of the Cross. Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”
Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level.
The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe. We have visitors from every continent and more than 220 countries and territories! (See Poetry Chaikhana Around the World.)
The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /
Thank you so much! I know that a number of you have already given your support to the Poetry Chaikhana, both financially and through your heartfelt good wishes. I want you to know that whatever help you can offer is sincerely appreciated. So I thank you for your help past and present in continuing to build the Poetry Chaikhana as an online resource and community, a publisher, and a voice for art, balanced esoteric exploration, and cultural respect.
While reason is still tracking down the secret,
you end your quest on the open field of love.