Archive for the 'Poetry Chaikhana Misc.' Category

Oct 14 2014

Book Completion and Pre-Order Reminder

I am expecting to receive a print proof copy of The Longing in Between any day now, and I am so pleased. The cover is beautiful, with artwork by AlicePopkorn. Even the way the text is laid out on the page is lovely and meditative. Most of all, I hope you will find the poems and commentary to carry the same sense of inspiration and exploration you expect from these emails and blog posts. The Longing in Between is something I have been working toward since I created the Poetry Chaikhana more than ten years ago. This has only been made possible through the encouragement and long-term support of all of you. I offer my heartfelt thanks! Time to celebrate!

While I was proud of Real Thirst, which I published a few years back, in many ways I saw it as a preliminary run for this and future Poetry Chaikhana anthologies. Unlike Real Thirst, The Longing in Between is not a collection of my own poems. This new book is an anthology of the amazing sacred poetry, classical and contemporary, that you receive in the Poetry Chaikhana emails each week. And each poem is accompanied by my own thoughts and commentary — something people kept telling me they missed in Real Thirst. In other words, The Longing in Between is a collection of favorites from past Poetry Chaikhana emails and blog posts, but edited, refined, and expanded for this new book. And The Longing in Between has twice as many pages as Real Thirst! There is plenty to savor and contemplate in this new anthology.

If you would like to find out more, I just posted further information about The Longing in Between, including the table of contents and some excerpts from the book. Click here to read more…

Pre-Order through Oct. 15 (or thereabout)

I want to remind everyone that tomorrow is the last official day to pre-order your copy of The Longing in Between. I say it is the last “official” date because, unofficially, I can accept pre-orders through the end of Saturday, October 18.

Why pre-order the book? Well, you get a discounted price. I will also hand sign your copy before mailing it out. Most of all, your pre-order helps to cover the initial publishing expenses, which is a big help. Of course, The Longing in Between will be available through normal channels after its publication date in early November.

Read More + Pre-Order

Again, thank you, everyone, for all of your help and encouragement along the way. I consider this book to be a real community accomplishment!

No responses yet

Sep 24 2014

New Book: The Longing In Between

I am so pleased to announce the upcoming publication of the new Poetry Chaikhana anthology, The Longing In Between. The final touches are being added now, and we have a publication date of early November.

The Longing In Between is a new collection poems by beloved classical sacred poets and a few modern visionaries — accompanied by my own thoughts, meditations, personal stories, and commentary.

As much as I love the immediacy of emails and the personal connection they allow, emails are fleeting. Particularly loved emails may get saved for a while, but inevitably they fade into the ethers. The Longing In Between gathers together poems and commentary from favorite Poetry Chaikhana emails, expanded and refined — in book form. For me, nothing can compare with the satisfaction of leaning back in a chair while leisurely turning the pages of a beloved book. I build relationships with books in ways that no email or website can approach. I really hope The Longing In Between will invite you into that sort of literary friendship.

The Longing In Between, Sacred Poetry From Around the World, Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger
Pre-order Now!
= Coming in early November =

The Longing In Between
Sacred Poetry From Around the World

A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

before Oct 15:


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.

Devoted readers of the Poetry Chaikhana can finally enjoy this amazing poetry paired with Ivan’s illuminating commentary in book form. The Longing In Between is a truly engaging and thought-provoking exploration of sacred poetry from around the world.

“The Longing in Between is a work of sheer beauty. Many of the selected poems are not widely known, and Ivan M. Granger has done a great service, not only by bringing them to public attention, but by opening their deeper meaning with his own rare poetic and mystic sensibility.”

author of the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life series

I am announcing The Longing In Between early because the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a special pre-order deal. If your purchase a copy before October 15th–

  • You will receive a discounted price: $14.95 (rather than the full price of $16.95 USD)
  • I will personally sign your copy
  • And, most importantly, you will be offering a big help in covering the Poetry Chaikhana’s initial publication expenses

To purchase a special pre-order copy of The Longing In Between click here or the ‘Purchase’ link above for payment through PayPal. If you prefer to pay by check or money order, you can mail it to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

Shipping and handling: $3 US, $4 Canada, $9 International per book
(Payments should be made to “Poetry Chaikhana.” US funds, please!
And please don’t forget to include your mailing address.)

“Ivan M. Granger has woven these poems into a tapestry of great wisdom with his reflection on each poem. I can imagine each poem and commentary furnishing the basis for a daily meditation.”

author of Consider the Blackbird and A Light that is Shining

       Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–blessed vision!–
that a fountain flowed
here in my heart.
I said: Why, O water, have you come
along this secret waterway,
spring of new life,
which I have never tasted?

       Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–blessed vision!–
that I had a beehive
here in my heart;
and the golden bees
were making
from all my old sorrows
white wax and sweet honey.

       Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–blessed vision!–
a blazing sun shone
here in my heart.
It was blazing because it gave heat
from a red home,
and it was sun because it gave light
and because it made me weep.

              Last night, as I was sleeping,
       I dreamt–blessed vision!–
       that it was God I had
       here in my heart.

              Antonio Machado

This is my favorite poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. Actually, it is one of my favorite poems, period.

The repeated line, which I have translated as “blessed vision,” has elsewhere been rendered as “marvelous error.” Machado’s actual phrase in Spanish is “bendita ilusión,” but this “illusion” is not an erroneous delusion; it is an illusion in the same sense that a dream or vision is an illusion. It is something intangible, seen and felt but not physically there. I have the feeling that Machado is teasing us by calling the experience a dream, seeing if we are foolish enough to ignore it. Perhaps the poet can’t quite believe the beauty of his vision.

Let’s take just a moment to explore how this poem parallels the mystic’s ecstatic experience…

“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.”

author of Awakening Kundalini: The Path To Radical Freedom and Kali’s Bazaar

Ivan M. Granger Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of The Longing In Between and support the Poetry Chaikhana!

And thank you to everyone for all of the encouragement and support along the way!


PS- Happy Equinox and happy New Moon!

2 responses so far

May 05 2014

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.
~ Ivan M. Granger

I woke up this morning, and thought, Why not do something different to start the week off? Some miscellaneous things for you today…

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

Here are several things about me that may not be very important, but some of you might find interesting —

1. I was born with a caul over my face and torticollis (neck atrophy). My parents were advised by doctors to surgically sever the muscles of my neck. They refused, thankfully. Thanks to my parents’ instincts, I have full mobility in my neck today.

2. I was named after Ivan Karamazov, from Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karmazov. I finally read the book when I was 18. I asked my mother why she named me after that particular brother. She said she always imagined him to be an interesting, deep-thinking intellectual. I said, yes, but you know he goes crazy, right? I mean, I could have been named after the good-hearted, naive mystic, instead.

3. I was once under suspicion for murder. (Why are you looking at me that way? No, I didn’t do it.) The crime took place in a state I’ve never visited. But the suspect did look a lot like me. I spent a very long 30 minutes being grilled by detectives before they released me.

4. When I was in high school, I wrote a short horror story and sent it to Stephen King. He sent back a typed index card saying that he liked the story and made a few friendly suggestions. I also wrote a science fiction novel when I was in my 20s. Never got it published. It’s sitting in the back of one of my closets, somewhere.

5. I got very skinny in my 30s, under 130 lbs (for a someone who stands 5′ 11″ tall). Several years ago I decided to radically alter my energies and I intentionally put on weight in order to be more physically present in the world. I had to train myself to eat more. I even lifted weights. In the space of 8 months, I added nearly 50 lbs to my body.

6. I am the son of hippie parents, yet I have never smoked pot… or drunk alcohol. Not once. (OK, I have had a sip of red wine and I think champagne, and maybe two other drinks — I wanted to know what they tasted like.) It’s not a weird religious thing, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things in moderation. For some reason that I don’t understand myself, I made a personal vow not to drink at age 13, and I’ve always stuck with it. On my 21st birthday, I did go to a bar, but mainly because I wanted to finally hear some good live music. A friend met me there and surprised me with a pitcher of beer. I spent all night pretending to drink the beer, but that glass of beer oddly never went down in level. The music was great, though.

7. I went to three universities in three years and graduated from none of them. In my freshman year, I was wait-listed for USC’s school of film. I thought of becoming a movie director, the next Kubrick.

8. I wanted to be Spider-Man as a child.

9. My father lived in Tehran, Iran in the 70s. He was a university professor there, and he left just before the Islamic Revolution kicked into full gear.

10. The only country outside the US I have visited (so far) is Canada. I have not yet been to Europe or India or South America. In all my teenage years in LA, I never crossed the border into Mexico. I have, however, lived in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Washington, and now Colorado. I’ve primarily been an internal traveler. We’ll see if I someday have the opportunity for international travel.

11. I attended a Montessori school as a young child.

12. My wife, Michele, and I lived a few houses away from each other as children in Eugene, Oregon — though we didn’t meet until I was in my 20s. Her family moved out a few months before mine moved in. When we met and started dating as adults, we discovered we have shared childhood memories of all the same places.

13. I can name most of the obscure border crossings throughout Europe. I worked for Rail Europe (in the US) for several years. I eventually moved to the Russian desk; since I could read and write a bit of Russian, part of my job was to fax ticket requests to Moscow.

14. The Greek side of my family can be traced to the island of Chios, near the coast of Turkey. Apparently, I still have distant cousins living on the island.


Some further thoughts on education…

My comments on knowledge and education accompanying Friday’s poem made a few people uncomfortable. To some it sounded as if I was negating the value of education and academic learning, which I really wasn’t trying to do.

I used strong language to make a point about our cultural assumptions. But I should be clear that I am by no means anti-intellectual or blind to the huge value of a good education. In my day job I work as a computer programmer and database designer. I definitely acknowledge the power of a well-exercised intellect that has the ability to think logically and can utilize information effectively. None of that would be possible without a solid education, a few special teachers along the way, and access to good information resources.

When I have a few extra dollars, I tend to buy books. I have shelves filled with books of poetry, history, novels, natural health, and, of course, religion and spirituality.

But– that is still not knowledge in the deep sense.

My real point is that education, books, and the skills of critical thinking can open a life up in profound ways: intellectually, yes, spiritually, professionally, socially, in so many ways. I think it’s hugely important and sometimes undervalued in general American culture and in government priorities. At the same time, we idolize this form of cognition and forget that, for all of its potential, it has significant limitations which causes blind spots within both the individual and in society. Real knowledge, full knowledge, comes from a deeper place within the awareness.

Having a good education with a keen intellect is like having the most powerful computer in the office. You can do amazing things with it. Creative things. Productive things. Or pointless things. Or even destructive things. It all depends on the operator. There are lots of reasons to acquire a capable computer, but we tend to forget that much more important is real knowledge of how — and why — to use it at all.

I strongly support education, intellect, and critical thinking, just not becoming lost within them. I value the intellect but, personally, I tend to value wisdom more and the knowing heart most of all. The question is not which to choose and which to reject, but how to develop them all in proportion and balance.


Fund Drive

Once more, thank you so much for the many generous donations sent in support of the Poetry Chaikhana. I’ll have a few more names to thank in upcoming emails.

To everyone who has sent a donation so far, your help makes a huge difference!


Image by gregster09

The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
of light
on her breast.

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

~ Ivan M. Granger

16 responses so far

Apr 25 2014

Behind the Scenes and Around the World

and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness
~ Rumi

I don’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for the many wonderful, wise, touching, playful emails and blog comments I receive from you all each week. Although I can’t respond to them all individually, I read every one, and they make up an important part of my day. Your notes remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

During the past year, many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help — but I need to ask more of you to join in and support the Poetry Chaikhana. It is still challenging to dedicate as much time and energy as I do each week and still meet my family’s basic financial needs. As amazing as it sounds, more than 9,000 people are receiving this email! Together we can cover the expenses of one person (me) dedicating part of each day to sharing this amazing poetry.

Behind the Scenes

You may wonder what I’m actually doing here on the other end of these poetry emails. Here is a sketch of what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like each morning. I thought you might find it interesting…

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

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

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

If I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, I may choose to send the poem with just a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a few years previously, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”

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

I also select a “Thought for the Day” from among a list I’ve written out over the years, and I find a music CD. And I select a card from the Dharma Gaia Card folks.

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

The Poetry Chaikhana poem email now goes out to more than 9,000 people! It takes my computer more than 4 hours to send the poem email out each day.

Most days I also select a short poem or excerpt to post on the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page. Sometimes two posts. I often post accompanying artwork, as well. We’ve got another 5,000 fans there.

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

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

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

…And then I start my day job. Whew!

/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

Around the World

The results of that work is amazing to me. The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe.

Since the beginning of 2008 (when I first started tracking web statistics), the Poetry Chaikhana has had visits from more than 220 different countries and territories! Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Mar 24 2014

Abe Books and Amazon

The book lovers on the Poetry Chaikhana may have noticed over the past couple of weeks that book links in the poem emails and on the Poetry Chaikhana website now usually go to Abe Books rather than Amazon.

Amazon is in a fight with several state governments over sales taxes. One of those states is Colorado, where I live. Amazon has decided to fight back by revoking all sales commissions earned by the Poetry Chaikhana because of that Colorado residency. Amazon book sales no longer benefit the Poetry Chaikhana.

For that reason, I have switched the Poetry Chaikhana book links to work with Abe Books. The site may seem unfamiliar at first, but in many ways it is much better. Abe is a network of independent booksellers from all around the world. Each time you click on a Poetry Chaikhana book link, you will find a listing of the best prices available in both new and used editions — and you are supporting small booksellers in the process. And because some of the poetry books I feature are obscure and hard-to-find, Abe’s independent bookseller network is more likely to have copies available.

One significant exception: I am still listing the Poetry Chaikhana’s publications, like Real Thirst, through Amazon, however. I know that sounds contradictory, but there are technical benefits for doing so.

The next time you come across an amazing poem that just sings to you and you want to purchase the book it was published in, please try the Poetry Chaikhana link, and buy a copy from the Abe Books list. You will be supporting the Poetry Chaikhana, poetry publishers, and independent booksellers. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

No responses yet

Jan 06 2014

Poetry Chaikhana Anthology Update

I’ve dropped hints for quite I while that I am working on a Poetry Chaikhana anthology — and it is finally at a point that I think I can say a little more about it…

Balancing my available time and energies has meant a patient approach, but the anthology is beginning to take shape. I now have many of the necessary reprint permissions, and I expect to receive approval soon for several others.

(Why are permissions even necessary? While most of the original poetry selections are in many cases hundreds of years old and in the public domain, the English translations are recent. Those translations are creative works in their own right, which are copyrighted and require reprint permission from the poem’s translator or publisher.)

As the final permissions come in, the anthology is beginning to take its final form.

The next step will then be editing. Since the anthology will include a number of my commentaries. For those of you who have been reading my commentaries for a while, you know that I sometimes leap from idea to idea rather abruptly. And I include a generous seasoning of grammatical errors and misspellings for flavor. So I’m not planning to rush through the editing process.

Then comes final proofreading. When I get to that stage, I may ask for a handful of volunteers to help with the proofreading. The proofreaders for Real Thirst were such a big help a couple years ago.

At that point, I make final layout choices, design the books cover, and handle all of the necessary publishing details, like assign an ISBN number.

The last step sending it off to the printer.

And then we have our book!

I’m aiming for a Spring publication date. Summer at the latest. So mark your calendars!

I genuinely hope everyone will find something special in this upcoming anthology!

2 responses so far

Dec 18 2013

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Cards Available Again

The initial printing of this card set sold out quickly at the beginning of the month, but we now have more. With such an enthusiastic response, there is a chance that they will sell out a second time — so place your order soon if you want to make sure to receive a set.

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart
Card Set – 12 full-color cards

Sayings and Short Poems by Ivan M. Granger
Art & Design by Rashani Réa

+ $2 Shipping


A beautiful collection of meditative sayings, thought-provoking statements, and short poems accompanied by the colorful, collage-like artwork of Rashani Réa.

  • Keep a set of these cards by your bed, in your place of meditation or prayer, or at your desk.
  • Select a card each time you seek a new perspective, a spark of creativity, a moment of clarity, or renewed focus in your spiritual practice.
  • Frame your favorite and display it on a wall or bookshelf.

This lovely card set also makes a wonderful gift!

Note: These are not greeting cards.

No responses yet

Dec 04 2013

Card Set Updates

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Sales!

Wow! The interest in the Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Card Set has been fantastic! In less than 2 days we’ve already sold out of our initial printing!

But don’t worry — if you have placed an order or want to place an order, I am working with the printer to have more cards ready as soon as possible. They should be available in one to two weeks. Since this card set is a new item, I didn’t anticipate how hugely popular it would be, and so I ordered too few cards initially. But more are coming soon!

If you are interested in receiving a set of these cards in December, place your order soon, and I will do everything I can to get them to you on time.

International Shipment

Several of you have asked about shipping outside the US. As of yesterday, the PayPal order form has been updated to with international shipping prices. So please feel free to order from the UK, Australia, India, Pakistan… I can’t absolutely guarantee that international deliveries will arrive before the end of the year, but I’ll do my best to make it possible.

Non-PayPal Orders

I have received a few questions from people who would like to order but prefer not to use PayPal. You can always send a check or money order (in USD, please) to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

If you mail in payment, I will do my best to get shipments out for the earliest possible delivery.

I do not yet have a merchant credit card account set up. That means I do not have the ability to process credit card numbers directly — sorry.

Thank you, everyone, for your enthusiastic response!

No responses yet

Dec 02 2013

Announcement: Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Set

I hope you had a joyful Thanksgiving (if you’re in the Thanksgiving part of the world). My wife and I played tabletop games with friends. It is also Hanukkah. And the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and the New Year are all quickly coming up. May this be a blessed time of light and renewal for all!

And I have some news…

I am so pleased to announce that the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a beautiful new card set of sayings and short poems. It is a collection of several of my “thought for the day” sayings and a few short poems, with artwork Rashani Réa of Dharma Gaia Cards.

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart
Card Set – 12 full-color cards

Sayings and Short Poems by Ivan M. Granger
Art & Design by Rashani Réa

+ $2 Shipping


A beautiful collection of meditative sayings, thought-provoking statements, and short poems accompanied by the colorful, collage-like artwork of Rashani Réa.

  • Keep a set of these cards by your bed, in your place of meditation or prayer, or at your desk.
  • Select a card each time you seek a new perspective, a spark of creativity, a moment of clarity, or renewed focus in your spiritual practice.
  • Frame your favorite and display it on a wall or bookshelf.

This lovely card set also makes a wonderful gift!

This collection of cards came together in a surprising way: During the past few months I’ve been quietly working on a Poetry Chaikhana anthology, a selection of the amazing poetry we share each week, accompanied by my commentary and spiritual ramblings. (I know I’ve been promising this anthology for some time, but it is coming together nicely and should be available next year.) In the midst of that work, a half-formed but strong spark of an idea popped into my head: do something with cards. I casually emailed Rashani Réa, an artist I know in Hawaii who does stunning, collage-like artwork imbued with a strong spiritual element, and I suggested we think of doing something together. She surprised me several days later, saying that creative inspiration had taken over and she was already immersed in the design of the cards. A few weeks later — here they are!

Rashani also waived her normal design fee to support the work of the Poetry Chaikhana. Thanks to her generosity, your purchase of these cards doubly benefits for the Poetry Chaikhana — and you get this wonderful card set!

And, if these sell well, we may put together a series of “Poetry Chaikhana Cards” — Lalla, Rumi, Basho, St. John of the Cross… Is that something you’d like? Let us know.

Here are a few examples from the card set:

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea
the wild places
in yourself
See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.
The divine
is experienced in the heart.

The intellect, at best,
can only trail behind and take notes.

Beloved, they want to know:
Did I reach up to You,
or did You reach out to me?

And they want to know:
What is real

How can I explain

— we pour
into each other.

~ Ivan M. Granger

Purchasing these cards is a wonderful way to support the Poetry Chaikhana. They also can be given as gifts of inspiration this holiday season.

You can order through PayPal by clicking the ‘Purchase’ link above or on the Poetry Chaikhana website. Or, if you prefer, you can send a check or money order to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

Please be sure to include your delivery address.

I should mention that, because these cards are a new and we don’t yet know how popular they will be, our initial printing is limited — so if you want a set right away, make sure to place your order soon. If they sell out quickly, more cards will be available after mid-December.

Have a beautiful day!


11 responses so far

Nov 13 2013

My Introduction to Sacred Poetry

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked how I came to the world of sacred poetry. What set me on this path? Was there a particular poet who opened the doorway or a line that hooked me? What was my inspiration for starting the Poetry Chaikhana?

My father, Steven Granger, was a poet, so I heard poetry from a young age. Like many young people, I wrote a bit of poetry as I grew up, but I didn’t take it too seriously. Most of the poetry I was exposed to was, well, boring to me. I thought of poetry as belonging my father’s world. To me it was mostly an intellectual game of words.

In the year 2000, I moved with my wife Michele to Maui. A friend from the mainland sent me a series of talks by the poet David Whyte on cassette tapes. I went for long drives along Maui’s country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields, among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent, as he told stories and recited poetry by poets I hadn’t heard of before: Antonio Machado, Anna Akhmatova.

Maui’s natural beauty and quiet rhythms of land and sea and sky inspired me to go deeper into my spiritual practices. I was meditating deeply, praying, fasting, going for long walks in the eucalyptus forests that grew along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano. It was idyllic, yet I was going through a personal crisis.

/ Photo by alierturk /

I had just broken with a spiritual group I had been practicing with for nearly ten years. So, while I was engaged in intensive spiritual practice, it had lost its context. Should I still be following the same form of prayer, the same focus in meditation? I was flailing about.

Christmas came, and the sense of crisis deepened. The holidays just seemed to emphasize my disorientation. I was in my early 30s by that point and had no career to speak of. I was just doing work to get by. I was largely cut off from friends and family, cut off even from the American mainland. My one driving goal was spiritual growth. That was my only identity. And it was in disarray.

I came to a profound personal confrontation. For the first time I really saw myself. And that was a terrifying thing. I dropped all pretense and projection, all the fantasies of who I thought I was or who I might become. I just looked at myself plainly, as I was. What I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I felt I was a mostly good-hearted person, but largely ineffectual. I had the ironic recognition that I was basically a likable flake. What truly surprised me, though, was the thought that followed, which was that it was okay.

New Years came and went, while I hovered in that limbo state.

The combination began to ferment in my mind – the poetry and the personal crisis. Continue Reading »

40 responses so far

Jul 26 2013

New Home for the Website

It’s official: The Poetry Chaikhana website is now up on our new web host. I knew the site migration would take a while, but it took even longer than I expected. And I am so pleased to announce the completion of the process.

I’m very happy to be working with our new web host, Canvas Dreams. (Thank you, Suzin, for the recommendation.) Canvas Dreams is based in Portland, Oregon (not far from my hometown of Eugene, Oregon). I like their strong environmental ethic, and the fact that they power their business, including their servers, with wind power. They are also less expensive than the previous web host, which helps.

Another big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has made a donation in recent weeks, freeing up enough of my time to complete this project. The Poetry Chaikhana can now move forward, and with better energy too!


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Jul 22 2013

Chaikhana and The Story of Tea

I often get asked what a “chaikhana” is. The short answer is that it is a tea house. (Chai = tea). The inevitable second question is, why a “poetry chaikhana”? What does poetry, especially sacred poetry, have to do with tea? The act of sipping tea naturally has a contemplative quality to it, but there’s a deeper reason why I chose the name Poetry Chaikhana all those years ago. It was inspired by a Sufi story–

/ Photo by Doubtful-Della /

The Story of Tea

In ancient times, tea was not known outside China. Rumours of its existence had reached the wise and the unwise of other countries, and each tried to find out what it was in accordance with what he wanted or what he thought it should be.

The King of Inja (‘here’) sent an embassy to China, and they were given tea by the Chinese Emperor. But, since they saw that the peasants drank it too, they concluded that it was not fit for their royal master: and, furthermore, that the Chinese Emperor was trying to deceive them, passing off some other substance for the celestial drink.

The greatest philosopher of Anja (‘there’) collected all the information he could about tea, and concluded that it must be a substance which existed but rarely, and was of another order than anything then known. For was it not referred to as being an herb, a water, green, black, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet?

In the countries of Koshish and Bebinem, for centuries the people tested all the herbs they could find. Many were poisoned, all were disappointed. For nobody had brought the tea-plant to their lands, and thus they could not find it. They also drank all the liquids which they could find, but to no avail.

In the territory of Mazhab (‘Sectarianism’) a small bag of tea was carried in procession before the people as they went on their religious observances. Nobody thought of tasting it: indeed, nobody knew how. All were convinced that the tea itself had a magical quality. A wise man said: ‘Pour upon it boiling water, ye ignorant ones!’ They hanged him and nailed him up, because to do this, according to their belief, would mean the destruction of their tea. This showed that he was an enemy of their religion.

Before he died, he had told his secret to a few, and they managed to obtain some tea and drink it secretly. When anyone said: ‘What are you doing?’ they answered: ‘It is but medicine which we take for a certain disease.’

And so it was throughout the world. Tea had actually been seen growing by some, who did not recognize it. It had been given to others to drink, but they thought it the beverage of the common people. It had been in the possession of others, and they worshipped it. Outside China, only a few people actually drank it, and those covertly.

Then came a man of knowledge, who said to the merchants of tea, and the drinkers of tea, and to others: ‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not. Instead of talking about the celestial beverage, say nothing, but offer it at your banquets. Those who like it will ask for more. Those who do not, will show that they are not fitted to be tea-drinkers. Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

The tea was brought from one stage to another along the Silk Road, and whenever a merchant carrying jade or gems or silk would pause to rest, he would make tea, and offer it to such people as were near him, whether they were aware of the repute of tea or not. This was the beginning of the Chaikhanas, the teahouses which were established all the way from Peking to Bokhara and Samarkand. And those who tasted, knew.

At first, mark well, it was only the great and the pretended men of wisdom who sought the celestial drink and who also exclaimed: ‘But this is only dried leaves!’ or: ‘Why do you boil water, stranger, when all I want is the celestial drink?’, or yet again: ‘How do I know that this is? Prove it to me. Besides the colour of the liquid is not golden, but ochre!’

When the truth was known, and when the tea was brought for all who would taste, the roles were reversed, and the only people who said things like the great and intelligent had said were the absolute fools. And such is the case to this day.

– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 – 1131)

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
by Idries Shah

In this way, I hope the poems and thoughts I share through the Poetry Chaikhana bring a hint of that celestial drink to your lips. These are poems not to be praised for mere artistry, not to be worshipped from afar, not to be exclusively studied or analyzed. These are poems to be tasted. They are meant to be imbibed until we feel warmth in the belly and sweetness in the heart.

‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not… Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

Have a beautiful day! I think I’m going to go to the local teahouse and order a tall glass of tea!

11 responses so far

Jul 08 2013

Gratitude and Update

Thank you once again to everyone who has donated in response to my request for help a few weeks ago. New people to thank include–

– Kathryn (NY), Dirk (CO), Shantidasi (HI), Kathy (CA), Kathleen (NY), Lizabeth (subscriber), D Scott (AZ)

Web Migration Update

I have been busily working behind the scenes on migrating the extensive Poetry Chaikhana website to a new web host. After three weeks, we’re about 2/3 done. First, there were bureaucratic issues (with the old host provider and domain name server). Then there was the busywork of transferring lots of files. Then the blogs required exports, imports, database setup and configuration (with special thanks to Mark at Findhorn in Scotland for his technical advice on Word Press blogs). Before the site can go live on the new web host’s servers I still have a handful of technical issues to resolve, but I’m steadily making progress. Whew!

Because this has taken so much time and energy, your recent donations have been a huge help. I look forward to announcing that the Poetry Chaikhana is live with the new host soon.

Again, thank you, everyone!

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Jun 17 2013

Thank You

I am so deeply touched by the generosity of the Poetry Chaikhana community. Thank you to everyone who has sent in a donation or signed up for a monthly contribution. Your support will help to solve several challenges and allow the Poetry Chaikhana to move forward with upcoming projects and technical needs.

Here is a special thank you ecard for all of you.

Your support makes the Poetry Chaikhana possible!

Recent contributors include —

Anya (OR), Mary (subscriber), Gary (CA), William (subscriber), Suzin (NJ), Warwick (UK), Salifou (AB, Canada), Barbara (ON, Canada), Gary (subscriber), Emilia (supporter), Laura (subscriber), Ken (CA), Mary Louise (SC), Sylvia (NSW, Australia), Bill (WA), Eve (subscriber), Vicki (NC), Susan (CA), Lisa (supporter), Stephen (UK), Sandra (supporter), Sacred Circle of Yoga (MA), Anil (NY), Michael (CO), Elizabeth (MA), Sarah (CA), Thomas (NJ), Triva (subscriber), Glenda (supporter), Bonnie (supporter), Jack (OR), Dr J (BC, Canada), Juan (CA), Therese (NY), Curtis (NC), Dianne & Robert (ID), Geraldine (NJ), Susan (IL), Becky (CA), Craig (NC), Surendra (CA), Jessica (CA), Alima (HI), Rachel (ACT, Australia), Lindsey (UK), Kurvin (Mauritius), Harvey (UK), Sue (UK), Lysana (UK), Frederic (IN), Brenda (subscriber), Robyn (ON, Canada), Mariabruna (CA), Kim (CA), Theresa (NY), Elaine (AZ), Marcia (PA), Wendy (NSW, Australia), Maria (QC, Canada), Helen, Joyce (OR), Tia (subscriber), Keith (WA), Agnes (Netherlands), Grace, Jim (TX), Devvasena (NJ), Nanci (WA), Alexandra (subscriber), Hannah (subscriber), Vera (subscriber), Margot (Australia, supporter), Jennifer (VIC, Australia), Concetta (OR), Eugene (VA), Rasika (India), Maeve (Ireland), Tim (UK), Margaret (NH), Penny (CA), Jane (BC, Canada), Andrew (Australia, supporter), Francis (PA), Frances (subscriber), Linda (CA), Steven (VA, supporter)

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Jun 10 2013

Thank you for the generous response!

Thank you to everyone who has sent in a donation or signed up for a monthly contribution in response to my request last week. I am truly amazed by the generosity of this community. I know how difficult it is to make even a modest donation. I am deeply moved — thank you.

A few of you have sent me notes saying that you appreciate my willingness to ask for help, recognizing that is not an easy thing to do. You are so right. Requesting money in support of the Poetry Chaikhana is the most difficult aspect of my work. I grew up with a worldview of striving to transcend money and material needs. Admitting the need for money, even for the most simple and practical needs of this work, hits a lot of triggers for me. But the Poetry Chaikhana necessarily exists within society in order to reach people — and so I have to play by that society’s financial rules to a certain extent. The blunt truth is that in a hyper-capitalist society, the Poetry Chaikhana needs a certain amount of capital to sustain itself.

The rebel in me can’t help but subvert that paradigm at the same time. That is why I always try to make it clear that financial support, while greatly appreciated, is not a requirement. And when I ask for donations, I hope no one feels pressure to strain their finances. When a donation is relatively easy and feels meaningful to you, then it is accepted with gratitude. But I hope everyone enjoys the Poetry Chaikhana, whether or not you are able to make a donation.

Again, thank you!

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Jun 07 2013

Poetry Chaikhana Needs Your Support

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

Hi –

Almost every day I receive at least one email from someone telling me how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to them. 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.

Several of you have signed up for monthly subscriptions or send in periodic donations. These contributions greatly help, but I need to ask more of you to join in and support this work. We have a large Poetry Chaikhana community — more than 9,000 people are receiving this email! And that number grows every day as people pass the daily poems to friends and as word-of-mouth spreads. I am certain that, as a group, we can cover the expenses of one person (me) dedicating part of each day to the Poetry Chaikhana — as I write commentary and send out the daily poem, maintain the poetry database, research and add new poets, update the website, and respond to many of your emails.

If you’re curious what sort of work I do every day with the Poetry Chaikhana, take a look at Behind the Scenes with the Poetry Chaikhana.

/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

Projects that need your support

Change to web hosting service. We have used the same web host for years, a small company with excellent technical support. Last year they were bought out by another company. Working with the new company has had several frustrations, with monthly fees that are too high. It is time to switch to another web hosting service. The switchover itself only requires a minor investments, but it will require quite a bit of my time, time that cannot be put into my day job. Your donations will allow me to dedicate the time necessary to manage the transition.

A new computer. The computer I use to manage the Poetry Chaikhana website and emails has served me faithfully for many years, far longer than you typically expect in this era of rapidly changing technology. And I think it can continue to serve for a little while longer, but soon I should replace it with a newer system that will allow me to work more efficiently and maintain the Poetry Chaikhana well into the future.

The Poetry Chaikhana’s first anthology. I have hinted at an upcoming Poetry Chaikhana anthology for more than a year now. You must be getting as impatient as I am to hold the book in your hand. I feel like I’ve been waiting for the arrival of an old friend. Originally I thought I’d be able to quickly follow Real Thirst with the anthology, but chronic health issues and general busyness keep putting the project on hold. Your donations will allow me to focus the necessary time and energy to complete the anthology.

And, of course, the daily work of sending the poem emails, maintaining and updating the Poetry Chaikhana website, responding to as many emails as possible, all require a my time and energy and expense.

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

(Of course, please do not contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a modest amount — from many people — is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.)

Ways you can contribute:

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

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

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

I am also grateful for your support through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

“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… 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.)

2 responses so far

May 05 2013

Real Thirst Book Signing – May 4, 2013

Ivan M. Granger

Ivan M. Granger Book Signing 5/4/13

Thank you to everyone who came by for the Real Thirst Book Signing event yesterday. Since I do most of my work over the Internet, I often have wonderful conversations with people via email, but I rarely get the chance to meet readers of the Poetry Chaikhana in person. So it was a special treat to meet several of you and share smiles face-to-face. I signed books, read a few poems, answered a few questions. But I especially enjoyed the conversations and (thanks to Roger’s suggestion) the opportunity to hear everyone read a short stanza from my translation of Antonio Machado’s “Songs.”

Thank you also to the folks at La Vita Bella Coffee for generously hosting the event. A good cozy, community environment, well-suited to discussion and the poetic spirit…

The Real Thirst Fellowship

One response so far

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