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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

what poets do

via google

via google

I’m always trying to explain to people ‘why poetry?’ But today I found a poem that says it far better than I can, and by one of my favourite poets ~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

One of the fathers of the Beat Poetry movement, Ferlinghetti is better known for founding City Lights publishing company, which has published such greats as Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski, Chomsky, and many more. All of which is very cool.

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But Ferlinghetti’s own poetry is wonderful. I’ve always loved his work, and today’s poem is the best explanation of why I write poetry. No small dream, poetry: I want to save the world. :) I’m no Whitman, no Dickinson, no name of large renown. Only a believer in the magic space between poet & reader. Here’s Ferlinghetti, w/ his own, more articulate, explanation:

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames] 

I am signaling you through the flames.

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The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words….

From Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. New Directions.

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day 15 of National Poetry Month

via deviantart.com

via deviantart.com

Yes, it’s tax day. But it’s also the mid-point of National Poetry Month! Whoohoo! Today, I thought I’d share with you some gems — haiku. It’s a form considered (too often) for children much of the time, as it’s easy to do. But it’s not easy to do well.

Here is one of my favourite haiku poets, Matsuo Bashō. I’m including a few by him, as I think the form is far more lovely than most Americans realise. And Bashō is the acknowledged master.

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Don’t forget: poetry does help your beginner’s heart. All beauty does, but the ability to draw a word sketch of a moment? That’s a kind of meditation. Trust me…

Enjoy!

1. A cicada shell;
it sang itself
utterly away.
~ Translated by R.H. Blyth

2. The sea darkens;
the voices of the wild ducks
are faintly white.

3. A field of cotton–
as if the moon
had flowered.
~ Translated by Robert Hass

4. A weathered skeleton
in windy fields of memory,
piercing like a knife

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keeping bees…

via Tom’s Bird Feeders

One of my grandson’s earlier words was Bee! My phone wallpaper is a bee, and there are bees on my jewellery, on cups, on various elements of my life.

I love bees.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or reads this blog. Bees are a kind of totem for me, I suppose. In the way that certain cultures have animals for individuals, animals embodying their inner traits & lives, bees embody my own values: work will win out; sunny days; the community. And don’t forget the QUEEN!

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Seriously — this past week I’ve been buying & planting for bees. While my beloved readies the mason bee house he bought me as a kit this past Christmas, I’ve been augmenting the nectar plants in the garden.

Already there are coneflower & bee balm, butterfly weed & lemon balm. Various herbs, roses, clematis & cypress flower. Pass-along plants as well as butterfly & bee fodder. I supplement with some annuals (nasturtiums & borage, this year), and usually add a couple of new perennials, as well.

This year it was the biennial hollyhocks, thyme, sweet spire, heliotrope & lavender. As well as a new bee balm & a new butterfly weed.

native mason bee on flower

native mason bee on flower

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We have to feed the things we love. And prepare for them as well. Work to ensure their success. It isn’t a matter of just if you love them, they will come. Certainly not true of bees! But almost as surely not true for most of the things we love & value. Friendship requires connection. And then reconnection. Listening, trading stories, compassion & forgiveness & respect. Love is no less a finicky grower. It too has cultural requirements: trust, hope, humour & insight. Plus all that friendship offers.

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the intersection of then and now

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via commons.wikimedia

I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life, as have many people. But I’ve also had several ‘careers': jobs where you invest time & education to advance, to become better at what you do. Where the work becomes one defining element of who you are.

One of the more important ones — it still influences me in many significant ways — was as a journalist for a large daily newspaper (circulation more than 75,000). I worked there for only about six years, but they shaped me like wind does a tree: slowly, but inexorably.

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I began as an intern, talking my way into a paid position while I was still in college. Then the usual stair steps: copy person, obits, bedroom edition, city, and finally a beat. Mine was science & medicine, my favourite.

via pixabay

via pixabay

I haven’t been a journalist in many many years. Instead, I became a teacher at the university level, and a working writing coach. Now, retired, I’m on yet another adventure, serving on a couple of boards of organisations I adore. One is our state Humanities Council.

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Today I went to an awards banquet, where the magazine of our state council was up for an award. Sitting w/ my two colleagues and good friends (the editor of the magazine and the director of our council), I watched as a few friends left from those early days circled through the large room. A woman on the editorial board, a colleague from another board. Mostly I listened to the keynote speaker, a well-known national journalist.

She was reminding us — but mostly me, in my self-centric world — that it’s all connected. That we can’t have a world w/ strong freedoms (the freedom for humanities scholarship, for example) if we don’t also have free press. And that we are a country quickly losing our press, as newspapers downsize or flat disappear. My own city newspaper — the one where I worked — has riffed probably close to 1/2 the people who worked there when I did.

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via pixabay

via pixabay

How does this connect to beginner’s heart? The humanities (as I’ve said often before) are US, folks. Human beings. They feed our beginner’s hearts. For as surely as we need protein to grow physically, we need the humanities to grow mentally & spiritually. We need history, and science. We need architecture, literature, music & medicine. We need all these very human gifts.

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In other words? Of course my different lives connected today. Because they’re always connected, as all things are. But in my case, my entire life has been grounded in writing. From very early childhood to this very moment. I just forget. :)

I shouldn’t. Because ‘then’ and ‘now,’ ‘here’ & ‘gone,’ are really all the same place, in a kind of relativistic way. It’s all one web, with these various life nodes bumping up against each other. It’s just that I need reminders, every so often. We all do. Hence the humanities, which remind us that we’re all humans, bumbling along. Needing the company of others, and their many many gifts.

Previous Posts

what poets do
I'm always trying to explain to people 'why poetry?' But today I found a poem that says it far better than I can, and by one of my favourite poets ~ Lawrence ...

posted 12:22:13pm Apr. 16, 2015 | read full post »

day 15 of National Poetry Month
Yes, it's tax day. But it's also the mid-point of National Poetry Month! Whoohoo! Today, I thought I'd share with you some gems -- haiku. It's a form ...

posted 6:57:23pm Apr. 15, 2015 | read full post »

keeping bees...
One of my grandson's earlier words was Bee! My phone wallpaper is a bee, and there are bees on my jewellery, on cups, on various elements of my ...

posted 2:59:22pm Apr. 14, 2015 | read full post »

the intersection of then and now
I've had a lot of different jobs in my life, as have many people. But I've also had several 'careers': jobs where you invest time & education to ...

posted 4:47:37pm Apr. 13, 2015 | read full post »

catching up on poetry
Each day of this month I'm writing poetry. (You ought to try it -- really. It's a LOT more fun when you aren't being graded!) I'm also reading poetry daily -- my own, that of others. And whenever April comes, I wonder how these habits got away ...

posted 1:21:10pm Apr. 11, 2015 | read full post »

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