I’m in my own world these days. I walked through the portal at least a year ago with my last completed book. Continue reading Out of It
The cruel sound of feathered flesh striking paned glass.
Did she know it was her final flight?
When she flew hard into the panoramic reflection
in the large window
she tumbled to the hard stones beneath the glass,
flapped her angelic wings once,
and breathed her last.
I mourn for the mourning dove.
Released from her body,
Her spirit flies home.
I love poetry. It resurrects the truth and rhythm of life in a way that enriches all who read it. This morning, I read a wonderful poem by 19th century American poet Walt Whitman. Its very title lures you in, “There Was a Child Went Forth.” The opening lines captured me and compelled me to read more
There was a child went forth every day.
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
I reflect on the eight days in March I spent in Haiti. I recall a very young mother washing her child as I walked through the streets of Cité Soleil. As I read Walt Whitman’s poem, I wonder what the first object that young child opened her eyes to.
After I had completed at least three drafts of my first novel, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, my friend Steven Pressfield suggested, “You might want to get a copy of Noah Lukeman’s book The First Five Pages. I think you will find it helpful.” That is a typical understatement from a great author.
I had the book in my hands a week later, and – slow reader that I am – had finished reading its 200 pages in just a few days. I was devastated, tried and found guilty of every trap Mr. Lukeman advises writers to be cautious. I went back to ground zero and re-wrote The Olympian another three times. As The Olympian remains my best seller, I must have done something right, and I will forever thank Mr. Pressfield for his sage advice.
Over the years, people have come to me to discuss writing projects. One of the first things I tell them is to secure a copy of The First Five Pages. The pages in my copy have gone brown, the yellow highlights have faded, but the black ‘stars’ and underlines I’ve made over the years will remain forever.
While the book overflows with indispensable information, the exercise that has been most valuable to me is presented in Chapter 3, “Sound.” Mr. Lukeman writes,
“Take some time to read poetry. Spend weeks reading as many different poets as you can. By devoting all this attention to the individual word, phrase and stanza, you will learn a greater attention for language, and this attention will eventually show in your own work.”
I have read poetry daily since I read that paragraph in 2003.
Last week, I discovered a new poet, Amairgen, one of the mythological Milesian kings who conquered Ireland. As he approached the island and stepped ashore, Amairgen sang an invocation calling upon the spirit of Ireland that has come to be known as “The Song of Amairgen.” Irish tradition claims that Amairgen’s ode is the first poem ever composed in Ireland. I find great beauty and rhythm in “The Song of Amairgen,” and I think you will see, using this poem as an example, how poetry can inspire writers and improve their prose.
Listen to “The Song of Amairgen” while you read
I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valour,
I am the salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a world of knowledge,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created the fire in the head
Walking in the desert
I’ve passed by him 300 times and
Never given him a second look.
Today I found him a fallen angel,
A giant who has been sentinel to this land
For three centuries, maybe more.
He was an infant when Padre Kino walked by.
Grew his first arm when Key saw bombs bursting in air.
He laughed when the Babe hit his first home run.
This week, he toppled.
Brought to the ground by the breath of God.
Wind takes no prisoners.
Lord of the Desert,
Bless this creature who has prayed to you
Since his moment of incarnation.
Bring him home.
He is one who has lived in peace
And all in your name.
My knowledge of Haiku is limited, but from my minimal exposure to it, I perceive it as a thoughtful and beautiful art form that emerged from Japan. It is not ‘ancient’ as I had originally thought, but first bloomed in the 17th century as Hokku.
This year, I have become more attentive to elementary education as my 7-year old granddaughter attends second grade at the Legacy Traditional School in Maricopa. I was curious and delighted when I received news last week that she and her classmates will be learning how to write a Haiku this week during their poetry lessons. My second journey through second grade with my granddaughter has given me an opportunity to learn and expand my own knowledge.
I recalled a book I had recently inventoried in our bookstore titled The Art of Pausing edited by Judith Valente, a poet, author and broadcast journalist who covers religion news for PBS-TV. The book is published by ACTA publications. Yesterday, I purchased the two remaining copies – and reordered more – one for my son and his daughter, the other for myself. The book is subtitled Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed and further subtitled Poems, Photographs and Reflections on the Names of God. That is a mouthful to describe a book of Haiku poems when traditional Haiku is a mere three lines of five, seven and five syllables per line, seventeen total syllables.
Ms. Valente immediately captured my attention with her introduction, Pauses Written on Our Days. She encourages people to write a Haiku each day.
“It is a practice that monastic scholar Jonathan Montaldo calls ‘writing a holy sentence every day.’ I suggest they find a partner or partners with whom they can exchange their haiku … The haiku exchange is a way of building community and recognizing that none of us, alone, has a lock on truth and insight.”
I have decided to take Ms. Valente’s advice. I will do my inadequate best to write a Haiku every day. I will create a separate page and post it here and on my sister website The Vitruvian Man. Our page will be called “Dziadek and Xy’s Haiku Exchange.” I invite you to participate as a haiku exchange partner and share your haiku moments with us through your comments. If enough people participate, we will use exchange haikus as a daily post and alternate and cycle through participating authors. We have so many incredibly creative and talented subscribers to our website that I am really looking forward to their contemplative and meditative haiku moments that they will contribute.
I encourage you to become aware of the “haiku moments” in your life, those moments in your day that seem to “interrupt the flow of time” when you stop, look and listen and become more aware of life and creation around you. I will post my first haiku tomorrow.