It Wants to Push Through

Following the Urge

In a conversation with another writer yesterday, I asked:
What do you long for?
What would feel good?

We were talking about how to create routines and structures in the midst of upheaval; how to remain grounded and connected to the things that matter, when so much else seems out of one’s control.

A Sense of Direction

Can you craft a structure or mission or compass—I’m not sure of the appropriate metaphor here—for what to do and how to do it, based on your answers to the above questions? What would you design for yourself? What would you set forth as your guiding questions or principles? I love talking about these things in my one on one sessions, especially if they really do lead to breakthroughs, which is to say, more happiness. More of that sense of rightness about the way daily life unfolds.

The Basics: Calm, Urge, Intellect, Craft, and Pacing

For me, I’m always trying to hold a few key things are once: a sense of calm; the procreative urge, wild as it comes; access to intellect and craft; and enough time to do the work without feeling that I’m rushing or cutting every corner. Dreamtime, right? But really, this is what I want and this is how I know what to do and not do with each little decision in my day.

Unsettling

Things like extended illness, family crises, break-ups, moving house, pregnancy, birth, death, or a job change can feel so destabilizing (because they are!), even for the most grounded among us.

So what do you do? Ride it out? Have a drink or two? Take a bath? Pretend it doesn’t feel awful? Hope it will be over soon? Quit everything and hide under the covers? Play hooky? Spiral into existential doubt about the worthiness of even trying to have a life on your own terms? I’ve done every one of these things and some of them work more or less—temporarily.

Impermanence Surrounds Us

The nature of being human is to cycle through the dreck but impermanence is the law of the universe so those dips always end. Out we come, on the other side: more or less in one piece. Sometimes even a little refreshed from the fight to survive.

The lesser disruption of a change in the season can also unsettle. Do you notice this? I wonder if it is especially true for those of us who are by nature or occupation, particularly attuned to the earth’s rhythms: from cold to warm, from dormancy to new growth, from dark to more daylight. From one way of living and being (at home, slow and cozy, for example) to a very different one (active, outdoors, and suddenly hustling to get the garden in.)

Feeling Transitions and Shifts in Our Bodies

My friend Nancy, an acupuncturist, explains the characteristics of this season in terms of an uprising, emergent energy that wants to break through and expand. Sounds good, maybe, but it can also feel unnerving to contend with all that life force within one’s limited human body.

I feel it. At this time of year, I am that much more apt to have a million ideas, speed up in order to do as many as possible, crave different foods, crave more in general, seek interaction with other humans, fall in love easily, and when I pause, as I’ve trained myself to do, I read this energy as a pure, sparking electric charge. Erotic. Powerful. Or said another way, this is my inherent procreative potential upwelling as the world around me does the same. Forsythia, leaf bud, green nubbins of grass. We are connected, of course.

Existing in Fullness

We all just want to exist in our full full fullness, right? Our urge to take our full form is so POWERFUL. 

So how do we do that? How do you?

When I feel wobbly or impatient or overwhelmed, or any way, really, I know and trust that I will feel best when I simply begin by attending to the shape of my morning, which means reading at least one poem before I do anything else. No phones. No early appointments. No rushing. Having done so, I can count on my appetite and imagination to move me forward in a constructive way. After a few poems—I’m reading Jenny George’s remarkable debut collection, The Dream of Reason—I almost always feel like writing, and when I’m doing that, I feel most myself, regardless of what appears on the page or in the rest of my day. Any of us can choose this, even if all we have is 15 minutes of our own.

A Way to Work

I’m super excited to bring all of this spring energy to Works in Progress, my online boot camp for poets who want to finish (and perhaps publish) their poems. We begin Friday and you can participate from anywhere in the world, as long as you access to the internet. I’ve crafted this workshop (we will work!) as a slow but steady process that will yield you the satisfaction of having made some things you can feel proud of by the beginning of May. For real. You can still join us and I hope you will. 

You can find out more information, and register on the brand new Poetry Forge website.

Holly Wren Spaulding reading a book about John Cage.

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For Relief of the Body and Reconstruction of the Mind

Deep Winter is my favorite time of year to read and write. To sleep more.  To sift through the notes and drafts of the year that just ended. To birth new things and give them time to unfold. Dig into big projects.

 

 

The above passage is from one of my favorite poems, “Planetarium,” by Adrienne Rich. Isn’t it powerful?

*

Maybe you are here in this life for the some of the same reasons I am here: To pay attention. To feel it all. To work with language to communicate and connect.

 

To “translate pulsations / into images for relief of the body / and reconstruction of the mind.”

 

To be a writer who does more than talk about their desire to get the words down, and then get them right.

 

To make things that move into the world, find readers or friends, and spur them to feel and see and wonder about things that you have felt and seen and wondered about.

 

This is an incomplete set of reasons to live, to write. Just the ones that occur to me now as the sun rises after a snowstorm and I realize I have a sliver of time in which to compose this letter to you. What is within us, must be drawn forth from the body and given form. Poetry is a process. In some ways it’s very concrete. I believe anyone can do it and receive the benefit of the experience. In other ways, it’s esoteric and hard to explain. To do it well can take more years of effort than most will be willing to give to the cause.

 

Some of us will give everything to it, though.

 

Is it alchemy? Magic? A form of channeling? Divination? Intuition? Is it as simple as saying what happened? Of recording the facts? Of taking notice. For me, it’s all of the above. Once we’ve acquired some of the basic tools, we have the power. A great and gratifying power.

 

A word after a word

after a word is power.

(Margaret Atwood)

 

Poetry is only one way to move through the world, and to make sense of it—and if not sense, than at least an account of the sensation—but it is a way. For millennia, humans have practiced this art form, and its value and resonance remains, even in this era of faster, flashier, and more immediate forms of expression. The best poetry defies our appetite for speed. It cuts through the noise: it is a signal. It can moves us to new thoughts, feelings, actions. It can be a way of life and by that I don’t just mean that we can write poems as part of what we do and are while alive. I mean that I can be a person on whom nothing is lost. I can cultivate this way of looking, sensing, recording, thinking, feeling, being, and in doing so, bring more presence to my experience of being alive.

Registration is open for the 21 Day Poetry Challenge which runs March 1-21, 2019. Get the early bird price if you register by Valentines Day using code LOVE. Our theme this time is “Strange, Beautiful” and I’ve loved choosing poems to share with you during the challenge. They include selections from Tina Chang, Laura Kasischke, Franz Wright, Anne Carson, and Lydia Davis.

*Join the 21 Day Poetry Challenge*

 

“This is my third (or 4th?) time taking your class and it is such a pleasure. I love receiving the emails each day, and incorporating this into my morning practice. I am finding that sometimes there’s a poem right then (as with the first one I’m sharing here), and other times the support of that structure helps me later on, as it did with the funeral poem I wrote. That one exposed some fury I didn’t even know I had, and again—I am grateful. For poetry, and for your gift in supporting the process.”—C.H., Poetry Challenge, 2018

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Begin.

*This essay is part of an ongoing series related to my Axioms for Poets, Writers, Artists &. Subscribe to my mailing list so as not to miss future installments.

Begin. 

Don’t wait for the ideal moment, perfect circumstance, or a dedicated studio. Begin where you are, with what you have, what you already know, right now.

Many years ago I came across a photo of text on a page, attributed to the avant garde composer and artist John Cage, that said: Begin anywhere. It flashes in my mind’s eye anytime I have the urge to make something, but think I don’t know the first step. I can get overwhelmed: so many ideas, so many possible directions to take. If I linger in the feeling of needing to choose the best way, a pressure builds, and it doesn’t feel good. What began as pure lifeforce and creativity can take on the qualities of a weight, a pressure. But I’ve learned that if I just take a step—Do something!—then I feel better. No, I feel really good. It’s actually the best. And I learn time and again that I can find my way as I go. I fall into a rhythm. On good days, I reach that flow state we all so long to inhabit.

In my early twenties I began studying Zen with a teacher, Haju Sunim, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Around that time I was given a copy of Thich Nhat Hahn’s For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts, which includes a beloved poem in translation by the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado:

 

Wanderer, the road is your

footsteps, nothing else;

wanderer, there is no path,

you lay down a path in walking.

In walking, you lay down a path

and when turning around

you see the road you’ll

never step on again.

Wanderer, path there is none,

only tracks on the ocean floor.

 

Translated by Francisco Valera

 

That poem became my map, my companion, and an affirmation that it’s okay to grope and not know and head into the unknown. I’ve carried this idea of making my way by making my way with me ever since. It’s helpful because it’s empowering for a poet to accept that she has to figure it out as she goes. That this is how it’s done: by simply taking a step and then taking another.


I have room for one more writer in the 2019 session of A Body of Work: an online course to support the process of making your first poetry chapbook manuscript. Register by January 31.

I think it was Einstein who said that imagination is superior to knowing, or something like that. An artist must cultivate a tolerance for unknowing, but she can console herself that she has a great power in this process: her visions, her intuitions, her deepest instincts, and ideally, her self-trust. He ability to begin.

I found Machado’s poem in a collection of essays about the ethical guidelines that underpin Buddhism, compassion being among the most central themes: compassion for all beings, including one’s self. I no longer feel I need to know what to do: I just begin. I begin anywhere and trust, because I’ve witnessed this time and again, that marvelous (and perfectly ordinary) way that interesting things unfold in the process.

Back when I was reading Machado every day, I lived for a short time in a Zen Temple where I woke early each morning to sit in meditation with a small group of senior students. At intervals, one of them would shout out the following phrases while we did 108 prostrations.

GREAT IS THE PROBLEM OF BIRTH AND DEATH!

(25 prostrations)

IMPERMANENCE SURROUNDS US!

(25 prostrations)

BE AWAKE EACH MOMENT!

(25 more prostrations)

DO NOT WASTE YOUR LIFE!

 

One does this practice to unify the body and mind and to humbly meditate on what it means to work toward the liberation of all beings. It has a way of stripping you down to your essence when you do it every day

The whole experience taught me so much about what it means to live in the present. It fortified my resolve to be and become someone on whom nothing is lost, but of all the teachings and trainings and things I absorbed during that time, I probably think most often about that final injunction—DO NOT WASTE YOUR LIFE—because it so succinctly encapsulates the way I want to exist in the world. It’s another version of Carpe Diem (and yes, I loved that moment in Dead Poet’s Society when Robin Williams implores his students to seize the day, “because we are food for worms. lad”.)

In the practice of poetry,  this often means taking that first step. Putting pen to paper and humbly accepting what comes: with compassion, with curiosity, with a feeling of love toward that thing within you that wants to emerge.  Beginning means not waiting to know more, or have more qualifications, or get permission from someone else. (How often have you decided to research MFA programs or read a book about how to write a poem instead of writing a poem?)

Perhaps you will this video in which Benedict Cumberbatch reads a letter from artist Sol LeWitt to artist Eva Hesse. We watch this in A Secret Life and I wanted to share it with you, too.

 

We’ll be exploring these axioms in The Practice of Poetry during the month of February. It’s an online course and there’s still time to sign up through Interlochen College of Creative Arts.

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Making a Manuscript—With My Support!

A Body of Work is a ten-week, online manuscript incubator where poets learn how to assemble and edit their first poetry chapbook. I created this course during a six month artist residency at the Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art and Science in 2012. Four years prior, my first chapbook had won a competition, judged by Fleda Brown, former poet laureate of Delaware, and since then I had also served on the editorial board of the small press that had published my collection, where I was able to work closely with many other authors to develop their work toward a publishable book.

I have been interested in the form of the book, and more recently, the chapbook, since college, when I supported myself in part by submitting my creative writing (poems and essays) to the prestigious Hopwood Awards, which required that you present the submission as a manuscript. I loved sitting on the floor in my student housing, figuring out how to make a cohesive collection. I usually used my prize money to travel during my summers. Twenty years later, I love sharing this process with other adults who have, in many cases, been writing since college and are finally ready to make their best poems into a first chapbook.

In this course, which begins at the end of January—I have 2-4 spots remaining—we look closely at how other chapbooks and books that we admire are constructed, and learn how to arrange our own poems into a shapely collection. We prepare two full drafts of a 10-30 page poetry manuscript; give and receive feedback from a peer; meet in live video classes; discuss key readings in online forums; and work one on one with the instructor, Holly Wren Spaulding, the author of two chapbooks, one full-length book, and numerous essays, articles, reviews and collaborative publications, to complete a project by the end of the course. Some participants go on to submit their work to poetry presses and contests, while others prefer to self-publish, usually enlisting independent publishing professionals in that process.

This course is appropriate for highly motivated writers who have been gathering poems for a while, and have at least 15-20 pieces that they believe might belong in a collection. More poems is always better as we start out with a draft of up to 50 poems. You can find out more information, and read testimonials on the course page.

During the 2019 session, I will be working on a personal project  in which I will create a new manuscript from fragments written during 2018, and using the Cento form as a guide. It it possible that this is a viable form for you, too?

If you are interested in this offering, please reach out via my contact page.

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Delicate Utterances. Marks on the Cave Wall.

Delicate Utterances. Marks on the Cave Wall

Artists present first of two collaborative works in Great Barrington this weekend

 

Great Barrington, MA. Lenox based artist Karen Dolmanisth works with found objects and natural materials to create site specific sculptures and drawings that combine physical movement  with an intuitive relationship to space and time. When Pioneer Valley poet Holly Wren Spaulding began collaborating with her two years ago, the process that emerged grew from their shared affinity with many of the same concepts, influences, and life experiences that have mattered to the artists independently, including John Cage, Yoko Ono and Buddhist practice. Their current process and project, ‘Still, Inviolate Center,’ will be on view this weekend at the Geoffrey Young Gallery in downtown Great Barrington with a live performance at 5:30 pm.

 

Holly Wren Spaulding and Karen Dolmanisth. Arts and Industry Building, Florence, Massachusetts. Photo by Candace Hope.

 

“I’m wanting to make a beyond-words gesture that says: from this place, I know that which is greater. It’s a ritual. A sacred act, like touching the cave wall,” says Dolmanisth. Spaulding, meanwhile, works from an archive of their conversations, co-experiments, and an exchange of materials and resources, distilling these elements into words and images imbued with the perspectives of two women who are creating work at the margins, surrounded by an overculture that continues to question the value of women’s voices, bodies, and experiences.

 

‘Still, Inviolate Center,’ incorporates Domanisth’s site specific, multi-media work with natural materials, water, and space, with selections from Spaulding’s ‘Lost Lexicon’ project, an extended series of compressed poems that imagine the voices of beings and places of a threatened natural world, and is presented in conjunction with MESHES, a group show 
featuring 2D works by John Clarke, Karen Dolmanisth, 
Dana Piazza and Sara Wallach. The first of two scheduled public performances will happen on Saturday, January 5, 2019, 5:30-6:30 pm at the Geoffrey Young Gallery, 40 Railroad Street, 2nd Floor, Great Barrington, MA. Free admission. Seating will be limited and doors will close once the program begins. Wine served. This is a 18+ event. Later in the month, Dolmanisth and Spaulding will present their second piece, ‘As Mountains.’

 

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Rituals to End the Year

I have a few end-of-year rituals that I’m looking forward to doing over the next few days. They include:

1. Rereading all of my notebooks from 2018 and discovering the unfinished poems, orphan lines, essays in progress, new workshop ideas, and passages from my reading that deserve further attention.

2. Reviewing the projects I completed and the ones still in progress as a way of celebrating what is underway and in the world already. I tend to forget so much of what I’ve done unless I pause to take stock, often by making lists.

3. Detoxing my digital habits. I took four days away from email and social media during the Christmas holiday and have just decluttered both my inbox and Instagram feed. Last year I stopped keeping my phone in my bedroom overnight and I’m recommitting to not looking at it after 8pm and before 9 am. That has been my usual practice for the last three years, but I slip up sometimes. Getting away for a proper break reminds me how much calmer I feel when I’m not under the constant (and usually erroneous) impression that something somewhere else requires my attention, even after hours.

4. Thank you notes. Yes, I do this because I was taught their importance by my mother, but I’ve also found that staying connected to the ways others are supporting and caring for me, helps me feel less isolated and more knitted into the fabric of the larger ecosystem. I’ve also discovered that gratitude really is an antidote to feelings of discouragement and spiritual fatigue, when they arise.

5. Burning what I want to leave behind, which we will do under the winter sky on New Years Eve.

*

I also enjoy making lists of the high points from the preceding year:

Most pleasurable and immersive reading experiences: The Neopolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante and Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad by Alice Oswald.

Most affecting movies: Call Me by Your Name, Moonlight, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

Favorite gig out in the world: Beargrass Writers Retreat, Greenough, Montana. Fire, mountains, fields, electric green moss, horses, and some of the best writers in the west were all present.

Best meal: My three day reunion on the coast of Maine with three other writers, with whom I went to the same fine arts high school. We are still here, still writing, still finding a way to make our art despite many formidable obstacles! Thank you Brit, Melissa and Laura for being my companions on this path.

Musical experience that most deeply restored my past to me: Dancing to my friend Michael Franti and his band Spearhead at the Green River Festival. Michael and I were involved in many of the same causes and protests, back in the late 90’s and early aughts. It had been over ten years since we had seen one another and it was profound to reflect on what had changed in the intervening years, but more potently, what remained the same in terms of our spirits, devotions, and characters. Plus: dancing under a summer night sky is something I need to do more of.

Deep and ongoing conversation and connections with other women who are self-employed, and support their families this way, continued to be essential to me this year. Our solidarity and mutual aid; our sharing of skills and insights about how to make our work as sustainable as possible, while always striving to be better at our art; our tender friendships as we become more candid about our actual experiences, all matter so much to me. Thank you Katey, Kate, Sejal, Sara, Astra, Suzi, Laura, Sarah, Robin, Sarah, Mary Kay, Amanda, and Melanie.

 

Happy New Year!

 

Still. Here. I’ve known these incredible writers since our days at the Interlochen Arts Academy together.

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Poems for the End of 2018

As we close the year, here are some of the poems that I’ve enjoyed and shared in recent workshops. Maybe they will find their way to your holiday table or inspire reflection as we cross the threshold of 2019.

A Note

by Wislawa Szymborska

 

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Fruit

by Adam Zagajewski

How unattainable life is, it only reveals
its features in memory,
in nonexistence. How unattainable
afternoons, ripe, tumultuous, leaves
bursting with sap; swollen fruit, the rustling
silks of women who pass on the other
side of the street, and the shouts of the boys
leaving school. Unattainable. The simplest
apple inscrutable, round.
The crowns of trees shake in warm
currents of air. Unattainable distant mountains.
Intangible rainbows. Huge cliffs of clouds
flowing slowly through the sky. The sumptuous,
unattainable afternoon. My life,
swirling, unattainable, free.
[Excerpt]
by Paul Celan
translated by Pierre Joris

To stand, in the shadow
of the stigma in the air.

Standing-for-no-one-and-nothing.
Unrecognized,
for you
alone.

With all that has room in it,
even without
language.

from Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

The Orange

by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

 

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Make some room for yourself, human animal.

This fall, I worked on a Personal Canon project with my Poetry Immersion students, in which we gathered the texts, inspirations, and influences that have shaped our progress, and informed our aesthetic and point of view, over the years. Connecting to one’s artistic lineage has a way of empowering future work.  And also informs future research and offerings. In the process, I’ve revisited many poems that I’ve loved over the years, including this one, by a 20th-century Polish writer in translation:

 

Demand it Courageously

by Julia Hartwig

 

Make some room for yourself, human animal.

   Even a dog jostles about on his master’s lap to

improve his position. And when he needs space he

runs forward, without paying attention to commands

or calls.

   If you didn’t manage to receive freedom as a gift,

demand it as courageously as bread and meat.

   Make some room for yourself, human pride and

dignity.

   The Czech writer Hrabal said:

   I have as much freedom as I take.

 

I wish I could remember where I first came across this poem because I would provide the source for you.

*

The 2018 session of A Secret Life begins in just three weeks, on the Winter Solstice. I have only a few spots left if you’d’ like to participate. We’ll use this time to cultivate a private space, out of view of others, in which to dream up a project that we’d like to manifest during the coming year. This offering provides contemplative writing prompts and other creative exercises, a chance to meet up with other creative folks (not just writers!) via webinar, and a 1×1 coaching session with me. We’ll bring a close to this year, and give our attention to what we might create in 2019.

Personally, I’ll use this time and structure to go through my 2018 notebooks, transcribing anything that I haven’t already worked up into a poem, essay, writing assignment, or public offering of whatever kind. Then my annual manuscript incubator, A Body of Work, begins at the end of January, so I can look forward to revising the poems that have the most potential, into a short collection. As I write this I’m getting excited to see what emerges during the next two months! Want to join me?

More info about A Secret Life 

More about A Body of Work

 

Both of these courses will help you to make space and direct your attention toward creative projects and processes that matter to you, regardless of whether they involve a public dimension. Get in touch if you want to discuss whether this is the right thing, at the right time, for you.

 

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A Starting Point, A Pathway

We’re just a few days away from the December 2018 session of the 21 Day Poetry Challenge, an end of year ritual that results in many poems, passages and poetic fragments being written.

I create new writing prompts for each round of this generative course, and have been doing so quarterly for the last five years, so I’ve learned a thing or two about what sparks the creative responses in the Challenge participants.

As a starting point, we read a poem that I’ve selected based on a few criteria, including my sense that it belongs to the season we’re entering. In the last two years I’ve also begun to work with a loose theme, and this time we’re thinking about the INTERIOR. Interiority. Inner worlds. Inner life. Inside. Into. Within. The heart of the country. You get the idea.

I also choose poems based on my sense that they offer a starting point or pathway. A template, even. And then I show you what I see and suggest a way (or several) to begin.

As we read, we allow the words of other poets to rearrange our inner atmosphere a little bit. Here are some of the poets we’ll encounter in December:

 

Sejal Shah

Wislawa Szymborska

Diane Seuss

Rachel Zucker

Linda Gregg

Suzanne Buffam

Lorine Niedecker

Yona Harvey

Cynthia Huntington

Kathy Engel

Robyn Sarah

Nicole Sealey

Ursula K. Le Guin

Julia Hartwig

Matthew Olzmann

Oliver Bendorf

Raymond Carver

Abdul Ali

Ed Bok Lee

Chen Chen

John Freeman

Ilya Kaminsky

Stephan Burt

 

If you’d like to join us, registration is open until November 30. You can participate from anywhere in the world, as long as you have daily access to email.

 

 

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In Praise

I love this poem by Franz Wright. A good one for the first snow of the season.

 

HOMAGE

 

There are a few things I will miss,

a girl with no shirt on

lighting a cigarette

 

and brushing her hair in the mirror;

the sound of a mailbox

opening, somewhere,

 

and closing at two in the morning

of the first snow,

and the words for them.

 

from The Beforelife. Knopf, 2002.

 

As I prepare to close down my computer for a couple of days, and make Concord Grape Pie, then join family outside Boston for a holiday feast, I’m thinking about which poem I will bring to share around the table when we take time to reflect on what we are grateful for, surrounded as we are with so much abundance.

A poem opens the space for contemplation and thoughtful expression in much the same way that prayer does, though it’s more inclusive. We can all listen to a poem, while some will resist a religious offering in this setting.

I’ve pulled together a few favorites, in case you’d find it meaningful to read something at your own Thanksgiving/Indigenous People’s Day table. I’ve also included a rain poem, for friends in California who are facing wildfires and smokey air.

Just click the title of the poem to be taken to reading:

Thanks, by W.S. Merwin
Rain, Kazim Ali
Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo
Thank You, Ross Gay

 

And this one, from one of my favorite poets, Lorine Niedecker:

 

As praiseworthy

The power of breathing (Epictetus)
while we sleep. Add:
to move the parts of the body
without sound

and to float
on a smooth green stream
in a silent boat

 

 

 

I’ve often been the one to suggest that we take a little time to name what we cherish and this poem creates an easy framework for such a conversation. What would you name as praiseworthy? I just made a list and I’m struck by how the most basic things, can feel so necessary and important to well-being; things like:

indoor heat; wool base layers; spiked snow tires; my beloved, Matt; my parents and siblings; candles; meaningful work; my teachers; rugs on cold floors; Kate, with whom I practice every day; political satire; real books; local produce; fresh flowers (even out of season!); hot showers; Edward Steed; flannel sheets; circles of supportive colleagues and friends with whom I’m learning how to live well and make work, despite everything; reading in bed before the day begins; my 9-going-on-10-year-old’s health; Castelvetrano olives; fresh air; letters and postcards; my secondhand winter coat; my upstairs neighbor, Christian, who is just as monastic as we are at this time of year; memories of Stephen, who died three months ago, and way too young; big, open views of undeveloped spaces; Lake Michigan; Elizabeth Warren; the moon; dancing; movies that move me to laughter or tears; Queen; salt; skin; eyesight; the tools that make it possible for me to connect across miles and time-zones; clean drinking water; sun; this moment; and the next. ..

Your turn now. What are you feeling grateful for right now? I know we live in a cynical time when it’s uncool to speak sincerely about what matters to us, but we tend to feel better when we do. Why is that? I think it has to do with reconnecting with substance and value. And maybe speaking truth rather than performing indifference?

I don’t know. I guess I see so much that needs our love and reverence right now, lest it be lost or no longer valued.

 

To notice and to praise is a form of protection and preservation.

 

ANDŌ

 

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