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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

poetry Archives

hope’s feathers

Just a poem today, as I wrestle with a body intent on discomfort. Which leads to thoughts of mortality, of course. And the grateful realisation that I’m basically pretty healthy. Not so my aging mother-in-law, who drifts through twilight days […]

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poetry as mentor

So by now everyone knows it’s National Poetry Month. And I’m also writing poetry daily, as NPM coincides w/ National Poetry WRITING Month (NaPoWriMo). It’s a very happy month for me. Today’s poem is by a poet who has been […]

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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 Ferlinghetti. One of the fathers of the Beat […]

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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 considered (too often) for children much of the time, as it’s easy […]

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, […]

National Poetry Month, and so what?

It’s no secret that I adore National Poetry Month. For one entire month, I’m not a nerd: I’m in tune! I can post poetry to my FB. I can talk poetry to strangers. I can confess I love it! This is no […]

getting the humanities out to the humans

If you’re not realllllly sure what the humanities are, you’re in good company. When I tell folks I work w/ the state Humanities Council, they look almost as uneasy as when I tell them I write poetry (I don’t confess to […]

a Sunday meditation: happiness=poetry

Young poets often believe that it takes unhappiness to create ‘art.’ You must drink too much, do drugs, have a sadly aching life. Be as miserable & crazy as Poe, as suicidal as Hemingway, as dysfunctional as Sexton. Sometimes, they […]

what we do for love

We did it! Those of us who signed up for the half-marathon (and those who were insane enough to go 24 hours w/out sleep for the whole nine yards!) did it! As one of the participants noted, what kind of […]

marathons, half-marathons and the enemy of good

I’m doing a half-marathon tomorrow. Working HARD for hours. And now that I have you thinking what a sleek athlete I must be, I’ll confess: it’s a poetry half-marathon. The Poetry Marathon 2014 (24 poem/ 24 hours) also has a […]

crowd-sourcing and ‘no’ as a learning tool

I’ve been working on a book manuscript for ages. Recently, however, it’s taken on immediacy, as I want to get it in the mail today. There’s one rather large problem: no title. Yep, I haven’t a clue what to call […]

speaking poetry

I’m reading an old friend’s poetry manuscript. Something I adore — reading a manuscript as a writer, trying to see what the poems want to say, what the music is telling me. It’s the language of poetry, and I don’t […]

poetry, coloured sand, and changing the world

I love Tolstoy. And I especially love this very Buddhist saying. Because the writer in me knows that every time I pick up a pen, or sit down to a keyboard, I’m going to change. It’s inevitable, like the sun […]

form, poetry, and the empty cup

I spent the day researching obscure poetic forms.  And it was enormous fun — thinking about what to pour into those elegant white cups of structure. Along the way, I wrote this poem for my sisters (the least structured of […]

the poetry of every day

It’s easy to forget that every day holds poetry. Especially if you’re hectic: packing, moving, cleaning a new house, unpacking… Soothing a disolocated dog, holding a curious baby. Eating out of cartons while you locate the dishes and pans. All […]

what poetry gives us

Today’s poem is actually a three-fer. I’ve been writing to prompts from NaPoWriMo, one of the national sites for National Poetry Writing Month. The poem today is written from yesterday’s prompt, which asked writers to do a riff on a […]

in praise of short poems

I grew up on haiku. It’s popular in school classrooms now — fast, and relatively easy to teach — but I don’t remember there being a lot of my friends who learned it as children. My familiarity with it — […]

beginner’s heart haiku

Haiku is the archetypal Buddhist poetry, at least to most Americans. And certainly the compressed form, the emphasis on experience and now, are very much in keeping with Buddhism. As are many of the early practitioners: Buson, Issa, Bashō. So […]

quilt pieces and a poem for beginner’s heart

It wasn’t that long ago that I realised how many of the poets I love best are Buddhist. They don’t make a big deal about it (most Buddhists don’t — I’m kind of an anomaly, blogging from a Buddhist/ Unitarian/ […]

poetry, seeing, and connection

I adore poetry, as anyone who knows me knows. Actually, you don’t even have to know me — you can just be sitting next to me on a plane (I’m often reading poetry), or standing by me in a bookstore […]

International Poetry Day!

Poetry — the breath of love, life, grief, terror, justice. And more… We woo with it, grieve with it, celebrate and commemorate and just plain live with it. All around the world today, poets and readers and appreciators are joining […]

30 Days of Love: ‘love’s austere and lonely offices’

Today’s post is short but sweet, and courtesy of one of the best poets I’ve ever loved: Robert Hayden.  At times in my life I have been without words: desperately lonely, or bitterly angry, or lost in one of those […]

axe handles, poetry, aging…beginner’s heart…

I’m reading an old issue of American Poet. They tend to pile up, kind of like my New Yorker issues. Things that come frequently, or have intellectual density, often get lost under doing dishes, exercise, feeding birds. The necessary acts of […]

poetry, politics, and beginner’s heart

If changing the world is your fight, it will exhaust you. But if it’s just your way of being, it will be effortless! So promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. ~ Buddhist Boot Camp This is […]

in memoriam…

There is little left to say about the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Except that many died, and we lost a kind of global innocence. When tragedy struck, I took refuge in poetry, ultimately. Because there is also little that […]

more bees ~

  So it’s bees again. AND poetry. Because really ~ why not?? What’s more  like June than the hum of bees, their own gently busy music? The poetry is what comes of watching, good Buddhist contemplation ~ Here’s John Ciardi’s […]

poetry (again), practice, and beginner’s heart ~

If you know me at all, you know I’m not quite rational about poetry. Of course, poetry isn’t a rational subject. And writers of it tend to not be, either. How could we be? It’s all about stories and metaphor […]

day #28 of National Poetry Month ~

I’m the kind of traveler who immerses herself — as far it’s possible — in the history of the places I visit. I want to know about the ‘actual’ history — who, when, where, why. But I also want to […]

day #25 of National Poetry Month ~

Last night I walked a metaphor. Staying here on Mauie, with a close friend, at her mother’s house is certainly cool enough. But an inward journey? Under a full Maui moon? Pardon the pun, but celebrating the rebuilding (& ‘reframing’) […]

day #24 of National Poetry Month ~

It’s hard to keep up a routine in Maui. Even w/ every good intention, I have yet to pick up my journal. And despite how much I love my iPad, it’s impossible to upload certain images. But in honour of […]

day #23 of National Poetry Month ~

Today is my father’s birthday. He would be 96. It also happens to be Shakespeare’s, which should probably be more important (he’s a LOT older, for one) to a poet. But it’s not. I looked for poems about fathers, which […]

day #22 of National Poetry Month ~

I confess to a huge crush on W.S. Merwin, begun long before I met him at a Nimrod Literary Journal weekend. His work is amazing. He’s a Buddhist from way back. And he’s trying very hard to restore & save […]

day #21 of National Poetry Month ~

Even though it’s a bit briskish today (as my Aunt Bonnie would say…), you can tell it’s spring. The bees are working their fuzzy striped butts off. And there are fat peony buds in the walled garden, ready to burst […]

day 20 of National Poetry Month ~

The poet Mona Van Duyn is another favourite. This is one of hers I hadn’t known previously — I actually was looking for another poem when I came across it. Being a sucker for bees (my first name, as many […]

day #19 of National Poetry Month (‘we must love one another or die’) ~

All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie… Today I tried to eat my lunch beneath a TV set blazing with the latest tragic news from Boston. From Watertown. From hatred. No one knows why the bombers […]

day 18 of National Poetry Month ~

Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day. Just a big FYI. It also was Poetry for Peace Day at a local community college. I was lucky enough to be a reader, along w/ several talented student poets and a couple […]

day #17 of National Poetry Month ~

Poetry always helps me with grief. With rage at injustice, with loss. With all the sorrows — as well as joys — of human existence. Today’s poem is for the many victims rippling out from the horrific centre of the […]

day #16 of National Poetry Month ~

As we enter the baseball season (for real addicts, that began with the spring training season!), I thought I’d share one of my very favourite poems. While baseball isn’t a great love of mine, I do have fond memories of […]

day #15 of National Poetry Month ~

When I was 19, I gave my mother a book of poetry. Even then, it seemed to me that poetry was the best thing I could offer my loved ones. It was a book academics & serious poets would dismiss […]

day 14 of National Poetry Month ~

I grew up moving. And losing things — as the Elizabeth Bishop villanelle I posted earlier reminds us, the art of losing isn’t hard to master. Except, of course, it is… Yesterday two of my sisters finally emptied an old […]

day 13 of National Poetry Month ~

Having spent many years teaching at the ‘higher ed’ level (re: college), I feel qualified to say that the system is sick. Fattened on the blood of adjuncts, centred far too often on the desires of faculty and a profit-driven […]

day 12 of National Poetry Month ~

I’m spending this week w/ the most wonderful professionals in the world: teachers. Yep. Teachers. We get a bad rap these days.  But nowhere will you find men & women more committed to the future of America: our kids. Who […]

day 11 of National Poetry Month ~

I am a sister. Sometimes I feel like I should preface that statement as they do in AA: Hi. My name is Britton and I’ve been a sister for all but a scant three years of my life. I don’t […]

day #10, National Poetry Month ~

Seamus Heaney — Nobel Laureate that he is — doesn’t get the attention in popular poetry circles that folks like Dickinson and Frost do. And yet he’s a wonderful poet — a people’s poet as well as a poet’s poet. […]

tea & memory: day #9 of National Poetry Month ~

If you’ve read any of this blog, you know I’m nuts about tea. Crazy, obsessive, elitist (and possibly boring) on the topic. Poetry, too. I have almost as many tea ‘cookbooks’ as favourite poets. There are six tea sets in […]

day 8, National Poetry Month ~

During my master’s, I was besotted with the poet Robert Hayden. I read every one of his poems, all his prose, the critical biography on him, and the few scholarly articles available. I still think he is the most under-appreciated […]

day 7, National Poetry Month ~

 There’s a tendency to think of poetry as not much fun. Unless you’re a total nerd/ geek/ dork… Or (as I heard said recently in a venue I would never have expected to hear the term) a pointy-head. Re: intellectual. […]

day 6, National Poetry Month ~

 Elizabeth Bishop is another poet who is easy to love. She makes her art almost invisible, effortless. Like those invisible zippers that hold the pieces together… This is a poem I return to again & again. It’s a villanelle — […]

day 5, National Poetry Month ~

One of the earliest poems I remember reading that voiced opposition to the war in Việt Nam was Denise Levertov’s ‘What Were They Like?’ I read it years ago at a reading of poets who had influenced the readers. I’m reading […]

day 4 National Poetry Month ~

A friend asked me what my month of poetry has to do with Buddhism, with beginner’s heart. I wanted to yell EVERYTHING! But I didn’t. Instead, I gave a rational response about the need for words when we have none, and […]

day 3 of National Poetry Month ~

One of my favourite poets died a few years ago, in 2007. Her name was Maude Meehan. She was an amazing woman, as well as a heckuva poet. She was a worker for social justice from way back: worker’s rights, […]

Day 2, National Poetry Month ~

Today’s poem is one of my favourites. It also changes American poetry (arguably). It’s Ezra Pound, of course — that contentious, controversial poet who went loudly nuts during WWII. But this is the quieter, Asian art-influenced Pound. The poet who […]

National Poetry Month!

On my Facebook page, I’m publishing my own poems daily — one by one, each written or revised or at least revisited for this month I love. But here, I’m going to link daily to a poem important to me. […]

holy days, fire & faith ~

It is Good Friday.  It is Holy Week. It is Passover. And other faiths, too — more individual, more isolate — also bear witness to death and redemption. In California, a dear friend still mourns the death of his beloved. […]

message in a bottle: imagining a reader ~

Last month I wrote a poem for a funeral reading. The deceased wasn’t a friend — he was my sister’s dear friend’s brother. So writing the poem took some time, as I’ve noted elsewhere. Of course, all poems — most writing […]

quest & journey & story & hope ~

This is the season of the story. Because at the heart of every faith — within the faith of every heart, nestled like a growing bird — is story. Sometimes one (an empty tomb, the vengeful hand of a god […]

a case for poets ~

When you think of people who are useful, poets probably aren’t high on your list. After all, who needs poetry? (Well, I do, but that isn’t typical, I realise ) And yet, when there is sorrow, or great joy, or […]

day 14 of Thanksgiving ~

Today’s a bittersweet thank-you. A poet I love dearly — Jack Gilbert — died yesterday. Gilbert was one of the (many) poets who helped me shape my own craft. But even had I not also been a writer, I don’t […]

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one […]

poetry time, or, when names are poetry ~

“…in Micmac … some trees ‘are named for the sound the wind makes when it blows through them during the autumn, about an hour after sunset when the wind always comes from a certain direction. Moreover, these names are not […]

take one poem & call me in the morning ~

I’ve written recently about how politics is personal for me. So is poetry, but it doesn’t come out the same way. And lately, as I become increasingly aware of the futility of trying to get people to see both sides […]

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Việt Nam, & my very first Buddhist ~

When I was a young child, I knew very little about the lines drawn by religions to set themselves apart. It all seemed one universe, one Divine Plan, as accessible as my hands & toes. I made bargains w/ the […]

Frost, ambiguity, & grading ~

I like Robert Frost. He’s not in vogue w/ much of the ‘Academy,’ those members of the ruling university class who decide which books/ writers/ thinkers/ ideas are in or out these days. Right now, Frost isn’t ‘in.’ I think […]

beginner’s noösphere (and poetry) ~

I fall in love with words. And I’m pretty promiscuous about it — no single one holds my interest exclusively. I’m kind of a polygamous word lover, I guess. Much of my writing evolves out of word love affairs. One […]

nightmares, poetry, & beginner’s heart ~

I’m trying to see learning these days. Which means I’m looking for it in unlikely places. Like nightmares. I’ve always been prone to nightmares. Today’s poem for National Poetry Writing Month is about that, a particular ongoing nightmare that reappears […]

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 […]

the last time, or, separation anxiety ~

I’m taking early retirement this year. And it’s changed the way I view almost everything. For one thing, apparently it’s not retirement if you’re not old enough. It’s ‘separation.’ So perhaps what I’m having is separation anxiety… Our culture defines […]

the important thing about comprehensive exams (from a Buddhist perspective) ~

There are a lot of things you expect to learn if you get a doctorate. Primarily, of course, your subject. But there are also things you don’t expect to learn. Like… well, what I realised yesterday in the shower (is […]

“as common as grass” ~

“…in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass.” ~  Gary Snyder Yesterday my students asked me to read what I had written […]

what art has to do with it ~

There are so many things right with this saying… I wouldn’t be alive today without ‘art.’ At a time in my life when even my two beautiful sons couldn’t make me want to go on — when the entire world […]

beginner’s heart, moral outrage, & finding a balance ~

He doesn’t look 94, does he? And in fact, he probably shouldn’t even be alive. Much less 94. So I’m hopeful. Because Stephane Hessel is not only alive, but still outraged by what’s wrong with the world. And he should […]

Robert Pinsky, “Buddha-goo,” and meditation ~

…One hates the sanctimonious Buddha-goo But loves to meditate. To think one word And the breath balanced on its floor of muscle … Falling and rising like years. The brain-roof chatter Settling among the eaves. …  ~ Robert Pinsky Sometimes, […]

poetry, memory & 9/11 ~

Sometimes only poetry suffices… When my mind refuses to comprehend hatred, murder, war and profound grief, poetry is a map to somewhere out of fire and ash. A map through the darkness to a light that may still be a […]

September 1st ~

We must love one another or die… ~ September 1, 1939 by W. H. Auden He’s an unlikely mentor for a middle-aged female writer & teacher, this fiercely cynical, battered gay British poet. Yet every September 1st, I take out […]

poetry & star-stuff ~

This week’s New Yorker carries an article by scholar Stephen Greenblatt on the Roman poet Lucretius, and his poem On the Nature of Things. Who remembered that it’s Lucretius who brings atomism — the theory that we are all made […]

down time ~

This is my past few months: the sands of time in a huge gritty mess :). Complete w/ the occasional glass shard. But yesterday my largest summer project ended (successfully!), as did another project, and a third the week before […]

what’s important ~

So, following a night spent boring everyone w/ whining about my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, reality asserted itself today. Funny how a night’s sleep, a beautiful morning of bird song and great tea will do that :). And […]

‘the rucksack of my æsthetic’ (whatever that is…)

This was my father’s rucksack in WWII. It was found in a barn a couple of years ago, in France. I have no idea how it got there, other than Daddy fought in France. Nor what was in it when […]

Warning: poetry follows ~

Sometimes when bad news comes, all that helps is writing poetry. Even the stronger, most eloquent poetry of others isn’t enough. That upwelling has to be voiced, and poetry is all that helps. This was one of those weeks: a […]

epeleolatry (and the worship of words) ~

I confess. I’m a total word nerd. I was that kid you hated in 4th grade, who begged for spelling words, and won the spelling bee, and had her nose in a book so often that even my grandmother – […]

a poem to savour ~

Here’s a poem from Muriel Rukeyser, an excerpt from Elegy in Joy. I love the stanza ~ Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in […]

Louder Than a Bomb review ~

A mic. A stage. A pen. A page. You don’t have to be a poet to love Louder Than a Bomb, a documentary of the 2008 Chicago Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam competition. Although it’s certainly a poet’s […]

‘A Wedding at Cana’ ~

Here’s a lovely poem from poet Tom Sleigh, a wonderful poet who writes about war, its impacts and the terrible beauty of the human heart. I especially like this one, ‘A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007.’

Previous Posts

cultural burdens, with homage to Carol Emarthle-Douglas
This may be the most moving piece of art I've seen in many many months. When it came across my FB ...

posted 5:48:11pm Aug. 26, 2015 | read full post »

silver linings
For those d'un certain âge, the Rolling Stones said it best: You can't always get what you want/But if you try sometimes you just might find/You get what ...

posted 6:20:17pm Aug. 24, 2015 | read full post »

the impulse to art
This, my friends, is art. And better than anything else I can think of, it demonstrates our deep-set need to create beauty. The Dalai Lama ...

posted 9:41:23pm Aug. 20, 2015 | read full post »

cleaning house, reprised
As we come closer to moving -- even though we no longer have a house under contract, nor do we know when we'll find one! -- I'm getting ever more serious ...

posted 5:10:21pm Aug. 17, 2015 | read full post »

laundry and blackberry pie
This is my reward for a gruelling two weeks spent with the family my mother-in-law into a new, more secure  Alzheimer's facility. It's the break from the ...

posted 4:38:45pm Aug. 15, 2015 | read full post »

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