Aug 25 2010
Don’t ask questions
with simple answers.
Ask the questions
that bring you face-to-face with the Mystery.
Aug 25 2010
Don’t ask questions
with simple answers.
Ask the questions
that bring you face-to-face with the Mystery.
Jul 29 2010
Do you wonder what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like?
I normally 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 year ago, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”
Then I spend a while searching through photos among Flickr’s “Creative Commons” library and look for one that somehow expresses an image or feeling from the poem.
I select a “Thought for the Day” from among the many I’ve written over the years, and I find a music CD.
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 nearly 7,000 people! It takes my computer 3 – 4 hours to send the poem email out each day.
I also 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!
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 /
Your Support as a Community
It is still a struggle to find a workable balance in time and money to bring you the Poetry Chaikhana on a regular basis. I support myself and my family by working part-time as a computer programmer. My computer work is flexible enough to allow me to spend a lot of time with the Poetry Chaikhana, but that also means it’s flexible enough to allow me to earn very little income
To continue this work, the Poetry Chaikhana needs community support.
If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.
(I want to be clear, though, that I am not asking you to contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a small amount – from many people – is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.)
Ways you can contribute:
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
Many of you have been generous with your contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, whether financial or energetic, is sincerely appreciated.
A warm thank you to everyone!
May 10 2010
Two of my poems are featured on the TIFERET Journal website. Click on the “Journal” link, and then select “Poetry Corner.” This section of the site is under the guidance of silent lotus, himself a luminous poet who regularly shares his work on the Poetry Chaikhana Forum. Elizabeth Reninger also has a poem on the Tiferet site; you may recognize her name as well, since she’s a poet we’ve featured in past Poetry Chaikhana poem emails.
The Tiferet Journal is an excellent publication, and their site is worth exploring…
Apr 19 2010
I just wanted to post a brief note to let you know that I won’t be posting to the Poetry Chaikhana this week. Over the weekend I managed to crack a couple of ribs in a martial arts class. Ouch!
I am doing well, however, and already beginning to mend. Full recovery will probably take a few weeks, but I should be able to return to the Poetry Chaikhana next week.
So, no new poetry posts this week, but I wanted to let you know why.
Sending lots of love!
Nov 11 2009
Poetry Chaikhana readers often ask me about myself. Who is the guy behind all those poetry emails? What drew you to sacred poetry? And just what does “Poetry Chaikhana” mean?
As a way to answer some of those questions, I thought I’d post an audio interview I did a couple of years ago with the Ecstatic Art and Theater Project (www.ecstaticproject.org). I talk a little about myself, and a lot about poetry — the transformational power of poetry, the ways poetry naturally expresses the sacred experience, the non-dogmatic nature of poetry. And I read a few poems.
I hope you find it inspiring and thought-provoking…
Click to listen: EATP Interview with Ivan M. Granger
Oct 26 2009
I am back, but shaking off a tenacious case of the flu.
I’ve received so many kind-hearted, compassionate emails, blog comments, and posts on my Facebook page about my mother. I want to thank you all. I’ve been deeply touched.
…My mother died recently. I was able to spend some good time with her at her bedside. Her final week was difficult, and it was clear that, at that point, her passing was the right thing, a release from her discomfort. The complexities of American medical bureaucracy, added to some strange family politics didn’t give me much chance to grieve initially, but now that I’m settling into my normal life rhythms again the natural feelings of loss are coming forth. Even though most of my adult life I’ve lived at some distance from my mother, she has always been a close friend and source of inspiration. We shared the bond of a solitary child raised by a single mother, so her passing is certainly affecting me.
One thing that people often assume is that when a loved one dies, that the relationship is somehow over. Even people who have a belief in an afterlife tend to react this way, at least on an emotional level. My personal perspective is that the relationship continues; it just changes.
I’ll tell you a story about my mother’s death.
My mother died just past midnight, on Saturday, October 10. Much later that afternoon, my wife, Michele, and I went for a walk in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, California, where my mother grew up. We were naturally exhausted, a little stunned, not talking much, just quietly walking side-by-side. It was not quite dusk.
Suddenly I stopped and grabbed Michele’s arm. She looked at me and I pointed to the sidewalk in front of us. There, slowly crossing the sidewalk just in front of us, was a huge, green scarab beetle! It was a shimmering, iridescent green, like a walking jewel, a truly beautiful creature. Now I grew up in southern California myself, and I’d never seen a scarab beetle before. I didn’t even know they lived in the region. But here one was, patiently walking across the sidewalk in front of us.
My mother had a deep love for the culture and spiritual traditions of ancient Egypt. Her trip to Egypt, to stand before the pyramids and stone temples, was one of the great moments of her life. Books of Egypt filled her shelves, Egyptian papyrus paintings hung upon her bedroom wall. And a crucial detail: Scarabs are an important symbol of ancient Egypt… often associated with eternal life and rebirth.
My wife and I glanced at each other wide eyed, and knelt to watch the scarab finish her trek across the sidewalk and finally disappear into the grass at the sidewalk’s edge.
You can choose to read that event how you wish, but it felt like a loving affirmation at a powerful moment.
Because I’m still shaking off this flu, I won’t be resuming work on the Poetry Chaikhana for another week. Check back next Monday.
Lots of love to you all!
Oct 05 2009
Earlier today I received word that my mother has slipped into a coma and she is expected to pass within a few days. I’m traveling to Los Angeles to be with her right now.
So, naturally, the Poetry Chaikhana will be on hold for a couple weeks or so.
Blessings and love to you all.
A note posted to my Facebook page–
Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the light because the dawn has come. – Rabindranath Tagore
Aug 31 2009
When I first started the Poetry Chaikhana a little over five years ago, I had humble expectations. I remember thinking to myself, If at least 30 to 40 people follow it regularly, that will be enough.
Well, as of today, we have 5,000 people on the poetry email list! Wow!
And that’s all without marketing, ads, or exchanged links. Everyone has found his or her own way to the site, through your word of mouth and serendipitous web searches. That’s 5,000 unexpected, unique pathways to the Poetry Chaikhana.
We’ve managed to build quite a community, with people coming together from all over the world to appreciate these elevating, non-dogmatic expressions of the spirit. In fact, the web site has had visitors from more than 200 countries! If you’re curious which countries have shown the most interest, take a look at Around the World.
May 22 2009
I just got word that the Poetry Chaikhana Blog is listed in the Top 100 Poetry Blogs complied by Online University Reviews.
The list they’ve put together looks like an excellent resource of blogs focusing on collected poetry, original work, audio and video poetry, even children’s poetry. Worth exploring…
May 04 2009
This weekend I completed a series of updates to the Poetry Chaikhana web site that I think you’ll like…
– Site Search
You can now search for anything anywhere on the Poetry Chaikhana site, from any page! Search for poets, words, phrases, themes, spiritual traditions. The Poetry Chaikhana is far too rich of a resource to not give you the ability to run a search. Well, that’s now available. I’ve been planning on adding this capability for years, literally, but never quite got around to it – until now.
– Poetry Page Redesign
I made several changes to the look and feel of the poetry pages. Space is used better and, I hope, the pages should be more inviting to the eyes.
I made a few other miscellaneous technical changes, but those two are the changes you’re most likely to notice. So please explore the changes. Use them as an excuse to re-explore the site. Make a few new discoveries…
Apr 17 2009
The Poetry Chaikhana is a community reaching across the globe. We have visitors from every continent (okay, not Antarctica) and almost every country — literally! (See Poetry Chaikhana Around the World.) You are participating in a worldwide, multi-ethnic, multi-religious community of seekers, sages, and artists. By exploring the sacred poetry of the world together we open pathways for dialog, greater respect, and deeper understanding. And, of course, we get to share stunning expressions of humanity’s wisdom and wonder and wordplay.
I haven’t made a focused appeal for donations in the last twelve months, but your support is what keeps the Poetry Chaikhana going. Your donations pay for Internet services and software; they allow me to build the library of poetry books that is the backbone of this site. Most of all, your donations free me up to share my thoughts on these amazing poems, respond to your emails, add new poets to the website, and, when necessary, troubleshoot technical problems.
As you read these poem emails, as you visit the website, if you are regularly touched by that spark of connection and inspiration, please consider supporting the Poetry Chaikhana by clicking on one of the Donate buttons below or sending a check or money order in the mail. Your support keeps our community alive. It allows us to be a resource of inspiration and exploration for more and more people around the world.
If you can’t make a donation right now, please know your supportive thoughts and word-of-mouth recommendations are also genuine contributions, as well.
Ivan M. Granger
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /
Apr 13 2009
Do you ever wonder what I do for the Poetry Chaikhana besides sending out poetry? The Poetry Chaikhana is actually an extensive network, including the poem emails, a website of rich resources, a blog, a forum, a Facebook page, and now a Twitter page. It’s a lot for one person to manage in his free time (especially when that person tends to be a rather quiet, meditative type).
The main way I coordinate it all is through the custom software I developed several years ago. But that software was becoming increasingly out-of-date and not as efficient as I’d like. This past weekend I just completed a major update that will allow the Poetry Chaikhana to keep serving you its special brand of tea well into the future. You probably won’t immediately notice much change on your end, but I’ll certainly have a more relaxed smile on my face.
…And a reminder that your generous donations are what allow me to do all that work behind the scenes — thank you.
Apr 10 2009
I’ll admit, it’s taken me a long time to figure out what the big deal is about Twitter, but in the last few days I’ve been exploring the world of tweets and I think I’m starting to get some good ideas.
I just set up a Poetry Chaikhana Twitter page:
Sign up. Check it out. Send me lots of ideas and feedback. Tweet me.
Mar 02 2009
As of this morning, we now have more than 4,000 people on the Poetry Chaikhana email list. Wow! When I started this project on the Web in 2003, I figured I’d be content if at least 30 people signed up.
Mar 01 2009
I’ve just been exploring the stunning paintings of Iman Maleki…
Yes, these are in fact paintings, not photographs.
/ A Tar Player /
Iman Maleki is a young Iranian artist, born in 1976 in Tehran. When he turned 15 he began to study under Iranian realist painter Morteza Katouzian. Iman Maleki has been painting professionally since the late 1990s.
Looking at these images for the first time, you play a game with yourself: It’s like staring at an optical illusion. One moment you’re convinced you’re looking at a photograph, then a switch is flipped in your brain, and you see a painting. Continue Reading »
Jan 13 2009
/ Photo by larry&flo /
I often use the word “mystic” in my commentaries. To me it suggests one who is concerned with inner truth and realization, as opposed to a mere follower of rules, theologies, and surface observance. “Mystic” is a word free from most religious or sectarian definitions and, therefore, well suited to an interfaith site like the Poetry Chaikhana. Less often I’ll use “esoteric,” and when I do, I generally use it to mean the same thing, perhaps slightly emphasizing the more academic-sounding heft of the word.
Some writers, however, make a strict distinction between the words “mystic” and “esoteric.”
They point out that esotericism is concerned with with the essential, the essence of things. An esotericist is exclusively focused on God or enlightenment, and not the subtle/psychic/spiritual phenomena that may be encountered along the way. A mystic, by contrast, is interested in the entire landscape of spiritual experience.
Those can be important distinctions to keep in mind for certain uses but, from my perspective, it is an artificial distinction that only a lexicographer can love.
In my opinion, the only valid goal is the esotericist’s. And the only responsible approach to the journey is the mystic’s.
In other words, to be successful, an esotericist must also be a mystic.
So I hope you’ll forgive me as I continue to use a very broad definition of “mystic” as it swirls and merges with the “esoteric”…
Jan 05 2009
/ Photo by Berd Whitlock /
Up until now I haven’t directly addressed the current invasion of Gaza, but I don’t want to appear to be ignoring this deeply traumatic world crisis. Although I am quite aware of politics and world events in my private life, the Poetry Chaikhana isn’t intended to be overtly political or a soapbox for me to express my own personal political perspective. It is, however, definitely intended to encourage a deeper respect for different cultures and the great world spiritual traditions. In that sense, the Poetry Chaikhana is indirectly political; it is meant to be subversive to the ‘us vs. them’ political instinct that so often leads to violence and wars.
I will just say this about the current invasion of Gaza: There is so much suffering occurring in that region that it is almost unbearable, and that suffering is being felt by people on all sides of the conflict. Sadly, this new invasion probably signals a worsening of the already frayed relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It’s one of those historical events that can’t be forgotten, and so the bitterness and wounding gets passed on to another generation. The invasion seems to be a total rejection of peace in the near future.
My heart breaks for all the peoples of the region whose pain is likely to deepen.
It’s now past time to think deeply about these issues, to question past assumptions of right and wrong, and to dig in for the necessary multi-generational process that is now required for real and honest and lasting peace in the region. Does that sound too hard? Well, there is no other way. Become patient, determined, vocal, and, most of all, continue to nurture a heart that feels, even though it may feel pain.
I am reminded of a poem a read years ago, though I’ve forgotten the author’s name:
My heart breaks