Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


Buddhism for poets (and vice-versa…) ~

I’ve written about becoming a Buddhist elsewhere, but as with most of our memories, I may have that wrong. I may have been born w/ Buddhist longings, but I also may have found my Buddhist mind through poetry.

Poetry is air and water, food and sleep to me. It has saved my life, paid karmic debts, shown me truths, and generally just made me happy. My vanity plate for my little blue car says POETIC. Get it? :)

So poetry is a big deal to me. It always has been. I wrote poems very young — I remember rhyming when I began to learn French, 8 years old. So apparently I already knew how, then. (Note to self: you never found anything to rhyme w/fenêtre) I made tiny books, wrote poems in them, and ‘published’ by giving them to family ~ my grandmother, my mother, the great-aunt who lived around the corner from my other grandmother. Of course I received rave reviews…:)

Very quickly I began to play with language. Young poets love language: they swim in it as if was a warm blue-green ocean. I wanted alliteration, assonance, consonance. There was rhythm and metre and form.

But eventually, I wanted precision. I wanted to do with words what a composer or a violinist can do with sound: make a music that produced vivid feelings and pictures. Buddhist poetry, grounded in the warp & woof of everyday life, does that.

I came to Buddhist poetry slant, as Emily would say. My ‘project’ was simply to try to learn how the old poets — and the contemporary ones who continue to invoke them — made the everyday numinous. How they managed that in the poetic equivalent of spandex: haiku, tanka, renga. The stark simplicity of image, and the interior blossoming of that minimalist language….wow. How do they do that?

What happened is what often happens with Buddhism — it snuck up on me. I began to read more & more Buddhist poets (and find that many poets I already loved were Buddhist, and/or deeply influenced by Buddhism): Charles Johnson, William Carlos Williams, Jane Hirshfield, Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Chase Twichell. It’s a long & illustrious list.

I ended up doing my doctoral dissertation — a collection of poetry and a lengthy critical introduction that talked about poetics, and my own work — on the ways in which the poetic breath is like the Buddhist contemplation of breath. It was one of the most difficult — and life-altering — pieces of work I’ve done to date.

So it’s fitting that this month — National Poetry Month and National Poetry Writing Month — I begin the month my usual way: with an original poem (still in draft form!). And one that owes its form and inspiration to so many  Buddhist poets I have loved and admired.

I’ll be publishing an original poem daily during April — or at least trying to publish. I’ll certainly be writing a poem a day :). Enjoy!

 

if there were daymoths,

they would nest in dogwood trees

pretending to be blossoms

flickering like light

white winged dogwood flowers

poised for flight




Previous Posts

day 22 of Thanksgiving month: the kindness of strangers
Today's gratitude is slightly abashed. I'm grateful for kindness -- even my own, actually. And abashed that it's noticed so...noticeably...? Because if just joking w/ the Starbuck's barista, and teasing her about

posted 10:42:50pm Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »

day 21 of Thanksgiving month
Today a very simple gratitude, but profound. Music. That ineffable language writers have tried to capture for centuries. Working to replicate its nuance, the way it creates dancing in the bones, melancholy in the he

posted 9:01:39pm Nov. 21, 2014 | read full post »

day #20 of Thanksgiving month
 It's an older picture, but still appropriate for today's post. Because here's my gratitude today: my grandson recognizes me! Before you think I've totally lost my marbles, let me explain. My grandson is only 18 months old next week. I haven't seen him f2f for the past 4 months. And despite grea

posted 7:04:57pm Nov. 20, 2014 | read full post »

day #17 of Thanksgiving: drive, she said
Americans take our ability to drive ourselves wherever for granted. I'm probably the only person I know who didn't drive until in my 20s. Yes, I 'learned' to drive. Took the test at 16 (the legal age when I was

posted 5:32:53pm Nov. 17, 2014 | read full post »

day of Thanksgiving #16: tech support (and privilege)
My computer has been wonky for weeks. By wonky, read: slooow, hanging, programs crashing. A pain, in other words. Enter tech support, AKA my beloved. Who often can merely walk into the room and broken electroni

posted 4:14:28pm Nov. 16, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.