Jan 21 2020

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Rise early at dawn

Published by under Poetry

Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins.
In the dead of the night, when all other doors are locked,
the door for the Lovers to enter opens.
Be wide awake in the dark when Lovers
begin fluttering around the Beloved’s window,
like homing pigeons arriving with flaming bodies.

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

/ Image by legends2k /

As I get older I more easily rise at dawn. Sometimes I am trying to sleep in, but the dawn insists. Reading these words by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir, however, makes me want to wake up full of energy in the middle of the night. That’s when our storytelling begins.

Actually, let’s not hurry past that reference to storytelling. It’s in the darkness that we tell stories. In a world before electricity or gas lights, nighttime is the end of activity. So we tell stories. Nighttime is when we normally sleep, and dream.

But most of us do this rather passively. We listen to another person’s story. Or in the modern world, perhaps we watch television. We go to sleep, we dream, we wake up, we forget.

Not so for the seeker. The stories we tell ourselves are the stories of the soul, the way the self understands itself. In dreams and stories we reformulate our perception of the world, deepen it. And in doing so the psyche becomes more dynamic and alive to its own possibilities.

Most people imagine life shuts down at night, but a lover knows better. When the rest of the world rests, the lover finds those sweet illicit moments with the Beloved. Even if it’s just a glimpse, a smile through the window’s lattice, that is what the lover lives for. We light up, we catch fire in the night.

Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
More Books >>

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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One response so far

Jan 21 2020

fuel for love

Let every experience
be fuel for the fire
of love.

No responses yet

Jan 15 2020

Haiku Enlightenment is now available in Kindle format

Published by under Books

If you have been waiting for the Kindle version of Haiku Enlightenment, it is now available.

Because it is such a new release, it may still be listed as a separate item on Amazon, so you may not yet see the Kindle link if you are on the Amazon page for the printed edition, but that will be updated soon.

So the question is, how do you like your haiku — printed or digital?

Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition
   Kindle ebook

(The above links are for the US Amazon site, but it is available through all international Amazon sites. Soon it should be available through other online booksellers, as well. Or ask your local independent bookseller to order it for you.)

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Jan 15 2020

Czeslaw Milosz – Late Ripeness

Published by under Poetry

Late Ripeness
by Czeslaw Milosz

English version by Robert Hass

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget — I kept saying — that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago –
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef — they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

— from New and Collected Poems 1931 – 2001, by Czeslaw Milosz

/ Image by Sathish J /

This is one of my favorite poems by Czeslaw Milosz. I hope you feel it too…

Try reading those early lines again:

I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

Notice how the breaking of the line influences the meaning. It is not written “I felt… / I entered…” separating it into two logical statements. Instead, the first line is “I felt… and I entered.” There the line stops, forcing us to stop as well and consider it as a statement complete in itself. And once we enter, we are almost overwhelmed by the next line; it is as if, at that point, all of existence has become “the clarity of early morning.”

That sense is further emphasized by the next lines, “One after another my former lives were departing, / like ships, together with their sorrow.” Milosz is describing how the weight of one’s personal history, the burden of past identity and the actions that seemed to give it reality, all of that is washed away in the flood of that light. Not even washed away; “departing,” gently drifting away. Reading that line, I have the sense of those laden ships, not sailing away, but fading out, like gloomy phantoms ever looking backward suddenly caught in the brilliance of dawn.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

The lines of this poem have an intuitive recognition of the unity at rest beneath the jangle and hurts of life. It is a recognition that allows for forgiveness… and self-forgiveness.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

So much suffering in the world, so much grief and anxiety we ourselves carry, and all of that purely for want of the unfathomed gifts and inner beauty we carry hidden within us. We hold ourselves back and so starve the world, and starve ourselves too. Why not instead give from our abundance? Why not act with boldness and beauty? That’s what we’re here for, aren’t we?

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

Yet these observations of missed opportunity are made without harsh critique. The poet seems forgiving as he reviews life in his late ripeness. Yes, he has felt pain, and caused pain too, and, yes, much of it could have been averted, but there seems to be a tone of… contentment, as if it has all been a story told by striving but imperfect actors.

Whatever sorrow held by one’s personal history, it just seems to be vanishing over the horizon

Have a beautiful day today! Find some new ways to give the world more of the gifts you hold.

Recommended Books: Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected Poems 1931 – 2001 The Collected Poems Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness To Begin Where I Am: The Selected Prose of Czeslaw Milosz A Treatise on Poetry
More Books >>

Czeslaw Milosz, Czeslaw Milosz poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Czeslaw Milosz

Poland (1911 – 2004) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

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3 responses so far

Jan 15 2020

Right action heals

Right action heals
in ways that even “success” cannot match.

One response so far

Jan 06 2020

Macy, Barker and Leonard – Ecosattva Vows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Ecosattva Vows
by Joanna Macy

Composed in collaboration between Joanna Macy and One Earth Sangha’s co-founders, Kristin Barker and Lou Leonard

– – –

Based on my love of the world and understanding of deep interdependence of all things, I vow

      To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.
      To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings; to discern and replace human systems of oppression and harm.
      To invite personal discomfort as an opportunity to share in the challenge of our collective liberation.
      To draw inspiration, strength and guidance from the living Earth, from our ancestors and the future generations, and from our siblings of all species.
      To help others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
      To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.

/ Image by Alice Popkorn /

This is a hard one, but a hopeful one…

I had a lovely Christmas, though it was a modest one. If you have read recent Poetry Chaikhana emails, you know that we had to replace our family car a few weeks ago. Here in Colorado, especially in the winter, having a reliable car is essential. We are so grateful that we had the money to put down a deposit and purchase a car right away. So that was our main gift to each other this Christmas. We had a beautiful holiday. We lit candles Christmas Eve, burned frankincense on Christmas Day, played Joan Baez’s Noel on the stereo, watched as our dog gleefully shredded the wrapping paper from our few other gifts to each other. It filled my heart.

The day after Christmas, something strange happened: the tip of my nose started getting large and bulbous and red. We made jokes about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I looked like old cartoons depicting someone who drank too much, which we laughed about because I don’t drink at all. Whatever it was, it seemed to go away after a day. But another day passed and then the whole left side of my face began to swell up and turn bright red.

When that didn’t go away after a day, and my temperature started to rise, it became a serious crisis for us. Being Americans and without health insurance, we knew that if I went to the hospital, that would bankrupt us, especially after having just committing most of our savings to our car purchase. We had to do that terrible assessment so many Americans do these days of deciding blindly just how serious the situation is. I mean, when I broke my ribs about 10 years ago, I never went to a doctor or a hospital, I just toughed it out for a miserable few weeks, but I survived and got past it. This time, however, something told me that whatever I was dealing with was different and I shouldn’t just wait it out.

Feeling very sick at this point, I went online and started researching options other than the hospital in my area. I found an urgent care facility not far away, where the typical expense was several hundred dollars rather than the several thousand dollars of a hospital visit, not counting the cost of any tests or treatments. I went there hoping they wouldn’t need me to do a bunch of tests or just send me to the hospital anyway. They examined me and it turned out that I had picked up a bacterial infection, relatively easy to treat with antibiotics, though quite dangerous if untreated. I had made the right decision and found an option that avoided financial crisis.

I have spent the time since healing and recovering — and feeling immense relief that my wife and I are okay financially. Sadly, many people are in much worse circumstances than we were in.

But, as I have been recovering and getting into the rhythms of the new year, I have been watching heartbreaking images of the wildfires all across Australia. In my vulnerable state, I have been especially empathizing with the people and the communities, the wildlife and the land itself, all being devastated by those massive fires. Such terrible destruction is a tragic warning to all of us to not tolerate delays or half-measures on climate change legislation and international environmental agreements.

And, of course, I have to mention the news of the American assassination of General Soleimani and the Iraqi official al-Muhandis, at Baghdad International Airport. This seems like an act by the Trump administration intended to provoke a war or at least an attempt to dramatically heighten tensions with Iran, while also being an unforgivable insult to the sovereignty of the country of Iraq. Too much is in motion right now to say with confidence what will result, but the main question is how much suffering will results in the world from this action.

I think for many people the year ended with some hope but the new year has begun with fear. Fear is not the stopping point, however. It is meant to be a doorway. What we first experience as fear or anxiety or even dread can, with attention, transform itself into a flinty clarity about what is actually happening, which then crystallizes our true priorities, prompting us to take necessary action.

Hope does not come from easy experiences. Hope comes from having the courage to face difficult truths and be changed by that encounter. Remade, we naturally remake the world around us. Sometimes this is because we are newly inspired to overt activism and service. But it can be in modest ways, as well, in our daily interactions, the way we move in the world, the way our individual insights filter into the group awareness. The energies we embody always — always– affect the world around us, both through action and through resonance.

What is most important is that we don’t freeze up and grow numb, holding to some idea of who we once were or what the world once was. Movement, even clumsy movement, is so important because movement is life. Through movement we encounter and discover and further awaken. Through movement we feel, which is not always comfortable, but feeling too feeds our life and our awakening. If we feel pain, if we feel heartbreak, then so be it; that is in the world too and our inherent compassionate nature calls to us through it, just as much as through joy, which is also there.

This is the adventure life offers to us. Despite what we so strongly want to believe, it is not always meant to be comfortable or easy or pristine. To be alive is itself an act of incomprehensible magic and wonder. Through the simple fact of life, every one of us is a being of immense courage, and we have capabilities beyond our imaginings. Let us use this difficult moment as it was meant to be used, to renew our vision of ourselves, to reawaken our energies and our presence in the world, and to recommit to the family of life on this beautiful earth.

To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings…

Sending love to you all.

Joanna Macy

US (Contemporary)

More poetry by Joanna Macy

10 responses so far

Jan 06 2020

What can one do but stand

What can one do but stand
in silent awe of the vision that emerges,
showing us how much bigger we are
than even our best stories?

No responses yet

Dec 17 2019

Gabriel Rosenstock – frosty morning

frosty morning
by Gabriel Rosenstock

frosty morning
      a robin bares his breast
            to the whole world

— from Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition, by Gabriel Rosenstock

/ Image by Richard Towell /

A frosty morning here in Colorado.

It still has that special sense of life to me, like a newborn: the Poetry Chaikhana’s latest publication, Haiku Enlightenment, by Gabriel Rosenstock. I couldn’t help but feature another selection from its pages, this by the author himself.

Remember poetry when you are planning gifts and maybe a year-end treat for yourself. Purchasing a copy of Haiku Enlightenment is a wonderful way to welcome the magic of haiku into your home, as well as Gabriel’s inspired observations on haiku as a pathway of awareness, compassion, and reconnection. And, of course, your purchase helps support the Poetry Chaikhana.

If you are on Facebook, I have just set up new Haiku Enlightenment Facebook page inspired by the new book. Personally, I’m always happy to see a haiku or short poem slip into my FB newsfeed when I check it — a secret invitation to pause, take a breath, and notice the world again. I invite you to visit and hang out with the haiku.

Okay, time to step out into that chilly morning and fill my lungs with the crisp air. The world awaits.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Gabriel Rosenstock

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Bliain an Bhandé – Year of the Goddess Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition Uttering Her Name Where Light Begins: Haiku
More Books >>

Gabriel Rosenstock, Gabriel Rosenstock poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gabriel Rosenstock

Ireland (1949 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

Continue Reading »

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Dec 17 2019

No story

No story can contain you.

No responses yet

Dec 12 2019

Holiday Book Recommendations 2019

Every year I am surprised by how quickly the holidays are upon us, and this year is no exception. It is already the middle of December. Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, the New Year — they’re all just a couple of weeks away!

If you’re still looking for the right gifts for family, like-minded friends, or even fo yourself as a way to begin the new year, consider the gift of poetry and inspiration. 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 to consider as gifts for you and your loved ones:

Let’s start, of course, with some Poetry Chaikhana publicatons…

Haiku Enlightenment, Gabriel Rosenstock The Poetry Chaikhana’s newest publication!

Haiku Enlightenment
New Expanded Edition

by Gabriel Rosenstock



Marrow of Flame US
 Marrow of Flame UK Marrow of Flame CAN 
£12.99 / €15.25

or ask at your local independent book store

Haiku Enlightenment is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as both a poetic craft and a pathway of awakening – for poets, seekers and creative rebels.

Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a rich collection of insights, distilled from a lifetime dedicated to the art and practice of poetry, on stepping into inspired moments. Using a generous selection of contemporary and classical haiku, he explores ideas of creativity and perception, encouraging us to calm the restless mind, notice what is overlooked, explore the world around us, and fully encounter each glowing moment.

From such moments, haiku – and enlightenment – emerge.

Haiku happens in this world of daily miracles and is a perfect prism through which Nature herself enlightens us.
– Gabriel Rosenstock, from Haiku Enlightenment


the moon    
has found it for me    
a mountain path    

    Michael McClintock   

with every gust
the butterfly finds a new home
on the willow


    the body of the Buddha
    accepts it–
    winter rain


I am nobody:
A red sinking autumn sun
Took my name away

    Richard Wright

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.”

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


PURCHASE: Amazon or Wordery

This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World

A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss is an inspiring collection of poems and wisdom stories from the world’s great sacred traditions. Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Lalla, Goethe, Hildegard von Bingen, Dogen, Khayyam, and many others gather together within these pages to sing their ecstatic songs.

Ivan M. Granger accompanies each poem with his own reflections and meditative commentaries, inviting us to explore the insights and private raptures of these mystics, seers, and saints-until we too are swept up in this dance of bliss!

This book is a treasure, a feast, an oasis. Ivan M. Granger’s profound gift for selecting the kind of poetry that lights up the cave of the heart and melts the boundaries between the soul and the Divine is fully met by his lucid reflections on the soul-transfiguring power of each piece in this magnificent collection.

author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam


PURCHASE: Amazon or Wordery

A few words to find silence…

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

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. This is 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!

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

All of mysticism comes down to this:
to recognize
what is already
and always here.

the wild places
in yourself.


PURCHASE: Amazon or Wordery

For illumination…

The Illuminated Rumi
Translations by Coleman Barks
Art by Michael Green

I keep recommending this year after year. It is a perfect gift book with excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by amazing digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.

The Fire of Darkness: What Burned Me Away Completely, I Became

Poetry by Fred LaMotte
Art by Rashani Réa

Another collection of the wonderful, meditative artwork of Rashani Réa, accompanied by the poetry of Fred LaMotte. I don’t think I have featured the work of Fred LaMotte, but that is something I will have to rectify soon. I have been aware of his writing for several years and I am a genuine fan. There is something immediate, fully present, but with dancing, playful sense of language — all reflecting the insights of a true modern mystic. A magical book!

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.

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.

Also published by the Poetry Chaikhana — Our best seller, in fact! READ MORE

A Sampling of Sufi Wisdom…

Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
Translations by David and Sabrineh Fideler

A very good collection of Persian Sufi poetry. This book focuses on poems and poets that are not as well known in the West. A good place to discover some new names.

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

Short wisdom stories from the Sufi tradition that surprise with unexpected insight, delightful humor, and enigmatic conclusions that invite deeper contemplation. I have been rereading this favorite collection for years.

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry
Translations by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

One of my favorite collections of the Persian Sufi poets, some you may have heard of and others who may be new to you: Jami, Attar, Hamadani, Iraqi, Hafez, Ibn Arabi, Sanai, and many others. If you like Sufi poetry, this is a book you should have.

For the Christian contemplative…

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

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

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

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

For the Jewish mystic…

The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
Translated and Edited 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.
While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole has more of a poet’s sense of language. Very highly recommended.

A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen (Shambhala Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill and J P Seaton

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

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Edited by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

A good collection without being overwhelming. I especially like it’s selection of Japanese haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, Masahide…

(And don’t forget the Poetry Chaikhana’s new book, Haiku Enlightenment!)

For the Rilke lover…

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

There are several very good translations of Rilke available, but I’ve slowly come to the opinion that Barrows and Macy, more than any others, get the tone just right. Their Rilke translations glow and uplift, but without losing the shadows that also haunt the spaces between his words. Perfect!

In the Company of Rilke
by Stephanie Dowrick

A lovely, insightful meditation of the poetry of Rilke and why it speaks so powerfully to us today. The perfect companion book to pair with your favorite Rilke collection.

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.

Transcendent Hindu verses…

Speaking of Siva
Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a few years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended!

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

There are several translations of the poetry of Lalla available in English now, good ones too, but Ranjit Hoskote’s versions are my favorite. They seem to marry a love of the original language with a poet’s sense of English, without ever losing the mystic’s fire at the center of each poem. 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 book recommendations, click here.

(While this list changes, it seems to get longer every year. Even so, I had to leave off so many amazing books. The drawback to loving so much poetry.)

Let’s 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 have a wonderful holiday season — and that the new year offers you new pathways and new inspiration!


No responses yet

Dec 10 2019

Book Announcement: Haiku Enlightenment

Published by under Books,Poetry

does the woodpecker
by Kobayashi Issa

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock

does the woodpecker
      stop and listen, too?
            evening temple drum

— from Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition, by Gabriel Rosenstock

Book Announcement: Haiku Enlightenment

I am so pleased to announce the Poetry Chaikhana’s newest publication: Haiku Enlightenment, by Gabriel Rosenstock, a favorite of Poetry Chaikhana readers for years.

In Haiku Enlightenment Gabriel Rosenstock uses haiku, both classic and modern, to explore perception and creativity, self and ego, the natural world and the wide-open moment. Through Gabriel Rosenstock’s eyes, the path of haiku becomes a path of enlightenment.

Rosenstock brings to his writing something of the shaman, the sage, and a bit of the prankster. I think of him as a poet in the ancient sense as someone deeply engaged with the vast mystery, from which poetry, song, and riddles naturally emerge.

True to the haiku spirit, the observations in Haiku Enlightenment are short and without embellishment. Taken together, however, they present us with a master class on the art and insight of haiku by a western master of haiku.

Like you, probably like the author himself, I cringe a bit at the use of the term “master,” but in Gabriel’s case it is entirely appropriate. Since I have featured Gabriel’s poems many times over the years, he feels like a familiar friend to the Poetry Chaikhana, so you may not realize just how accomplished and renowned he is. Gabriel Rosenstock has given readings throughout Europe, India, the Americas, and Japan. His poetry has won multiple awards and been published in World Haiku Review, Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Ireland Review and other prestigious journals. He is a member of Aosdána (the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters), former chairman of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, on the Board of Advisors to Poetry India, and a Foundation Associate of The Haiku Foundation.

An impressive list of accomplishments. But that is not the Gabriel Rosenstock I have come to know through years of correspondence. I suspect he would consider focusing on such honors to be a hindrance. His secret, I think, is that he is too prolific to pause in self-satisfaction. Every few weeks I receive a flood of new haiku from him in my email in-box, which then gives me permission to halt the rush of my day in order to step quietly into his observed moments and so return in some essential way back to myself.

Where does that endless creativity come from? How does spiritual practice produce the most luminous poetry, and how does poetry become a doorway into our own awakening? Haiku Enlightenment is a rich, poetic meditation on all of those questions. Using haiku as his medium, Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a visionary artist’s guide on how to be present… and how to disappear.

I can’t express how pleased I am to be able to offer this book to the Poetry Chaikhana and to the wider community of poetry lovers and spiritual seekers.

It is perfect to read just a page or two at a time to set the tone for the day, when beginning meditation or prayer practice, when facing the blank page, or just before a walk in nature. You don’t have to be a poet or even a reader of haiku, you just have to be curious about your own awareness and in love with the magic of small moments. Though, as you read Haiku Enlightenment, who knows what poetry might spontaneously emerge from your pen?

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


Haiku Enlightenment
New Expanded Edition

by Gabriel Rosenstock


£12.99 / €15.25

or ask at your local independent book store

Haiku Enlightenment is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as both a poetic craft and a pathway of awakening – for poets, seekers and creative rebels.

Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a rich collection of insights, distilled from a lifetime dedicated to the art and practice of poetry, on stepping into inspired moments. Using a generous selection of contemporary and classical haiku, he explores ideas of creativity and perception, encouraging us to calm the restless mind, notice what is overlooked, explore the world around us, and fully encounter each glowing moment.

From such moments, haiku – and enlightenment – emerge.

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Nov 26 2019

Basho – snow-viewing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Come, let’s go
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Come, let’s go
till we’re buried.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto

/ Image by dadofliz /

I am sitting here at my computer reading poetry in snow boots. I just came in from shoveling the sidewalk. It looks like we might get two feet of snow today.

My car is in the shop and probably needs to be replaced. After 15 years of loyal service, it died on the road just as the first snowflakes started falling yesterday. In the space of a few blocks of driving it went from running fine, to making a strange noise, to completely dying. I had to jog half a mile in the snow to my home because I don’t have a cell phone, call a tow truck, and then watch as our car got hoisted up on the truck bed, and ride with it to the repair shop.

Rather than going into anxiety about the whole situation in the midst of the increasing snow, I found myself… dare I say it?… content. Even entertained. Accepting the situation for what it is, I rode along with the events. It became a sort of adventure.

I’m being told that it’s probably not worth the cost of repairs at this point, so in a few days, when we dig ourselves out, I will be shopping for another car.

A longtime car becomes a sort of family member, like a pet or trusted workhorse. Some people may feel it’s silly, but I’m fond of that old car and there is a bit of sadness at saying goodbye. I hope to adopt a new wheeled family member who becomes just as much of a friend.

Thankfully, past chronic fatigue patterns have been in abeyance for most of the past year, so I have been working more hours at my day job and I have a small amount saved that can now be used as a down payment for our next car.

When events just happen and there is no avoiding their cascading onslaught, sometimes the best option is just to grow still, enjoy the scene, and laugh as we are buried.

So, with no car at the moment and nearly two feet of snow on the ground and with more snow falling, it is a good day to pause and go snow-viewing…

That phrase “snow-viewing” may seem rather odd, if poetic, but it is actually a playful twist on the Japanese practice of tsukimi or moon-viewing. In Japan, there is a tradition of moon-viewing in autumn. Towns have moon-viewing festivals, a family might invite friends over for moon-viewing. To me, as an outsider, that sounds like a beautiful way for all of society to slow down and appreciate the masterful artwork of nature, communing with the rhythms of the world. Basho’s snow-viewing is an expansion of that idea — inviting a friend to step outside in order to appreciate the beauty of a recent snowfall in quiet companionship and shared ritual.

Particularly the Zen poetry, snow often carries with it the suggestion of deeper meanings we might want to explore.

When the difficulties and coldness and enforced internalization of winter are emphasized, snow can represent the struggles of spiritual practice that precede the spiritual awakening of spring.

When the silence that settles of the world bathed in snow is emphasized, it can represent the perfect stillness of mind that occurs in true meditation.

When the quality of blanketing all things in a uniform whiteness is highlighted, snow can be seen as an allusion to the unifying white or golden-white light that shines through everything, the light one perceives when the mind awakens.

This haiku by Basho can carry variations of all of these meanings, but especially the last one.

Notice the joke in these lines: By viewing the snow we become buried in it — and that is what Basho is really inviting us to do. With a lot of snow (and a dash of wit), Basho might be saying that by viewing something deeply, we become the beauty we perceive. Seeing the universal radiance, we become the radiance. Hearing the silence, we become the silence. Witness the eternal, and we become consumed by it, the ego self becomes lost in the blanket of white that covers everything, making all of existence one.

Have a beautiful day, with or without snow! And be warm and safe!

Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>

Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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11 responses so far

Nov 26 2019

innocence & naiveté

Innocence is not naiveté.
Naiveté must be carefully removed.
Innocence is our true nature.

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Nov 22 2019

Guru Nanak – From listening (Japji 8)

Published by under Poetry

[Japji 8] From listening
by Guru Nanak

English version by John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer

From listening,
      Siddhas, Pirs, Gods, Naths–
      the spiritually adept;

From listening,
      the earth, its white foundation,
      and the sky;

From listening,
      continents, worlds, hells;

From listening,
      death cannot approach.

Nanak says,
      those who hear
            flower forever.

From listening,
      sin and sorrow

— from Songs of the Saints of India, Translated by John Stratton Hawley / Translated by Mark Juergensmeyer

A song for us today by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh tradition, about listening.

From listening…

Listening is a powerful practice on several levels. On one level, listening is the act of paying attention in an open and receptive manner. When we really pay attention we do more than notice people and things, we connect with them, we commune with them. Through open, engaged attention we become one with the world around us.

In this way, through deep listening, everything is found to be within us, and we exist within the all. The awareness of mutual being emerges.

But there is another, specific meaning of listening intended here, as well. Guru Nanak is also clearly giving a teaching on listening to the fundamental sound of creation, In various Indian traditions this primal sound is called shabd or Omkara/Onkar.

When the attention is turned inward a soft sound is heard. At first it might be like the quiet chirping of crickets in the night, the hum of beesong, or the flowing of a gentle stream. It is heard as a random, soothing “white noise” that seems to emanate from the base of the skull. When focused upon with a still mind and deep attention, this sound resolves into a clearer pitch that can resemble the pure note of a flute (Krishna’s flute in Vaishnava tradition) or the ringing of a bell (the bells of paradise in esoteric Christianity). First it is heard and, finally, felt throughout the body.

Many mystics compare this sound with the sound of a waterfall, and as the awareness bathes in this sound it becomes purified, “cleansed.” The heart is like a moss-covered stone at the foot of the waterfall. The more we allow the sounding waters to flow, that encrustation on the heart is cleared away. We may just be shocked to discover what we thought was granite beneath is a actually a great jewel, brilliant and emanating pure bliss.

The heart’s joy is always there, we just need to clear away the moss.

From listening,
      Siddhas, Pirs, Gods, Naths–
      the spiritually adept

Guru Nanak lists various names for adepts and the enlightened. This sound is the doorway into states of spiritual attainment.

Hearing the omkara signals the beginning of deep meditation. It is the tone of initiation. The more we open to the sound, the more the attention is drawn heavenward while the divine flow pours through us.

From listening,
      the earth, its white foundation,
      and the sky

Why does Guru Nanak link the earth and the sky to this sound? It is through this sound, this wordless Word, that all of manifest existence comes into being. This is the vibratory breath of the Eternal that sings creation into form. The earth and the sky and every being that moves between them are born through this sound. This sacred tone moves through existence, reifying all.

Why does Guru Nanak give us this curious statement about the “white foundation” of the earth? I suspect he is referencing the white or golden-white light that is witnessed in the deepest states. This light is perceived as underlying and supporting all of creation — its foundation.

From listening,
      death cannot approach.

By following this sound we recollect our nature and ultimately return to the source of the song. We come to know ourselves in our essence, and lessen our identification our physical form and social roles. Death does not affect who and what we truly are. We discover this by listening.

Nanak says,
      those who hear
            flower forever.

Omkara is the sound of the movement of the divine through us. Hearing that sound, allowing it to flow generously through us, we open in unexpected and delightful ways. It is the flow of sap that inspires us to blossom into our full potential.

From listening,
      sin and sorrow

Hearing this, what is there to fear? We don’t have to convince ourselves of this, it just is. Listening to this constant reassuring presence, the psychic constrictions we carry with us naturally ease. The waterfall bathes us, the heart clears. We become simply and honestly who we are — and what a beautiful being that is!

From listening…


Coming Soon: Haiku Enlightenment

Several of you sent me some beautiful messages and comments after last week’s poem. I have read them all and been touched by your stories. The reason I haven’t responded directly is that I have been deeply engaged in the preparation of the Poetry Chaikhana’s newest publication — Haiku Enlightenment, by Gabriel Rosenstock. You may recognize him from poems I have featured on the Poetry Chaikhana before. Gabriel Rosenstock is an Irish sage, a bit of a prankster… oh yes, and a renowned poet. This new book is a rich, wise and playful exploration of the art of haiku by a western master of haiku. I am so pleased to be able to offer this book through the Poetry Chaikhana.

With my limited personal time, I have to be selective about each new book project I work on. In the past I had imagined publishing a series of poetry collections or anthologies by contemporary spiritual poets and mystics, which I may still do in the future, but I realized that poetry on its own is not the primary focus of the Poetry Chaikhana. The heart of the Poetry Chaikhana is poetry paired with conversational commentary that opens up the poetry as well as encourages new avenues of spiritual exploration. Gabriel Rosenstock’s Haiku Enlightenment is a perfect fit for the Poetry Chaikhana. It is a delightful collection of brief observations that use haiku to explore ideas about creativity, perception, consciousness, and being alive to the moment.

For some of you, the title Haiku Enlightenment may sound familiar. This is actually not the first edition, but a greatly expanded new edition. A much smaller hardback edition of Haiku Enlightenment was published about ten years ago. I immediately recognized that original edition as a small masterpiece, but I was concerned that it hadn’t garnered the attention it deserved and, within a few years, it was in danger of disappearing, That old edition has become so difficult to find in many areas that just a few days ago I noticed it selling on the US Amazon site for more than $1,000!

Rest assured that you will be able to get the Poetry Chaikhana’s new expanded edition for a much more affordable rate of $16.95/£12.95/€14.25. Our new edition of Haiku Enlightenment includes an updated version of that original small volume, along with another short companion book previously published as Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing and several new sections not previously published, all gathered together in a single volume.

In publishing this new expanded edition of Haiku Enlightenment I hope to make Gabriel Rosenstock’s poetic and spiritual insights available to a much wider audience who may have missed the earlier editions. I also want to make sure that it remains available at an affordable price for future readers.

I will be enthusiastically recommending this book to aspiring poets, artists, readers of haiku — and creative seekers of all types.

Haiku Enlightenment will be available mid-December. I hope it will make a good gift for the person in your life who loves haiku, creativity, and discovering the unexpected along their own spiritual pathway. Perhaps that person is you.

Recommended Books: Guru Nanak

Songs of the Saints of India The Mystic in Love: A Treasury of Mystical Poetry The Guru Granth Sahib: CAnon, Meaning and Authority Sri Guru Granth Sahib Discovered: A Reference Book of Quotations Sri Guru Granth Sahib
More Books >>

Guru Nanak, Guru Nanak poetry, Sikh poetry Guru Nanak

Pakistan/India (1469 – 1539) Timeline

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7 responses so far

Nov 22 2019

what we love

We become what we love.

Everything else is just movement.

One response so far

Nov 15 2019

Yoka Genkaku – The virtue of abusive words

Published by under Poetry

When I consider the virtue of abusive words (from The Shodoka)
by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

English version by Robert Aitken

When I consider the virtue of abusive words,
I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.
If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.
To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression,
And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.
Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the same way.

/ Image by Hartwig HKD /

This opening line is meant to be humorous. I picture the Buddhist monks of China and Japan laughing as they read this short poetic discourse on “the virtue of abusive words.”

But the poet is also saying something very important to the sincere spiritual aspirant.

I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.

People who offend us, who spread rumors and lies, those we might think of as enemies or petty tyrants are sometimes our best teachers. They continuously pressure test the maturity of our practice.

It is easy to go along thinking, ‘Oh, my meditation is getting so deep and I think such kind thoughts about people,’ but when someone offends that carefully constructed spiritual facade, do we instantly boil over with outrage? Does it suddenly become essential that we correct their false perception of us?

No matter how offensive or cruel the other person may be acting, our reaction is about ego. Are we getting proper acknowledgment for who we are and what we have accomplished? -Which is a question only the ego asks.

The poet then says something especially interesting:

If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.

All of that spiritual practice we do to endure upset and hold our thoughts safely within the bounds of compassion, it is all really about making the mind spiritually acceptable in its patterns. That certainly has its importance, but it is ultimately a path of frustration. The mind that emerges from the ego-self is never tamed, it is always selfish and me-focused, always quick to anger in order to reassert itself as the center of importance.

If we truly learn to let go of all of our pretense and self-importance, however, the instinct to get upset at everything, including what is malicious, falls away. And then there is no need to work so hard at enduring offense or somehow squeezing compassion from a constricted heart. Endurance becomes natural patience with the world. And compassion is simply recognized as inherent within the universe and not the result of our own heavy effort.

To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression

When we have truly matured in our awakening, when we have allowed the endless tensions that comprise the ego-self to fall away, along with its tendencies toward offense, then our expression becomes natural, fluid, without effort.

And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.

Dhyana is meditation, and prajna can be translated as clarity. When we become mature in our practice and realization, we are flooded with a brilliant light that is often compared with the full moon.

When our practice is too much about effort and harsh control, there is the tendency to stagnate, to get caught up in our patterns of policing everything about our thoughts and actions. A certain amount of that approach is an important discipline, but we can’t make the mistake of becoming totalitarian toward our own psychic energies. The goal is not greater or more perfect effort but, instead, to become effortless, to drop the self-important, self-focused self and, with supreme humility, settle into our true nature — from which our inherent compassion and goodness naturally flow.

Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the same way.

So you see, those people who irritate us, who offend us, even those who attack us, they should be among our most cherished teachers. They poke holes in the ego. They deflate our pretenses. They passionately remind us that we are not the psychic facades with which we wrap ourselves. They test us with an intensity missing from other teachers. They show us the pathway to selflessness and, thus, are highly charged agents of enlightenment.

(Caveat: I don’t want to suggest that one should passively accept cruelty or violence or remain in the presence people caught up in toxic patterns. The point here is to recognize what in ourselves we are defending. Personal safety and basic self-value are important and should be protected. But when it is our own self-importance that feels threatened, perhaps it is an opportunity to laugh at ourselves instead.)

Praise to those who irritate us! (Grumble.)

Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Buddhism and Zen

Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

China (665 – 713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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4 responses so far

Nov 15 2019

real praise

Stillness is
the real praise, and prayer, and presence.

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