Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Sep 17 2021

David Whyte – All the True Vows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

All the True Vows
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

“All the True Vows” from The House of Belonging by David Whyte.
Copyright © 1997, 2004 by David Whyte.  Used by permission of the author and Many Rivers Press (  All rights reserved.

/ Image by Tevin Trinh /

I read this poem by David Whyte as a meditation on the alienation most of us feel at one time or another in our own lives. Too often we aren’t really present in our lives–

There is only one life
you can call your own…

He is saying that something powerful, even sacred, occurs when we stop contorting ourselves to reach for lives that are not our own. When we settle into ourselves, when we start to actually live our own lives, embody our own lives, we not only begin to really experience life deeply for the first time, we start to tap into “the one life that waits / beyond all others.”

Living this way, we find our true face, our true reflection.

I especially like the ending verses:

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice.

To rediscover our own voice, our true voice which has been socialized back into the shadows of our awareness, we have to break an old agreement, a “promise.” We must decide to no longer identify with the roles and expectations set up for us. Finally dropping the masks we wear, we discover our true face, our “reflection.” Then, “for the first time,” we can speak in our own voice.

Worth reading more than once…

David Whyte’s words hold a special place in my personal journey.

In the early 2000s, I was living with my wife on the island of Maui. It was a beautiful time in my life, but aimless. I was just doing work to get by, with no career to speak of. I was cut off from the world, by distance and by choice.

A friend sent me a series of talks by David Whyte on cassette tape, and I went for long drives along Maui’s meandering country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields and among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent as he recited poetry and told stories about brilliant and troubled poets, like Antonio Machado and Anna Akhmatova.

It was Christmastime and I was quietly going through a deep and difficult self-confrontation. New Year’s Day came and went, while I hovered in that open limbo state. This combination began to ferment in my mind, the poetry and the personal crisis.

In early January it all converged. I picked up a book of conversations with the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, read a couple of pages and—POW!—I was catapulted into an ecstatic stillness. Everything about me and my world came to a complete stop. The person I thought of as “Ivan” disappeared. It was as if some undefined, wide-open awareness was quietly witnessing the world through my eyes. An indescribable joy bubbled up inside me. The entire world was an intangible outline sketched upon a golden-white radiance, and I was a ghost happily lost in that light.

That moment set the trajectory for the unfolding of my life since. And it planted the seed for the Poetry Chaikhana. I am always thankful to David Whyte for the role he played at that transformative period in my life.


And have a wonderful weekend! The moon is growing full and luminous in the evening sky. In chaotic times, dance!

Recommended Books: David Whyte

The House of Belonging Where Many Rivers Meet

David Whyte, David Whyte poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry David Whyte

US (1955 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 12 2021

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

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

/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

A rare Monday poem email. Since it has been nearly a month since I last sent a Poetry Chaikhana email out, I decided not to wait until the end of the week. There are several reasons for the unannounced pause in the emails.

I live outside of Boulder, Colorado and, as many of you are probably aware, there was a terrible shooting in Boulder a few weeks ago at a local grocery store. When my wife and I first moved to the area years ago, we lived within a few blocks of that store and often shopped for groceries there. We now live several miles away and were not in immediate danger during the shooting. But, of course, we still felt the trauma of the community, magnified by our own personal history with the scene of so much bloodshed.

In the aftermath, I didn’t want to immediately send out a poem. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about the event, and it would have felt wrong to ignore it.

Soon after, I had a birthday and Easter came up. And through it all, my day job has been especially busy.

For all of those reasons I felt it was best to wait.

But with spring blossoming in our area, it feels like it is now time to return to poetry and the reawakening of life. So I have a beautiful poem of silences for us today…


But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are small things with barely any substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but as an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers along with as many other elements of modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)

Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>

R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline

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Oct 30 2020

William Wordsworth – Thus while the days flew by

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on (from The Prelude, Book 2)
by William Wordsworth

Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on,
From Nature and her overflowing soul,
I had received so much, that all my thoughts
Were steeped in feeling; I was only then
Contented, when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O’er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
O’er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
O’er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air; o’er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not
If high the transport, great the joy I felt,
Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
With every form of creature, as it looked
Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
Of adoration, with an eye of love.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear,
O’ercome by humblest prelude of that strain
Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.

— from Complete Poetical Works, by William Wordsworth

/ Image by Justin Kern /

Fires have been burning here in Colorado and last week we were busily preparing for the possibility of having to evacuate. Firefighters, helped at times by the weather, were eventually able to contain the two fires closest to us, though major fires are still causing terrible destruction elsewhere in the state. I know people who have lost cherished family homes. Entire communities have been uprooted. And, of course, these fires are devastating to the wildlife and the beautiful land itself. I know California, Oregon and other western states have been going through similar ordeals. Heartbreaking.

Thinking about these fires returns me to my love of the natural world, reminding me what nature represents, how it expresses the divine vastness and interconnectedness.

From Nature and her overflowing soul,
I had received so much…

This is a poem worth repeating. Speak it aloud. Feel the sound of it resonating in the air.

when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O’er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
O’er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
O’er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air; o’er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
And mighty depth of waters.

…beats the gladsome air…

When we remember, we recognize the natural world as the foundational ground upon which our endless physical and mental creations rest. It is the deep green embrace which is our shared home.

Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
With every form of creature, as it looked
Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
Of adoration, with an eye of love.
One song they sang

It is where we rediscover our song within the upraised voice of life.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: William Wordsworth

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Complete Poetical Works William Wordsworth: Selected Poems
More Books >>

William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Wordsworth

England (1770 – 1850) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jul 17 2020

Francis of Assisi – The Canticle of Brother Sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Canticle of Brother Sun
by Francis of Assisi

English version by Ivan M. Granger

My Lord most high, all-powerful, all-good,
Celebration, light, and all sweet blessings are yours,
      yours alone.
No man speaks
      who can speak your Name.

Praise to you, my Lord, and to all beings of your creation!
Praise especially to brother sun,
      who fills the day with light
      — through whom you shine!
Beautiful and bright, magnificent with splendor,
He shows us your Face.

Praise to my Lord for sister moon
      and for the stars.
You have formed them in the firmament,
      fine and rare and fair.
Praise to you, Lord, for brother wind,
      for the air, for the clouds,
      for fair days and every turn of weather
      — through which you feed the world.

Praise to my Lord for sister water,
      precious and pure, who selflessly serves all.

Praise to my Lord for brother fire,
      through whom you fill the dark with light.
Lovely is he in his delight, mighty and strong.

Praise to my Lord for our sister, mother earth,
      who nourishes us and surrounds us
      in a world ripe with fruit, pregnant
            with grassy fields,
            spangled with flowers.

Praise to my Lord for those seeking your love,
      who discover within themselves forgiveness,
      rejecting neither frailty nor sorrow.
Enduring in serenity, they are blessed,
For they shall be crowned by your hand, Most High.

Praise to my Lord for our sister death,
      the body’s death,
      whom none avoid.
A great sadness for those who die having missed life’s mark;
Yet blessed they whose way
      is your most holy will —
Having died once, the second death
      does them no ill.

Sing praises!
Offer holy blessings to my Lord!
In gratitude, selflessly offer yourself to him.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by rkramer62 /

Thank you to everyone who sent a note of concern about my absence from these poetry emails. I apologize about that unannounced pause. Let me reassure you that I am doing well and my health is okay. The reason I haven’t sent any poems during this past month or so is because my wife’s mother needed to go to the hospital, then hospice care, and then passed away. (Her death was not related to the current pandemic, however.)

Since my wife was her mother’s only relative, she bore a heavy burden in caring for her and in handling each new challenge and crisis as it arose. It is a profoundly difficult balance to deal with the whirlwind of decisions and responsibilities while also feeling the grief and complex emotions surrounding a close family member’s death. I went through all of this myself when both of my parents died about ten years ago. I was also an only child, but my mother had an extended family of many sisters who helped with everything. My wife has been on her own in dealing with her mother’s death, having only me to help her.

So we have been dealing with nurses and doctors and hospital administrators, sometimes having to fight with them on her mother’s behalf. Worrying questions of nursing homes and healthcare coverage switched to meetings with hospice care workers, who are the saints of the healthcare world. We wrestled with the uncomfortable questions of burial versus cremation and meetings with funeral home directors. We did a weekend sprint to move all of her mother’s worldly possessions from her tiny apartment before month’s end, rapidly sorting through things of emotional significance as if they were random objects that take up too much space. We navigated the bureaucracy necessary to close out financial accounts. I say ‘we’ but much of that effort was led by my wife. While I have helped in all the ways I could as well as acting as emotional support, I have primarily been pushing to keep my work hours high in my day job through all of this so that, in the midst of everything else, my wife can also take time to grieve without worrying about her own work.

Death is such a huge event, the final life passage. I like to think of it as our final initiation, our graduation ceremony. It is quite a challenge to find the balance that allows us to hold the appropriate sense of reverence in the midst of so many pressing practical demands. As a poet and a spiritual practitioner, I naturally want to be internal, contemplative and, of course, a loving presence to the person crossing such a profound threshold, but it takes real skill to accomplish all that is necessary and still hold that inner sacred space.

I continually stand in wonder at the immensity and beauty and crushing challenges of this human life — as well as its closure. I am in awe of every single person on this planet: we all walk a courageous path through this life.

St. Francis composed his masterpiece, the Canticle of Brother Sun, in three parts. The first part in praise of the beauty and holiness of nature as a reflection of the Divine, was written in the Spring of 1225, immediately after he received the stigmata during an extended meditation retreat among a group of caves.

The second section, the segment on forgiveness and peace, was composed soon after, perhaps in response to the squabbling of political and religious authorities in Assisi.

The final verses were written late the following year as St. Francis was dying, in which he seems to be greeting “sister death.”

This hymn is one of the first great works written in Italian. At the time, Latin was the language of the Church and of learning. Yet, as part of Francis’s humility and affinity with the common people, he composed this praise poem in simple Italian so all could be inspired by it.

Praise for brother sun and sister moon, for the living wind and water and fire and earth. Praise for love and peace, without which the living awareness collapses to barrenness. And praise to death, too, who, in the fulness of time, brings completion and life’s final initiation. Through this poem we witness the whole pageant of life as it expresses itself through us and all the world.

Be well, everyone — and bright blessings!

Recommended Books: Francis of Assisi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>

Francis of Assisi, Francis of Assisi poetry, Christian poetry Francis of Assisi

Italy (1181 – 1226) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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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

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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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Sep 20 2019

John O’Donohue – In Praise of the Earth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

In Praise of the Earth
by John O’Donohue

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue

/ Image by mark O’Rourke /

Today is an important day of environmental activism and reconnection with the natural world. A good day to praise the Earth–

There was a time when I lived on Maui, without much money but surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I stayed in a place half-way up Haleakala Volcano, at the edge of a eucalyptus forest. I fasted a lot in those days, and several times a week I would walk barefoot into the woods. Hidden among the trees was a small rock cave, just large enough for me to sit upright in meditation. To sit quietly in the cool, silent embrace of the Earth — a true blessing!

Though I now live in a small city, in a computer-powered world, I still carry that time with me in my heart. That memory continuously reminds me that, in spite of skyscrapers and the Internet, the world is not man-made. All the works of humanity are small accomplishments compared with the panoramic living miracle of the Earth.

The ground below us, sky above us, breath within us — all is the living Earth.

The Earth is the stage for our dramas.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And hold our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Not only could we not act without the Earth, we could not dream. The images, the objects, the colors that populate the human psyche, they are all of the Earth too. The Earth gives the mind a vocabulary. The Earth is our language. Not only is the natural world the stage upon which we act and experience and occupy physical space, it also populates the inner landscape of mind and dream.

The Earth is the place of birth, the stuff of life, and rest in death.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

While we as individuals live out the span of years alotted to us, the Earth is the full embodiment, the whole multiplicity of Life.

The tangible hints at the intangible. Matter expresses spirit. Earth gives form to heaven. How can we not honor that form? It is sacred. And it is us. You and I emerge to incarnate that form. Our challenge is to awaken and incarnate the secret light it suggests.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Take some time today to sit on the Earth. Run your fingers through the grass. Feel the quiet strength filling your bones. Know you are home.

And… have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: John O’Donohue

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings Echoes of Memory Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong Beauty: The Invisible Embrace Wisdom of the Celtic World (Audio CD)
More Books >>

John O'Donohue, John O'Donohue poetry, Christian poetry John O’Donohue

Ireland (1956 – 2008) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 17 2019

Ivan M. Granger – in love with the new sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

in love with the new sun
by Ivan M. Granger

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by A-Daly /

I wrote this poem several years ago in my Maui days, on a spring morning after emerging from a meditation. It was a time of opening for me, a time of surprising bliss, a time of settling into myself. I had gone through such terrible internal struggles up to that point, but what had kept be balanced and focused through it all had been my fierce determination to seek meaning and insight, a sense of a greater love and truth. And then one day, whoosh!, it was like I had come through the storm and found myself at rest in a wide peaceful sea.

That struggle I went through to get there, it wasn’t even that I thought it had been “worth it;” it was is if even the struggle itself had been subsumed by that expansive bliss until it no longer existed, except as a story I had told myself.

I had the image of spring after a hard winter. Bright, blossoming with new life. And I wrote this haiku.

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

A few years back I was contacted by a young woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to use this haiku in a tattoo she planned to get. I was flattered and surprised. I mean, to have these words, which popped into my mind in a moment of inspiration, tattooed onto your body, to carry them with you for the rest of your days, that is humbling indeed. More than that, it was a responsibility after the fact. I really had to sit with the haiku for a bit and decide if I thought it was worthy of such an honor.

In her email, she said that the poem spoke to her, that the cherry blossoms suggested to her that, because life is short, you need to live to the fullest and seize opportunities, and that any difficulties or sorrows are temporary. She mentioned that she had been through many hardships in her life but that she recognized the importance of not holding grudges or dwelling in the past “because every day is special… like cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time.” Clearly a wise woman, wisdom that has been hard-earned.

I gladly gave her my permission to use the poem in her tattoo. But I still had a bit of a dilemma: With this haiku being utilized in such a special way, I wanted to ask for a photograph, but, you know, I wasn’t sure exactly where the tattoo would be placed on her body. I tried to find the most diplomatic language possible to ask for a photo “if appropriate.” A few weeks later she sent back a snapshot of the lines of the haiku tattooed in an elegant script running along her lower ribs on one side


Have a beautiful day! Don’t forget to feel the new sun on your face.


First PS– Notre Dame
We are all stunned and shocked by the burning of Notre Dame in Paris. This is more than the destruction of a great landmark. Whether or not one is a Catholic or a Christian, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the great sacred spots on the planet. Notre Dame, of course, means Our Lady, a reference to Mother Mary. Notre Dame is a focal point for the Divine Feminine. What aspect of the Divine Mother is in flames? The natural world? The treatment of women in culture? Nurturing and compassion in society? But I also find myself asking, How does fire change from destruction to renewal?

PPS– Rabbits!
Yesterday my wife and I were surprised to see a rabbit sitting on our front lawn. We occasionally see rabbits on our walks, but this rabbit seemed contentedly camped out right in front of our house. Then we saw a second rabbit, and eventually a third. As we watched them, we noticed they were scurrying in and out from under our front porch. One rabbit in particular would pop out, grab several fallen pine needles and other leaves, then dart back under the porch. We think they are building a new warren under there. We’ve been blessed by a family of rabbits just a few days before Easter.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
More Books >>

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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4 responses so far

Apr 02 2019

Ivan M. Granger – To goslings

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

To goslings
by Ivan M. Granger

To goslings
just hatched, all the world
is a spring day

/ Image by Jlhopgood /

Today is my birthday. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, it is my fiftieth year to heaven. Or, as I said on Facebook, I am now halfway to my first century.

I thought I’d celebrate by sharing this poem of new life and fresh vision with you today. (And thank you to Kris H. for suggesting it!)

I wrote this poem a few years back while on a walk by a local lake during a golden spring day. The Canadian geese were out, gliding through the water or on shore cropping at the grasses. Several paraded their new families of goslings. I watched these little ones, new arrivals to the world, with their fuzzy yellow feathers halloed by the sun. Such a pure moment of new life. I was reminded that that same life is in me too, and in everyone.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
More Books >>

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

Continue Reading »

10 responses so far

Feb 21 2019

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Love came and emptied me of self

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Love came and emptied me of self
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Love came and emptied me of self,
every vein and every pore,
made into a container to be filled by the Beloved.
Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Olga-Zervou /

Long-time readers of the Poetry Chaikhana know that I have dealt with chronic fatigue/ME for a long time. It has generally been much better in the last couple of years — thankfully. My energies have been more steady and dependable for the most part. Still, it is something always in the background that must be carefully managed. Navigating my way through the activities of each day is often an exercise of careful strategy and measured choices.

I woke up this morning thinking about my journey along the way with that demanding teacher, and I returned to my commentary on this poem from several years ago. I share it again in the hopes that it is helpful to those of you who deal with difficult health issues or other challenges that can make life feel constrained. It’s easy to feel sorry for oneself, to rage at circumstance, to just give up. Or we can uncover hidden vistas within ourselves…


I have dealt with chronic fatigue on and off for years. As part of that pattern, I sometimes feel an intense sensation of tremors, even though my body is entirely still. Sitting on the couch with my wife, I’ll turn to see if she is shaking her foot, causing the couch to vibrate. But, no, she is quietly sitting there with no agitating movements. Each time this happens I’m surprised to find that nothing is actually shaking at all, neither my body nor the environment around me.

When the chronic fatigue symptoms are that strong I usually don’t have the energy to do a full day’s work, yet my body isn’t at rest enough to meditate either. What is a person to do who strives to be “spiritual,” when he can neither meditate nor take action? Interesting things happen at such moments.

When the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can no longer be sustained, one option is to cling to the crumbling edifice and be injured by its collapse. Another option is to construct a new story. Or we can let all stories fall away. We can stop struggling to be either this or that. We can step beyond our stories. That is when we rediscover what we actually are. That is when hidden doorways open.
The little self is simply the sum total of all the stories we tell ourselves. When those stories fall away, the self becomes empty of itself. We then become a cup, empty and ready to be filled.

Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

This is the hard wisdom that chronic illness teaches. Any life struggle—really any experience, pleasant or unpleasant—can be transformed into a teacher of wisdom when we stop taking it personally. Wisdom roots itself most deeply when we keep our hearts engaged and our eyes open in the midst of our shifting self-stories.

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

Sending love!

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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4 responses so far

Oct 31 2018

Abhishiktananda – Return within

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Return within
by Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

English version by H. Sandeman (?)

Return within,
to the place where there is nothing,
and take care that nothing comes in.
Penetrate to the depths of yourself,
to the place where thought no longer exists,
and take care that no thought arises there!
There where nothing exists,
There where nothing is seen,
the Vision of Being!
There where nothing appears any longer,
the sudden appearing of the Self!
Dhyana is this!

— from Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master, by Swami Abhishiktananda / Translated by H. Sandeman

/ Image by MikkoLagerstedt /

Return within…

A powerful description of deep meditation. (The word dhyana in the last line means meditation.)

There where nothing exists,


I have received several notes asking when the poem emails will resume. I had a particularly challenging chronic fatigue crash a couple of weeks ago, and I have been regrouping since then, recalibrating my health regime while doing my best to maintain my work hours with my day job. It may take me a couple more weeks to get into a regular pattern with the poetry emails once again. But I am generally improving and more Poetry Chaikhana will be coming your way soon!

I am also very aware of how much our attention here in the US and in the world is being taken up by the upcoming mid-term elections, by the terrible shooting of worshippers at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, and, for many, the sense of betrayal at the recent confirmation of Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. That’s just a partial list.

It is important that, in the midst of however we reach out to help in the world, we remember to regularly “return within.” It is that inner connection that imbues our outer action with its meaning and strength and resonance in the world.

Sending love to you all.

Recommended Books: Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master The Secret of Arunachala: A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain The Further Shore Swami Abhishiktananda: Essential Writings Prayer
More Books >>

Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux), Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux) poetry, Christian poetry Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

France, India (1910 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Aug 20 2018

Book Announcement: This Dance of Bliss

It’s ready! I am so happy to announce the publication of the latest Poetry Chaikhana anthology:

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


This Dance of Bliss is a new collection poems by beloved classical sacred poets along with a few modern visionaries — accompanied by my own thoughts, meditations, personal stories, and commentary.

The new anthology will officially be available in late September through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as by request through your local independent bookstore.

But I wasn’t planning on making you wait that long.

For the Poetry Chaikhana community, I am offering a special pre-order deal on This Dance of Bliss. If your purchase a copy directly through the Poetry Chaikhana before September 1st–

  • You will receive a discounted price of $12.95 (rather than the regular retail price of $16.95 USD)
  • I will personally autograph your copy
  • You will receive a special extra or two, like a Poetry Chaikhana bookmark
  • Most importantly, you will be helping me greatly by making sure we cover initial publication expenses
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

before Sept. 1


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!

Available soon through Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
and by request through your local bookseller


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.
     ~ MIRABAI STARR, author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam

To purchase a special pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss 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: $4.50 US, $7.50 Canada, $12.00 International.
(Payments should be made in US funds to “Poetry Chaikhana.”
And please don’t forget to include your mailing address.)

All pre-order copies will be shipped as soon as they are available, which will be at the beginning of September.

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


Here is a small sampling from This Dance of Bliss.

You can read more by clicking here: Read More:
Table of Contents + Introduction + Sample Poems

A hundred flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
the breeze in summer, in winter snow.
When the mind is unclouded,
this is the best season of life.

Wu Men


A hundred flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
the breeze in summer, in winter snow.

The shifting seasons against the living canvas of the world invite us to notice the cycles of life, how everything flows and changes and returns again. Because the world is filled with life, nothing remains the same. Everything grows and changes and comes around again renewed.

When the mind is unclouded…

Watching that flow, we witness such beauty. But we can only truly see it we let the mind quiet and become clear.

In such moments, a fullness of the soul overwhelms us. We become creatures of silent delight, content and complete in ourselves as we watch the parade of life’s seasons move past, leaving us fully alive in this very moment.

…this is the best season of life.

The sum total of our life is a breath
spent in the company of the Beloved.

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir
English version by Vraje Abramian

I find it intriguing that “breath” and “life” and “spirit” are synonyms in many languages. When you read sacred writings and the word “spirit” is used, substitute the word “breath” and see how the meaning changes and expands.

The relationship between breath, life, and spirit is more profound than the observation that the living breathe and the dead do not.

We think in terms of borders and boundaries, constantly noting what separates ourselves, mentally and physically, from everything else. But the reality is that there is a constant flow of awareness across those borders. Every one of us has the unseen movement of the breath. Through the breath, what is outside comes inside. What is non-self becomes self. And what was self is released again out into the world. This is communion, nothing less.

That inbreath of yours is the outbreath of another. The air we breathe is the breath of all.

A deep breath opens the chest and expands the heart. A full breath requires us to feel. We feel ourselves, and we feel others. Feeling, too, is communion. When feeling is shut down, the breath is shut down, and life has become limited.

The current of the breath continuously teaches us that the boundaries of self exist only in the mental map. In reality, we flow out into the universe, and the universe flows back in. The only way to secure our borders is to stop breathing, which is, of course, death. Life requires breath, and we live in each other, within the same shared breath.

When we really breathe, we might just come to the same conclusion as the poet: An individual’s lifetime may be brief or long, the experiences of life may be lasting or fleeting, but this communal breath-life-spirit in which we participate is the very breath of the Beloved.

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises

English version by Coleman Barks


Ivan M. Granger writes as though God is looking over his shoulder. He inspires appreciation of the literature of awakening as he inspires the reader’s own heart awakening. This anthology features poetic masterpieces from around the world, each one revealing the profound interconnectedness of all things. The comments accompanying each selection are direct and engaging, unfolding layers of meaning, further enhancing the themes of union, interconnection, and non-separation.”
     ~ JERRY KATZ, editor of One: Essential Writings on Nonduality

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

Ivan M. Granger Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss in support of the Poetry Chaikhana!

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


2 responses so far

Aug 20 2018

Adventures in Book Publishing

Preparing this book has been a journey. The editing and proofreading of a book always requires more than I anticipate. When I send out the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails, I regularly have a few type-os and misspelled or even missing words. You all know that. That’s frustrating to me when I notice mistakes only after I’ve sent the emails out. I like to tell myself those imperfections add to the charm of the emails, letting you know that it’s a real person sending out these emails, a person who is sometimes so enthusiastic for the material that he doesn’t always reread his own notes carefully before hitting the Send button. But I don’t think I can make the same argument when expanding and preparing that material of publication in a book. Taking that original material and preparing it for book form requires extensive work to edit and proofread the material. (Several volunteers from the Poetry Chaikhana community helped greatly with the final stages of the proofreading – thank you!)

I also have to go through the patient process of acquiring all of the necessary reprint permissions. Yes, it’s true that most of the poems I feature are several centuries old, but the translations are usually recent, and those translations are still under copyright. Many publishers charge a fee to grant reprint permissions, which add up in expense when we are talking about a few dozen poems. When I cannot get the reprint permissions for free, I have to decide if I should no longer include a poem in the collection, after all. In other cases, I create my own translation, tracking down the poem in its original language, and spending days or weeks with the poem. (While frustrating to my planned schedule, this often ends up being the most satisfying path. Translating the poem myself allows me to spend time with it, noticing its subtleties and wordplay that are not always apparent to me in other translations.)

It is not small concern to decide on poem order for the book. I look for a sense of related theme and flow as I turn the pages and move from poem to poem. I found myself spending weeks arranging and rearranging the poems, grouping them one way and then another until they all seemed happy with their immediate neighbors in the book.

I had an adventure tracking down the wonderful cover photo of the Mevlana Sufi dancer dissolving into water as he spins. I found the image online early in the process of designing the cover, but the photographer’s web page was out of date and his contact information was no longer valid. I researched him online and discovered that he was a Turkish photographer who lived and worked in Istanbul, but I couldn’t find recent contact information. Eventually I began to talk with a friend who has designed book covers for other authors to see if he could help with my book cover, since my primary design idea had reached a wall. The price he quoted me for his work, while reasonable, was still beyond my range, however. He then said that maybe he could help with the cover image I had been seeking. I gave him the information I had about the image and the photographer. A few days later he said that the same image was available through a photography clearinghouse website. All I needed to do was to pay a small fee, and I could have commercial reprint permissions for the image, which I gladly did. I never managed to connect with the photographer directly, but his lovely image – both dynamic and meditative – now adorns the cover of This Dance of Bliss. Thank you, wherever you are!

Of course, the cover wasn’t done. I designed the rest of the cover around the image of the Sufi dancer. I had to decide on patterns and framing and colors. Fonts and font sizes had to be selected for the cover. All of the elements had to be placed and repositioning them countless times, until I felt I had a pleasing balance of everything.

Within the manuscript itself, I also had to decide on fonts and formatting. I wanted the fonts to be legible and pleasing to the eye. I also wanted the poems to stand out visually from the commentary text, but not contrast in a way that creates visual harmony. I tried to avoid a regimented placement of the poem on the page. Some poems are short and have room to find the right location on the blank page. A few are mischievous and want align to the right or hide at the bottom. Others are meditative and sit at the center of the page. With the few longer poems, I don’t want to have the page break in the middle of a verse, yet it needs to be visually clear that it is still the same poem that has leisurely taken up residence on several pages. Each poem has a personality and its placement should reflect that.

As the book nears completion, there are several further details necessary for publication. I have to purchase and register the ISBN number, so bookstores can carry it and the new book is recognized by the mainstream world of publishing and book distribution. That ISBN barcode has to be incorporated into the back cover of the book, as well. I have to confirm that the book’s formatting meets the printer’s requirements. After sending the files to the printer, I went through a couple of rounds of having them send me printed proof copies before the last minor issues were resolved.

And here we are! The challenges, unplanned delays, and extra work were all worth it. We now have a new book which I hope will inspire and delight. I am pleased to welcome it into the world!

This Dance of Bliss

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

Ivan M. Granger Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss in support of the Poetry Chaikhana!

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


No responses yet

May 30 2018

Hiatus and Health

My apologies for the unannounced hiatus in posting these poems. I went through a rather challenging bout of chronic fatigue/ME and I needed to gather my energies together to keep basic hours with my day job as a computer programmer. But I seem to be on the rebound now and I hope these posts will be more regular again.

One response so far

Apr 04 2018

birthday wishes

Thank you for the many birthday emails and Facebook messages I received. It is my forty-ninth year to heaven, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas. Hopefully, that means I am a year wiser and a year kinder, as well. Certainly, I am a year richer in companionship, since I count all of you as friends and fellow-travellers. And I hope we are all growing in timelessness, which is the real yardstick.

2 responses so far

Oct 06 2017

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

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Alastair Reid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/ Image by Maks Karochkin /

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what we need.

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


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

The Book of Questions Neruda: Selected Poems On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition
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Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 14 2017

Race Does Not Exist

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

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

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

/ Image by Wonder woman0731 /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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