Category Archives: Poetry

The Art of Peace

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (today he would have been 85), I would like to share a few comments on peace and peaceful living, and honor a man who was a real pathfinder and activist for civil liberties. If we stop for a moment to ponder his enormous courage to speak out and unite people, we have to bow to his brilliance and tenacity. He was a role model inspiring people to speak the voices of their heart and reach out to attain peace in their lives.

As a spiritual person, I believe that peace begins within. If everyone makes an effort to bring peace to their own personal lives, then the chance of world peace increases. This means a daily practice, whether it is meditation, yoga, stretching, walking, cycling, hiking or a daily bath. A practice which calms your body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps I am being overly simplistic and idealistic, but we all need to start somewhere. Situated in the corner of my desk, from where I am writing this blog, is a calm Buddha statue holding a little a stone which says, “Serenity.” I like the calm that the Buddha and his stone bring into my day. Every so often I glance over at him and he calms me. We all need reminders around us that do this. Whatever works for you.

In a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Luke Glowacki posed the question, “Are people violent by nature?” “Probably,” he answered. To me this was a disturbing perspective, but as I read further, his premise made more sense. He talks about the war of ideas over violence and human nature that has raged since the 1600s when philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculated the “natural condition of mankind” was one of violence and conflict. I think more like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who viewed things differently and said that culture and civilization, not nature, was responsible for violence. I concur with his sentiments.

I believe that the nature of war and violence is everyone’s yearning for happiness and survival. During the time of hunter-gatherers, there was the fight for food and survival. Some researchers such as Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute believe that warfare is necessary for the evolution of humanity’s exceptional altruism.
My preference is to believe that even though violence and fighting for rights is necessary for evolution, it is also a way for certain groups, which can influence change, to join together. Like King’s mission and also the strong environmental lobbies present today. I also believe in the 1960s phrase that was posted in the hippie shops, and on a button fixed on my overcoat, “Make love and not war.”

In conclusion, Glowacki deftly and wisely states, “Whether our genes lead us to war or peace depends on the particular social environment in which we live.” There are just too many variables to consider when ascertaining the role and origin of violence in our world as we know it. We need to do our part and aim for peaceful existence, first in our little inner worlds and then the world-at-large.

Buddha

Supporting Yourself This Holiday Season

Darn. I missed a poetry reading on Saturday. It would have been a good day for listening to poetry. Actually, every day is a good day for poetry because poetry nurtures the soul. On days when we feel somewhat melancholic, the wisdom of well-written poems can offer solace to our minds.

Especially during the holiday season, we seem to need this sense of deep calm. Aside from having lunch with my cousin in Ojai where we reminisced about the past and made plans for 2014, when we both turn 60, the highlight of my weekend was sitting in my yard and reading. Recently, a friend who travels a lot told me that in her suitcase, she always carries a copy of Adrienne Rich’s, The Dream of a Common Language. This weekend seemed like a good time to pull it off the shelf and flip through it. Typically, my way of re-reading a poetry book which I have read before, is to randomly opening it to any page. Yesterday’s sense of randomness brought me to her poem, “Not Somewhere Else But Here.” After reading just the title, the first thought that sprung into my mind was the importance of mindfulness: slowing down our moments to enhance appreciation and gratitude, two important attitudes for the holiday season. The last few lines of the poem read,

Split love seeking its level flooding other
lives that must be lived not somewhere else
but here seeing through blood nothing is lost.

As a poet and memoirist myself, I do believe that if we have gratitude and are attentive, nothing is lost, but everything is experienced.

Coincidentally, on my bookshelf not far from Rich’s book was Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever You Go There You Are. The resemblance of this title and the title of chosen poem is uncanny. Further, my cousin from Ojai is the one who recommended this book that I also refer to during moments of turmoil, like I am feeling right now. As I flipped through this book I noticed many of my jottings, penciled notes in the margins. I randomly opened to a Chinese inscription cited from Thoreau’s Walden—“Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again and forever again.”

I believe this is one of the many keys to happiness. Renewal is best accomplished in whatever way feels right for you. Kabat-Zinn offers an exercise that I have found helpful during moments which call for renewal. He suggests that when you are feeling a sense of dissatisfaction, try to capture that moment and instead of engaging in an escape like calling a friend or picking up a magazine or digging into a container of ice cream, to sit yourself down and focus on your breathing. Remain mindful of that moment in your precious life. You can do this wherever you are—whether at your desk, in your garden, in your living room, in the woods or in walking about the city. Just stop yourself. He suggests to be with yourself and then open up your palms to the sky. Then hold your arms in various positions, as if you were a tree or a branch. This simple act will make you accessible, open, receptive and possibly patient with what you are feeling. Stay in that position for as long as you can, and then remind yourself that everything passes, absolutely everything.

Whatever modalities you use to support yourself during challenging times, this week might be a good time to reach for them. And better yet, please share with my readers and me what brings you peace during these hectic days. Sharing will only bring us closer.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

The Art and the Artist

This past week I read an interesting article in The American Poet by Mark Wunderlich, called “Laying Blame: The Legacy of Sylvia Plath.” The article highlighted the life of poet Sylvia Plath, in honor of what would have been her 81st birthday on October 27th. The article brought to light an interesting discussion regarding the art and the artist and the ability of a reader to separate the creator from the creation.

The author said that he taught Plath in his class with the goal of the students could “hold the work at some distance from the biography and see what the poems were made of.” He said they were able to do this for a short time. He adds a poignant thought, “Suicide is confusing. The act creates a void and stops time.”

When reading the work of Plath or other confessional poets it’s often difficult to decipher the person amongst the art. When reflecting on Plath, the reader wonders if all her poetry and writings could be considered different forms of suicide notes.This is not something the reader assumes consciously, however, knowing the backdrop of an artist’s life story sometimes provides helpful information. Other times, the knowledge could hinder the enjoyment of the art in and of itself. It might not be a good idea to pose questions of an artist’s life while being engaged in their work, but it could be suggested that it is a better idea to study the work as an art form to be admired and appreciated. Readers should be aware that a poet’s truths are not always literal truths, and that it would serve them well while reading to focus on the language, images, and rhythm of the verse.

There is no doubt that confessional poets such as Plath, Sexton, Lowell, Howe and Olds might share snippets of intimate moments of their lives, yet the important thing to remember is that the best poems in the confessional tradition are those which are relevant beyond the poet’s life, in that the verse resonates with the reader and/or provides some sort of universal truth or feeling. It is important for the reader to remember that the world portrayed in a poem is not the real world, but rather, an artifice. The poet might receive his or her inspiration from a lived experience or observation, but in the poetic form it can transform into an exaggerated or distorted form and possibly be unrelated to reality. Thus, most poets will agree that poetry is neither fiction nor nonfiction, but tends to blend all genres with the imagination using a rhythm specific to poetry. In my opinion, the best poetry elicits a memorable emotion or gut reaction in the reader., leaving the reader with lasting images and sensations, in the same way that a good movie or book can do.

Writing A Healing Poem

For years psychotherapists have suggested poetry as a way to navigate through difficult times. This mode of healing is particularly valuable for those who find it easier to write than to express themselves verbally. Writing can also augment any type of psychotherapy already in progress. Writing can empower and be one way to come to grips or understand what is going on in your mind. It is also way to identify the dreams resting in your heart.

When writing a healing poem it is important to write from your heart rather than your head. This might take some practice as we often intellectualize our pain. If you don’t have a lot of experience writing poetry, then you might want to start writing a poem as if you are telling a story. Sometimes this is called narrative poetry. Keep in mind that rhyming is not important. Also, it is okay to cry when you are writing. Tears show that you are tapping into some of your deepest emotions, and this is one way of healing.

Most of my poems begin on the pages of my notebook. Typically, I will write when dealing with an emotional experience, such as pain, loss or joy. My first two poetry books, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You and The Guilt Gene, consist of narrative and prose poetry and basically chronicle my life—surveying the good and bad times. In re-reading through these two collections, I realized how often I turned to poetry for healing and celebration. Poetry is an excellent genre to ground you when emotions become too powerful or intense. In fact, writing poetry has helped me through three pregnancies laden with bed rest, the loss of numerous loved ones and helped me heal through two bouts of cancer. It also came in handy when my middle daughter, Regine got married a few years ago. I wrote some poems about her and her fiancé. Although I did not share all of them, it felt good to write them.

When diagnosed with early breast cancer (DCIS) in 2001, the first thought that whipped through my mind was not being able to see my children grow up and have children of their own. Even as a nurse, I was flooded with fear and worried about the genetic factors associated with cancer. My terrifying concern inspired the following poem:

To My Daughters

You were the first I thought of
when diagnosed with what
strikes one in eight women.
It was too soon to leave you,
but I thought it a good sign
that none of us were born
under its pestilent zodiac.
I stared at the stars and wished
upon each one that you’d never
wake up as I did this morning
to one real breast and one fake one;
but that the memories you carry
will be only sweet ones, and then
I remembered you had your early traumas
of being born too soon, and losing
a beloved grandpa too young. I have
this urge to show you the scars
on the same breasts you both cuddled
as babies, but then I wonder why
you’d want to see my imperfections
and perhaps your destiny. I cave in
and show you anyway, hoping you learn
to eat well and visit your doctors, but then
I wonder if it really matters, as I remember
what your grandpa Umpie used to say,
“When your time’s up, it’s up.”
May he always watch over you!

The goal of writing a healing poem is about turning a negative into a positive. Writing a healing poem is simply a matter of sitting down and writing. Very little instruction is needed. Some people are intimidated by poetry and/or want tips on how to begin.

Here is a list of suggestions that might help you get started:

- begin with an image, action or strong emotion
- try starting the poem with one of the following: “Suppose …,” “I confess,” “I wish,”
- provide as many details as possible
- when possible, use metaphors
- try to use many images and descriptions
- if it’s your first poem, begin by writing 4 lines per stanza

If you are still having trouble getting started, try making a list of the following prompts and then choose one to write about:

- what I fear
- what I love
- loved ones gone
- what a perfect day would look like

Embracing Life

Last week I wrote about honoring fathers, those with us and those who have passed on. Later on in the week I published an addendum to that blog in the Santa Barbara Sentinel and added a section about a father, an esteemed poet and friend, who passed away in the early hours of Father’s Day. His name was Kurt Brown and here’s an excerpt from that article:

“Father’s Day is a day to celebrate all fathers, alive and deceased—their wisdom, love and support. This Father’s Day, Santa Barbara lost a wonderful father, poet and friend, Kurt Brown who died unexpectedly in the early hours of what was supposed to be his celebratory day. I always thought he would be a great man to get to know better.

Thanks to Santa Barbara poet, Lois Klein, once a month a group of us gather at the Blue Agave to share a favorite poem by a published poet. Two days after Kurt’s passing, a bunch of us gathered and dedicated the evening to him. We agreed that reading and writing poetry is healing. Many of the participants read some of Kurt’s fine poetry. I chose to read something by Rumi, because for me, Rumi’s words are both wise and healing. The poems often don’t have titles, but are simply verses. Here’s what I shared:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

When I arrived home that evening, I pulled out Kurt’s book, Time-Bound, which he gave me at his poetry reading in April. I was moved by his dedication—For Diana, Fellow poet and good friend, here in this beautiful place. ~Kurt

Thank you, Kurt, for reminding me that we do live in such a beautiful place. Now this beautiful place will miss Kurt’s wisdom, gentleness, kindness and creativity. As someone said about his poems, he engaged with the world he inhabited, questioning it, and taking nothing for granted. In the same way that we should never take good people like Kurt for granted. May you rest in peace, dear Kurt, with all of the other beloved fathers who have passed.”

_____

Losing a friend or loved one can make us appreciate life even more. It brings us face to face with reality and I realized this at Kurt’s memorial this past weekend. While we celebrated and embraced his life, many of us, both younger and older than him, acknowledged the fragility of life and how you can be here one day and gone the next. I had difficulty sleeping during last night’s super-moon. As I laid in bed, I reminded myself of the importance of embracing life and happiness and the urgency to get things done in this lifetime—passions to be nurtured and lived out, and also the importance of slowing down each moment to enjoy. The feature article in the August issue of Psychology Today is called, “What happy people do differently,” and it illuminated many ideas for me. Recently I have noticed that a number of magazines offer articles on the pursuit of happiness, which must be tapping into a universal need. “What can I do to be happy?” We are no longer hunter-gatherers simply looking for food for our family, life has become more complicated than that. The article claims that happiness is more than just an emotion and that it includes cognitive reflections, your appearance or the quality of your relationships. This points to the fact that we are in control of our happiness by setting good intentions, incorporating good habits and making good choices.

The article is well balanced and even addresses the issue that happy people engage in a wide range of counter intuitive habits that may even seem unhappy. They connect to activities that might lead to uncertainty, discomfort and perhaps guilt. As writers, we realize that it is the troubled times that often drive us to the page, and not so much the happy ones, but it seems to be the contrast which is so poignant and effective. The author mentions the importance of seeing the forest for the trees and that happy people tend to be more positive and less skeptical than others. Studies also showed that happy people are less conscientious about their actual performance and don’t sweat the small stuff.

My belief is that life is about balance regarding the pleasure and purpose in life. The authors, Kashdan and Biswas-Diener provide a great metaphor­– “If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning.”  Further, they claim that those who are happiest have the propensity to be honest about what does and does not energize them, they incorporate sensory pleasures each day and are also able to integrate into their lives activities that they most care about which provide for them a sense of life purpose and satisfaction.

Now that’s what I call embracing life!

Early Eulogies

As part of my plan for “a poem a day” for the month of April, I was asked to write one called, “Diana’s Eulogy.” This was one of the most difficult writing assignments I have ever received. Often prompted poems create challenges because unlike most of my poems, they are not spontaneously inspired by an emotion, feeling, or image. This might be one reason why many prompted poems are often not compelling. Writing one’s eulogy is an especially challenging task. As much as everyone likes writing about themselves, it is another thing to laud oneself outwardly line after line. Admittedly, I did not get past three lines of my own eulogy. While it was a good exercise, I wanted to reach out for someone else to write it. The job opportunity is still available.

I have always wondered why eulogies are only written after someone has passed. That person never gets to hear all the wonderful things about them that they might not have been mindful of. After all, writing a eulogy is a form of gratitude. Expressing gratitude is something we should all do more of anyway. I confess, however, that I once started a file of eulogies, some written by others, some written by myself. It is not that I sat home waiting for loved ones to die or anything like that, it’s just that it felt right to honor and recount what I appreciated about them. This is in the same vein as Pablo Neruda’s wonderful collection of Odes. One of my favorites of his is “Ode to an Artichoke.” Perhaps a vegetable’s form of death is it being harvested, so this works, however, an ode can be written to anything alive or dead. In fact, once on our anniversary I wrote an ode to my husband. It was a sort of honoring. A way to give thanks and express gratitude rather than buying one of those patented Hallmark cards, which never seem to say what we want it to say.

Writing an ode or a eulogy is also a way to clear the mind and to regain a new form of appreciation. It could also be a way to see through darkness, by speaking from the heart and soul. Sending an ode or a mock eulogy to someone can offer encouragement during difficult times.

When writing an ode or eulogy, the first thing to be decided is the tone. You might want to stick with the individual’s tone and what suits their sensibility. Sometimes humor works. For example, I know a few humor writers who read my blog, and you know your eulogy will be humorous. After deciding the tone then make a list of the individual’s qualities, interests, passions, and poignant biographical markers. Beside each quality give an illustration from a real life example or story. When writing a eulogy, it is a good idea to think in terms of a beginning, middle and end, but it might not be as important when writing an ode. The best eulogies, like the best books, stories or poems are those remembered long after they are heard. They are specific and consist of visuals and details. They are simple and sincere and written from the heart.

Here is a link for some famous and well-crafted eulogies:

http://www.eulogyspeech.net/famous-eulogies/#.UX6ZPYJhyu5

Here is a link to “Ode to An Artichoke” by Pablo Neruda:

http://allpoetry.com/poem/8496979-Ode_To_The_Artichoke-by-Pablo_Neruda

The Healing Power of Poetry

Much has been written on the healing and transformative power of writing, whether it is journaling, prose or poetry. Poetry can be powerful because it succinctly puts a voice to our inner most feelings. It helps provide a dialogue to what we are going through. People tend to write poetry when they are in the midst of powerful emotions. In fact, some of the best poems incorporate deep emotions and/or poignant images.

The healing power of poetry is not a new phenomenon. In fact, during The Civil War, Walt Whitman read poems to wounded soldiers. His poems highlighted war, courage, and the military life. Historically speaking, there have been many physicians who were poets. William Carlos Williams is one who comes to mind as writing poems between patients on the prescription pads kept in his pocket. Other physician-poets include John Keats, Chekov, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Poets tend to be in touch with their deepest emotions and the best physicians are those who are also able to tap into the deepest part of the psyche.

More recently, poetry has been incorporated into a number of medical school programs, including Yale and Harvard Schools of Medicine. In her article in The New York Times entitled, “The Doctor as Poet,” (December 1, 2011), by Pauline Chen, M.D. explained how poetry can help physicians empathize and understand what a patient is going through. This can be done by both the reading and writing of poetry.

Perie Longo, Ph.D., a Santa Barbara psychotherapist and our second Poet Laureate, says that it is important to remember that “the focus of poetry for healing is self-expression and growth of the individual, whereas the focus of poetry as art is the poem itself.” For more than two decades Longo has been deeply involved in poetry therapy including as executive Director of the National Association for Poetry Therapy and teaching at the Santa Barbara Cancer Center since 2008. In her groups, she has many techniques to help individuals write poetry. For example, she will sometimes take a phrase from a poem and repeat it for each group member to fill in their thoughts out loud before they write their own poem. Once she used the phrase, “I have a right,” and was astounded where each member took that phrase, and the impact of that exercise.

In his well-crafted book, The Call of Stories, writer and physician Robert Coles, writes about how over the years poets who became ill were also inspired to share their experience through poetry. He says, “It prompted them to look not only inward but also backward and forward—to ask the most important and searching questions about life’s meaning.” Coles is an advocate of all narratives and in his book he accentuates the power of poetry and how he admires poets and the merging of poetry and medicine. “Like patients,” he says, “poets are probably holding on for dear life to some words.”

Perie Longo in addition to other local poets such as Lois Klein and Christine Kravetz teach in the California Poets in the Schools Program and find the students quickly become inspired to write poetry.

In the memoir classes I teach, I focus on the healing power of writing using both the prose and poetic form. I always have a section devoted to poetry because it seems to be a good way for writers to summarize the important details of the story they want to tell. This exercise can also serve as an outline for a larger piece of work. Writing a poem about what you are feeling is a way to embody your feelings and become one with them. Sometimes the best way to start is with an image or an emotion or maybe even a word and seeing where it goes.

Poetry Passion

There are many ways to be passionate about poetry. Some people prefer to read, while others prefer to write and some, like myself, do both. My particular style is what I call accessible poetry. This is not to say that I don’t respect and admire those who write poetry that might take more than one reading to understand. But I prefer not having to read a piece twice for comprehension. I would rather read twice for appreciation.

After reading and adoring Robert Frost and Walt Whitman during elementary school, my real appreciation for poetry came during a Billy Collins reading when I was in graduate school. There was something magical and crafty about the way he strung words together. I understood his observations of the world around him; they were unique but universal. Further, he had a sense of humor. I admire and aspire to do this myself.

Most of the poetry teaching I do is connected to writing for healing, partly because of my nursing background and partly because poetry has repeatedly served as a tool for me during some of my own physical and psychological healing journeys.I am always astounded when I ask students what their favorite poetry book is. The response is often that they don’t read poetry, and my response to them is that one cannot write good poetry, if one does not read good poetry. Sometimes reading an anthology or collection can help you decide on your favorite poet. Some suggestions might be Good Poems by Garrison Keillor, The Oxford Book of American Poetry by David Lehman, Editor, or Poem a Day, by Karen McCoster and Nicholas Albery, Editors.

Like the clothes we wear, there are days when certain poets resonate with us more than others. For example, there are days when I love reading any works by Rumi. Other days my favorite poet is Pablo Neruda. While on other days I want to relish in the words of Mary Oliver or Molly Peacock. But, I confess that I am always in the mood for Billy Collins, mainly because his poems are so diverse and connect to the ordinary things going on in our lives. He notices what we might notice but don’t necessarily take the time to write about.

During National Poetry Month there are a number of websites you can check out as a way to discover new poets. For example, this week, I discovered a great new poet by way of The American Academy of Poets (Poem-A-Day). Her name is Jennifer Chang and here is her poem:

on my birthday

I want a future
making hammocks
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,
but necessary,
as the wild must be,
as Sandhill cranes must
thread the meadow
yet again. Thus, autumn
cautions the cold
and the wild never want
to be wild. So what
to do about the thrum
of my thinking, the dangerous
pawing at the door?
Yesterday has no harmony
with today. I bought
a wool blanket, now shredded
in the yard. I abided by
dwelling, thought nothing
of now. And now?
I’m leopard and crane,
all’s fled.

Here is a list of some great poetry sites to check out:

Knopf Doubleday —newsletters@email.knopfdoubleday.com
Poetry.com—http://www.poetry.com/ —write a poem and get it reviewed for free
Poets.org—Poets.org—poetnews@poets.org
Poetry Archive—http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/home.do
Poetry Daily—http://poems.com/
The Poetry Foundation—http://www.poetryfoundation.org/

National Poetry Month and Poet Laureates..

This is one of my favorite months because there is so much done in honor of poetry and poets. It would take much more than a month of Monday blogs to share all of my favorite aspects about poetry. Suffice to say, however, that cities and communities around the country are joining in the celebration. Tomorrow in Santa Barbara, we will inaugurate our fifth poet Laureate, Chyrss Yost who for fifteen years has been active in the Santa Barbara literary community. She is recognized both nationally and locally as a poet, editor and teacher. She has also received significant awards and honors. (Previous Santa Barbara Laureate’s include: Barry Spacks, Perie Longo, David Starkey and Paul Willis) .

Speaking of poet laureate emeritus’, while looking through some of my teaching files I stumbled upon some words of wisdom from Santa Barbara’s very first poet Laureate,Barry Spacks. I have received his permission to share this informative document that I used when teaching a course at UCSB Extension called, “The Poet’s Notebook.”

Everything You Need to Know about Poetry
According to Barry Spacks

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” ~Robert Frost

• Poetry wants to charm, fascinate, and compel attention. It offers a fresh path through long-known places, a way of going that’s odd and new.
• A poem will usually have a subject, make a “point” (even several)—but what lifts it into language-specialness is tactics, an appealing method of drawing us in—seduction, absolutely—a fetching manner of “coming on.”

“If it is a wild tune, it is a poem.”
and: “We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick.”
~Robert Frost

• Wild tune. Straight crookedness. Contradictory supports. Wildness tends toward chaos, the danger of incomprehensibility, untamed eccentricity, astounding but baffling crookedness. . . hence the need for tune, which is a principle of order, of sanity, straightness. If it’s just a tune, if it’s only straight-to-the-point. . .no tears, laughter, revelation, freshening, surprise. If it’s only a wildness, then we’re lost and pathless. We need both intent, cause-effect, sequence, “point,” as well as the unexpectedness that marks living language with the unduplicatable flavor of one writer’s personality, thought, speech patterns, style, values, and concerns.

In 1966, the Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month resulting in celebrations around the country. According to the Academy the purpose of National Poetry Month is to:

• Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
• Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
• Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
• Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
• Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
• Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
• Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry

In my own mailbox during the month of April I receive poems and articles related to poetry from various organizations, friends and colleagues. One of my favorites arrived this morning from Poet Molly Fisk who is most known for her coaching, radio shows and infamous Poetry Boot Camp, an online workshop to generate new work and jumpstart the creative process. As Fisk says, “What is not to celebrate about poetry?” During this month Fisk invites poets to write a poem a day, in an on-line classroom where you write and share and commenting is optional, but often helpful. For more information, contact molly at molly@mollyfisk.com.

Next week: Other ideas on how to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Full Moon Week & Creativity

This week’s full moon and my avid reading of poetry this week, has inspired me to do some research and its place in the creative realm, particularly poetry. This month’s full moon falls on Tuesday, November 28th. A full moon occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. During the full moon, the sun, earth and moon are aligned in a straight line. This intensifies the effects on earth, causing a sort of tugging. It has been shown that this tugging can cause some effects on earth, such as the prevalence of higher tides and increased storm behavior. In fact, some scientists claim that Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects might have been connected to the full moon. The peak of the storm was on October 25th, and the full moon was on October 29th.

From a literary standpoint, the moon has held a certain place in history connected with myths and mythology. At one point, every poet has probably written a poem about the moon, most often the full moon. Lisa Russ Spaar wrote an article for The Chronicle in July 2012, called, “Moon As Muse,” that presented some interesting factoids. She posits that the earliest recorded poems have made reference to the moon, in various languages, including, Chinese, Sufi, Tamil, Hebrew and Arabic to name a few. A lot of sacred poetry refers to the moon. Spaar says that the moon has been mythologized, romanticized, blamed, worshiped and symbolized. She references poet Paul Legault who said, “If poets stop writing about the moon, the world will probably end.”

Certain human behaviors have been equated with the appearance of the full moon. Studies have shown that conditions such as insomnia, insanity, psychotic episodes and bizarre behavior have been connected with the full moon. When I interned as a nurse in the 1970s, we noted that the emergency room was typically busier during the full moon and that many women went into labor when the moon was full. There are those who claim that women’s cyclic changes occur around the time of the full moon, sometimes making women a little more edgy and/or harboring a need for intimacy.

The connection between nature and human behavior has always been of interest to me.

When it comes to the moon inspired so many poets? It has been said that the moon provides a place for us to gaze directly into a faraway, perhaps imaginative land, which is basically inaccessible to us. This results in a certain meditative mystery. Moon imagery created by poets is fairly common and could probably fill volumes, but I have chosen just a couple to share here. Perhaps you want to write one of your own moon poems and post it on my blog. I would love to see it.

COVERS HER FACE WITH BOTH HANDS

by

Hafiz

What
We speak
Becomes the house we live in.

Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
Right above
It?

Look what happens when the tongue
Cannot say to kindness,

“I will be your slave.”

The moon
Covers her face with both hands

And can’t bear
To look.

A FLOWER IS ALWAYS HAPPY

by
Chogyam Trungpa

A flower is always happy because it is beautiful.
Bees sing their song of loneliness and weep.
A waterfall is busy hurrying to the ocean.
A poet is blown by the wind.

A friend without inside or outside
And a rock that is not happy or sad
Are watching the winter crescent moon
Suffering from the bitter wind.