Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Poem

What Makes Us So Alike Is What Makes Us Human . . .


I’m a writer—blogger, novelist, short story scrivener, non-fiction essayist, poet; and it’s that last one that can cause so many avid readers to cringe.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Yet, due to the recommendation of my Best Friend, I’ve watched a video that does much more than show that “ordinary” folk can totally deal with poetry:

A film-maker set out to make a regional documentary and produced a Work of Art…

“Everyday” people in the U.S. state of Alabama willingly recited some of Walt Whitman‘s poetry…

Classic poetry became vernacular…

The simple became spiritual…

Some uncomplicated folk reached into the core of my heart…

And, it definitely made me cry…

You can read about the film-maker, Jennifer Crandall, and her project in The New Yorker; or, visit the project’s WebSite; but, I want to give you the engaging words of my Best Friend, author Jane Watson (interviewed here in November 2011 and December 2012)

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“I have watched this short documentary at least twelve times, in fact I can’t stop watching it – every time I sit down to write I feel I must return to it. When I finally work out why it has affected me so much… I will probably write my own piece of prose to myself…

“I did not read Whitman much at University but I read some of his verse. I’m glad I did not read him when I was eighteen because now I can read him perhaps with more understanding.  I confess when I was young I had a prejudice about some parts of  Leaves of Grass.  As I watched this video poem of Verse 43, I lost this prejudice.  I loved the documentary, the words of the poem, the musicality of the verse, and the people who spoke it. By the end I had come to the conclusion that the Alabama voice is the most lyrical, poetic, and soul affecting I had ever heard.

“When everyday folks speak they make music.

“Interestingly enough the first reader in the video, Billy Wayne, told the documentary maker that he did not agree with some of Whitman’s words. So she asked him: then why did you read it? And he had a simple answer: because you asked me to.

“You might wonder why anyone would want to listen to people reading an unfamiliar poem, some of which they do not agree with, but Billy Wayne, I think, nails it. A poem is a gift… and the reading of its words is a gift to the listener. When Billy Wayne transforms from a shy elderly guy from the backwoods of Alabama, a prisoner of his failing health (he has to use oxygen and a motorised scooter sits out the front in the long grass near the rotting disused sofa), to a brave man seated straight before the camera reading words so carefully, something shifted for me so profoundly it has stayed with me since… I was connected to him and his fragile mortal tragedy in the most intimate way.

“Whitman says in the beginning of Leaves of Grass:

‘…For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…’

“As we see the close up of Billy Wayne’s face, naked in all its courage, we see his inner essence and realise that the body matters so little. The beauty of the Alabama landscape captured by the wonderful camera work takes us out of this world and it seems that the film-maker is saying: ‘look, look beyond this …’ … just as Whitman was.

“I think Whitman would have really loved this documentary. It personifies his words:

‘…Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left),
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the  dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self…’

“We do listen to many sides in this documentary. We see the accusation in Anthony’s eyes as he tightens the nuts on his car tire and says: ‘…I know everyone of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair, and unbelief…’

“We see the open, vulnerable face of young Diana, who, although exhausted from the heat and from cleaning the motel room of the documentary makers, reads her piece of verse until she faints…

“I am not going to apologise for going so overboard in my enthusiasm of this video. It has a quality that moves me deeply, which I will only do a disservice to, if I try to explain it too much.. so go watch it.”

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Something for Your Heart To Think About . . .


My Best Friend often surprises me—in the most delightful ways… 

Tree

Image courtesy of David Vives Coll ~ http://www.sxc.hu/profile/davidvives

She’s an author and immensely empathetic

There are things I do that affect her far beyond what I suspect

Today she sent me a Gift that I must share with you—whether you’re a Reader, Writer, Publisher, or some other amazing kind of person :-)

Before I pass on the Gift (which is the video below), let me introduce Coleman Barks, lauded interpreter of the poet Rumi, “considered by many to be the Shakespeare of the ancient Islamic world”.

And, here is the poem, read by Coleman in the video, that my Best Friend sent me

~~~

How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

Don’t try to put out a fire
by throwing on more fire!
Don’t wash a wound with blood!

No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes, it’s in front!

Only full, overhead sun
diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break
the glass cover on your heart,
and there’s no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove.
Don’t open your mouth for even a coo.

When a frog slips into the water, the snake
cannot get it. Then the frog climbs back out
and croaks, and the snake moves toward him again.

Even if the frog learned to hiss, still the snake
would hear through the hiss the information
he needed, the frog voice underneath.

But if the frog could be completely silent,
then the snake would go back to sleeping,
and the frog could reach the barley.

The soul lives there in the silent breath.

And that grain of barley is such that,
when you put it in the ground,
it grows.

Are these enough words,
or shall I squeeze more juice from this?
Who am I, my friend?


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A Blogger’s Best Friend & Why Fiction Writers Should Pay Attention To Poetry. . .


Not long ago I wrote the post Honoring My Best Friend

In that post I wrote:

“It’s been said a writer needs the companionship of other writers

and

“It’s been noticed that a writer feels better about the demands and tasks of their profession when they have a confidant

I am truly blest since my Best Friend is my confidant and is a writer.

What’s good for the writer is gold for the blogger; and, if they’re the same person, it becomes platinum :-)

Last year I wrote the post Can Writing Poetry Help An Author Find Their “Voice”?

In that post I quoted Dorothea Lasky:

“Logic and grammar are important. But for students to truly own the English language, they need to read and write poems.”

“A poem is not just a place to present a student’s grammatical knowledge (in fact, it is often the space to subvert it!). Poetry, more than any other form of writing, trains students to take into account the style of language.”

So, this morning, my Best Friend sent me a video poem from Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

I’ll share it here since I think it Speaks to bloggers, writers, and the rest of Humanity :-)

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Words That Give Birth To Words . . .


WARNING: This post contains Poetry

I have a friend named John who writes some of the most amazing poetry–often, so ripe with meaning, I come away gasping for my literary breath.

In response to his poem, “No Longer Middle Ground”, I wrote these words:

“All is
Lost but the
Chance to
Lose it
All.”

John then produced …in interaction and appreciation of the poetic words of Alexander M. Zoltai…

I’m going to post the poem right here but first want to say:

When someone honors you for something you’ve written that deeply affected them, don’t consider why they honored you as much as considering why you should honor them :-)

JOHN’S POEM
in interaction and appreciation of my comment

Aptly expressed; a delicious thought, actually.
There is unequalled truth to this, the bailiwick
of those who know no doubt that blessings and curses
of this life are in fact inexhaustible, inextinguishable.

What is left then, but Creation, itself? What courage
does it take to approach all aspiration and consummation
in the ashes? Every planet’s doom is reunion with its star;
every star, its own appointment with the beginning

and the end of all that matters and energy’s just what’s left over.
And perhaps this is, after all, the raison d’être
for the inexhaustible,
the indivisible, inextinguishable

pain or sorrow, joy or bliss
within the mansions of this world.
If it is of God, it will last beyond leaving,
and as the longed for inauguration into the Next.

Be it the either which, expressed quite simply,
the Heavens and Earth may cease to exist–
in fact must in the end expire–but His Word
will never pass away, and neither the one

privy to Its existence;
and like all that is, we are in the end,
indivisible, inextinguishable.
Whilst we breathe, so, too, breeds our sacred company,

so, too, our own clear magnification in direct proportion
to recognition of one another and in the reality
of His oneness, our own dear being,
indivisible, inextinguishable.

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