Friday, August 26, 2016

Moonlight Musings
















By Helen Patrice



That's right, we have a guest writer today. 

Helen Patrice is a poet, fiction writer, and author of feature articles for various magazines – and my friend. (You may recall seeing her poetry here in 'I Wish I'd Written This'. If not, look here and scroll down.) I read Helen's Live Journal blog and thought this recent post too good not to share with you all. She kindly gave permission.


Writing in Puddles
Copyright © Helen Patrice 2016


Lately, my morning pages (thank you Julia Cameron, and THE ARTIST'S WAY) have been about critical awareness, I think. I've been listening to books by Brené Brown, and in I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME, she talks about critical awareness, critical thinking, and shame.
So, I've been exploring, in tiny doses, how I talk to myself about writing, and how I treat myself.
What a harsh task master I am. I may as well be that asshat on the Roman warship in 'Ben Hur', the one who says to Hur: "Row well, and live, 41." The one who, to test Hur, orders battle speed, and ramming speed, as rower slaves die, have heart attacks, and fall from their oars in exhaustion, all while Charlton Heston gives the Roman general filthy looks, and keeps rowing.
"Write well, and live, Helen."
That's how I've treated myself from age 10-52.

Just this morning, I was nagging myself about 'writing to do', and bemoaning that I thought of something I formerly loved unto ramming speed as 'work'. A self-pompous thing. Oh yes, I WORK at my writing. My writing is my life's WORK. I put my bum on seat, and do the WORK.
You know what, I don't even like work that much. Never have, never will. In my early twenties, my only-half-joking goal was to be a kept woman. Now that I'm a kept woman, I tell everyone, and most especially myself that my writing is my work. Just so I can justify not working at anything else while my friends are still employed.

So, I asked myself to reframe the image of being chained to the oars, of trudging off in a grey suit to an office.
I came up with jumping in puddles. Each of my writing projects and ideas is a puddle, and I can choose on any given day which one to leap into and splash about.
That immediately made it feel light, and like play.
I remember being six years old, and being the only one to dare jumping in puddles at school during afternoon playlunch. Sure, the teacher cracked the shits when she saw that I had soaked shoes and socks. I didn't care. My shoes and socks didn't feel wet, I wasn't cold.
And while everyone else had stood on the sidelines, I'd jumped and splashed, dared on by all of them.
We'd been told to keep out of the puddles, like good little children.
But those puddles were deliciously dark, and splashy, and clean, just after rain. 

I am also reminded of the book 'The Magicians'. In it, the protagonist gets to his version of Narnia through an enchanted pool of water. Other pools lead to other worlds. There is an inbetween place where the pools are.
Daily, I go to the inbetween place, choose my pool, and jump in. I rise in the land of memoir, short story, flash fiction, autobiography, blog, poetry, travel writing, or something else entirely.
I'm learning to obey those tiny urges that crop up in morning pages. The small little 'oh, I should write about that', as I grumble my way through three pages of dumping out my brain.
Sometimes, the urge comes to nothing, but sometimes, just sometimes, there's the splash of something, the single drop of water that will become a puddle I can jump into.


*************************


I hope you enjoyed Helen's musings.

How do you approach your poetry? As work, play or a mixture of both? I veer between the two. I think I do better, though, when I am playing.

Do you write 'morning pages'? I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way a long time ago. I worked my way through it – it is designed as a 12-week course – and from time to time I return to the practice of morning pages, which is one of its key components. The idea is 'brain drain' – to get rid of the crowd of surface thoughts, and to bypass our internal Censors while we're at it, so as to bring us into our creative space. 

Inspired by this post of Helen's, I recently took up the habit again. I do it sitting in the garden after breakfast, with my cat nearby. I follow the morning pages with a 'small stone' (a short piece of mindful writing focused on the external world). It all makes a lovely way to start my day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Blessings


Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5 : 8



Source



"That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep."--- Aldous Huxley




"The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think."--- Maya Angelou 




"Every blessing ignored becomes a curse."--- Paulo Coelho



                  Midweek Motif ~ Blessings




Blessing is a gift of bliss, affirmation, hope and inspiration bestowed upon a person.

Let’s find out who showers Blessings even in these days of guilt, abuse, greed, misery, crimes and cares.  

Sometimes we are at the receiving end and sometimes giving.

Capture your Blessings in your lines today.


The Negro Mother

By Langston Hughes

 Children, I come back today 

To tell you a story of the long dark way
 
That I had to climb, that I had to know 

In order that the race might live and grow.

 
Look at my face -- dark as the night -- 

Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.



I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea 

Carrying in my body the seed of the free.

 
I am the woman who worked in the field 

Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.



 I am the one who labored as a slave,
 
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave -- 

Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.


 No safety , no love, no respect was I due.



Three hundred years in the deepest South: 

But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .

 
God put a dream like steel in my soul.

 
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.

 
 
Now, through my children, young and free, 

I realized the blessing deed to me.


                                 (The rest is here)



Thanksgiving

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
We walk on starry fields of white  And do not see the daisies;  For blessings common in our sight  We rarely offer praises.  We sigh for some supreme delight  To crown our lives with splendor,  And quite ignore our daily store  Of pleasures sweet and tender. Our cares are bold and push their way  Upon our thought and feeling.  They hang about us all the day,  Our time from pleasure stealing.  So unobtrusive many a joy  We pass by and forget it,  But worry strives to own our lives  And conquers if we let it. There's not a day in all the year  But holds some hidden pleasure,  And looking back, joys oft appear  To brim the past's wide measure. But blessings are like friends, I hold,  Who love and labor near us.  We ought to raise our notes of praise  While living hearts can hear us. Full many a blessing wears the guise  Of worry or of trouble.  Farseeing is the soul and wise  Who knows the mask is double.  But he who has the faith and strength  To thank his God for sorrow  Has found a joy without alloy  To gladden every morrow. We ought to make the moments notes  Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;  The hours and days a silent phrase  Of music we are living.  And so the theme should swell and grow  As weeks and months pass o'er us,  And rise sublime at this good time,  A grand Thanksgiving chorus. 

No. 5

By Boris Chichibabin
(Translated by Richard McKane)
May the lord grant you that from root to crown
the parting may be a gathering point without disaster.
For those who leave—a parting greeting.
For those who stay—brotherhood and sisterhood.
Remember our winter snows
in the hot foreign lands.
The train whistles for those going away.
Retribution for those who stay.
Both good and evil fate
are apportioned rationally.
I understand those who leave,
I know those who stay.
The limit of the soul is Old Russia’s pain,
bells chiming to each other the origins,
(I don’t argue with those who leave,
I remain with those who stay.)
Give us who live with snowstorms and ice,
you who do not judge and forgetful,
love to those who leave,
hope to those who stay.
He who is weak, and he who is stern
each chooses between:
the sword and work of leaving,
the hope or remaining.
But according to the covenant of Sabaoth
at the end of this very road,
there is Sinai for those who leave,
and Golgotha for those who stay…

I am tired of making snap judgments,
of measuring the immeasurable with the temporal.
Sadness to those who leave.
Faithfulness to those who stay.
Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community
(Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be ~ Conquest )

Monday, August 22, 2016

BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ A CHAT ON POETRY AND FAITH WITH SUMANA ROY

This week, my friends, we are bringing  you a very special chat. Our wonderful staff member and friend, Sumana Roy, who writes at SUMANAR / LEKHA, sadly lost her cherished only daughter in January of 2015. She has written very movingly of her grief and her faith ever since, in poems that leave me breathless with admiration, at her courage and the depth of her faith. I asked Sumana if she might feel ready to talk about writing one's way through such a grievous loss. Though it pained her to write about it, she graciously agreed. For this chat, I think a strong cup of tea is in order, for comfort, and I suggest some Kleenex close by. Let's begin.






Sherry: Sumana, I am moved by your willingness to have this chat, in which we will honor your daughter, mourn her untimely loss, and talk about the faith and courage it takes to walk through such a devastating bereavement and remain standing.

Let’s first pay homage to your beautiful Shruti, in all of her radiance. Would you tell us about her, and, if you can bear it, how you lost her suddenly to illness?


Shruti


Sumana: Dear Sherry, I would love to share my thoughts about my daughter, though to talk about her pains me, but I am thinking of her 24x7 hours. I don’t think I’ll ever get over those gray hospital days. I feel forever grateful to my Poetry Jam (at that time I used to write poetry prompts there) friends, who prayed for her when I wrote to Mary from Delhi that I have lost the strength to pray.

Now I feel it's as it were a life within two brackets. The bracket begins with my mother’s jubilant words: meye hoyechhe (so you have a daughter now), after she was born; the bracket closes with my husband’s broken voice: shob shesh (everything’s ended). And in between there are twenty-six years of blessedness, of being the mother of my only child.






Shruti, (we fondly called her Toya), was very quiet to the extent of being reticent. Never gave me any anxiety of any sorts. Her passion was in reading books, listening to songs, singing mainly Tagore songs, (which she was taught from a very early age by a tutor, an expert in Tagore songs),watching good movies and keeping a diary. Lately she was being interested in photography. In her Facebook Timeline she used Tagore’s words as her banner words:

Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky. 


"Sunset sky" really broke my heart,  Sherry, when I saw it after her passing.

She had few but good friends. She did her Masters in English and wanted to be a teacher. She was on the lookout for a job. When she was doing her teacher’s training course she happened to take classes for a month in the school where I taught.

A very normal, peaceful, quiet life we had before November 2014 when she was diagnosed with acute liver failure. It was a bolt from the blue. At first we took her to Kolkata and then to New Delhi. A liver transplant was necessary but she didn’t give us the time and withered like a faded flower, changing our life forever.

Sherry: Oh, Sumana, our hearts break for you. Out of a clear blue sky, such devastation.  Your recent poem “Loss of a Gift of God” is so moving. I would love to include it here, if I may.


LOSS OF A GIFT OF GOD

I could hear your steps becoming fainter,
your youthful demure, a shadow.
Alas! We always breathed your breezy words.
Our sweet balms, our joys of living were they.
One day they ceased to flow.
We are now breathless,
and doomed forever in the land of
stormy lull and dark hours.
My only born you were.
Little velvet touch rose without a thorn.
A song you were to be sung forever.
When your prattles blossomed into words
you brought heaven down
in our heart.
Like the autumn bees
we thought "....warm days will never cease"*.
Like the silver lining
the fragrant memories fill our heart.
Your diary-words still unread
throb in the pages waiting.
Our anxieties over you have ended.
But not that wait
to be with you my precious;
after these earthly days are spent.

*The quote is taken from Keats' ode "To Autumn".


Sherry: Your poem moves me to tears, Sumana. So hard to have lost the light of your life. After such a profound loss, one can only look forward to Heaven, my friend. We can learn much from you about bearing the unbearable. I remember how impressed I was with your poem “Trust”. It is a statement of faith, if ever I have read one.


I trust my sun who will always rise
I trust my stars who won’t forget to light
I trust my Ganga* who will ever purify
And my Himalayas who will pull me to His height
My soul has taken bath in fire yet not burnt
My soul has withstood fear-storm undaunted
Waves of doubt could never blow out Thy name
The trust in Thou glows in my soul like a flame 
Be my storm, fire, deluge whatever Thou Will
With faith, trust, love let my heart be filled.

*Ganga is the Ganges



The Ganges
telegraph.co.uk


Sherry: So heartfelt, Sumana. “My soul has taken bath in fire yet not burnt.” It continues to astound me, how people manage to continue putting one foot in front of the other, and keep on walking. It is what inspires me most about humankind.

In your poems, it is clear your faith is your bedrock. Would you talk to us about this journey?

Sumana: The aftermath of a storm is a sight of devastation which is exactly what I was. Absolutely wrecked. But I like to believe that even in that state God held my hands, though the touch was coarse; still it was His Touch. He did not let my faith fall apart. I could feel His grace in that. 

You know, Sherry, when a patient is admitted into a hospital, the doctors won’t let him free until he is cured. Here I was absolutely intoxicated and drunk with worldly things, deeply attached, yet trying to believe that God is everything. He was to cure me of this worldly disease, isn’t it? Because I had taken His name and somehow cultivated a little faith. A mother sometimes spanks her obstinate child for its own good maybe.

However I am much patient now. One has to develop forbearance, composure and dependence on God by practice if it’s not there in someone. Constant prayer works. At least I see it that way. 

When life was good, everything was according to my choice. I am not ashamed to confess now that God was only a favorite word to me. I used to pray as a habit. The mind always looks for material comfort and it’s impossible to bring this pleasure-seeking mind under control. The world was a reality to me then, where spiritual thoughts were a part of life but not all in all. 

I used to read books on Vedanta literature even then, and also books on Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and loved the words like, “God alone is real (Eternal) and everything else is unreal (Ephemeral),” said by the great 19th century saint, Sri Ramakrishna. But is it possible for a mind so deeply engrossed in this world to realize the saying? “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”

When my father died in 2013, even then I must say I didn’t get to the meaning of those words. Realization dawned when my daughter passed away.

Before my marriage I had taken initiation from the 10th President of the Ramakrishna Order for a spiritual life. Now I am more serious about it and it is helping me on my journey. 


en.wikipedia.org


I am glad God has given me opportunity to find loving souls who have renounced this world and help me a lot to go beyond all attachments. Very recently I have been asked by them to translate a book on Ramakrishna (from English into Bengali), and the work is like making a pilgrimage. I really so treasure their holy company.

I had taken an early retirement from school last September (official parlance – voluntary retirement), simply to cut off from the regular flow of life and engage myself to be in my inner space and look after my husband, who was not keeping well after all these mishaps. By God’s grace he is doing well now.



Me and Hubby


Sherry: We are so glad to hear that your husband is well, Sumana. I love that you are working on the book as a holy pilgrimage.

I know from other chats with you that the poetry of Tagore is a very important aspect of your spiritual journey. Tell us about this connection, won’t you? And perhaps you will share a poem of his with us?

Sumana: Mainly Tagore’s songs are my soul’s refuge. The lyrics and music are beyond this world. They delight in happiness and console in sorrow, literally. If one is willing to enter his world, he will show how to pull the sun out of the night. That man accepted grief as a loving gift of God. 

There are thousands of his songs; every single one (classified to different categories, like worship, love, seasons etc.) simply shines with spiritual glow. I didn’t get  a good translation of the song below. I translated it myself with my lack of knowledge in English that did not do justice to the wealth of meanings inherent in the Bengali words.

Tagore’s poem:

Grief there is, and Death; Partings char.
Yet Peace, Bliss and the Infinite stir.
Flows life ceaselessly, beam the sun, moon and stars
In striking tints and hues Spring shows up in bowers.
Waves ebb waves arise.
Wilt flowers and bloom buds.
Decays not, ends not, never ever depletes
Unto that wholeness the mind begs a retreat





I also identify myself in another song of his. I am just quoting the first stanza, translated by Anandamayee Majumder:

On the raging night of troubled dark
When all my guards fell apart
I did not know, I did not see
In the carnage, you had come to me.

I am including here the video of the first song, sung by one of my favorite singers.




Sherry: This is so beautiful, Sumana. Thank you for this. I understand you have recently been working on further translations of Tagore's poems, and have a blog where you are doing this work, Sonar Tori. Will you tell us about it?




Sumana: Actually, the idea struck when I had to translate achhe dukkho (Grief there is) in this chat. At first I wasn't confident enough, as I couldn't translate the sounds, rhythm, meanings and rhyme of the Bengali words into English properly. I am giving you an example. The common word for Night in Bengali is Ratri and there are also many synonyms for Night. In one of his songs, Tagore uses Nisha for Night. Now Nisha is very close to Nesha in sound, which means alcoholic intoxication in Bengali, and he uses it for a Spring Night  to mean how intoxicating a Spring Night would be to a poet drunk in Beauty. It is "Boshonto Nisha" in Bengali and "Spring Night" in English without the intoxicating effect that Beauty has on Her devoted followers. This is the difference, and I feel handicapped.

Moreover, the poet has used such beautiful melodious music for each song! The tunes are simply refuges for hurt minds like mine. Tagore was also a great singer of his time. 

Reading your comments, and Susan's or Mary's, I felt I was able to convey the inherent meaning of the words. Mary even added this new blog, Sonar Tori, to the Poets United Blogroll. So if anyone is interested in Tagore, they might check this blog. I have also included the Youtube links to the songs, sung by renowned artists, in the blog. 

I might not even have started the translating blog had I not already done the translating of his poem in this chat, Sherry. So grateful to you, dear friend.

Sherry: Well, I am happy to have the teeniest part to play in the birth of these gorgeous translations, Sumana. We will follow your work with the poems of Tagore with great interest. I do believe you have captured his voice, and the emotion in his poems and songs, so well. 

Spirituality grows, as we walk through our lives and our losses, and it comes forth in our poetry.  Your poem “Monsoon” expresses this so well.


Monsoon

I
My dark blossom
last night
I saw you blooming.
Each of your petals
made the moon and the stars dim
till they all blotted out.
You were happy, weren't you?
I heard your timpani laughter.
I know
now all the embers under my feet
will turn into soft grass once more.
I will cease to be a fire-walker.

II
The dark one
I have been waiting for you
for your fragrant moist touch
on this feverish skin
You are never a mere flower
but my kohl eyed beauty
Krishnakoli*
who ends all desert days.
I will cup
every drop of mercy
from you
to drink to my fill.

*Krishnakoli (black-bloom) is a famous song of Tagore. Protagonist is a dark skinned damsel.







Sherry: You have walked hot coals for sure, my friend. I like the hope in the idea that soft grass will return under your feet once more. Your poetry  affects me in the same way Tagore’s does. It is so beautiful, so deep.

Sumana:  Oh SherryTagore is an ethereal song meant for the infinite, and I’m just a discordant note looking at the song in breathtaking disbelief.

It was the beginning of monsoon. As I looked up from my windows I noticed a very dark cloudlet brewing to douse the unbearably hot and humid summer, and the thought of Krishnakoli came to my mind; the words flowed. These days I tend to associate everything with the passage of time. 

Sherry: Me, too. And it passes so quickly. I think of your poem "The Moon", which is so very lovely.



Silver teardrops
Of the waning, weeping moon
I collect in silence
to look at them
on new moon nights.
What sparkles when you are not there?
Starry briolette
of remembrance
in a heart of darkness
where light is a lost dream.
The sun, a myth.

Sherry: The depth of heartbreak. And yet you continue to send forth into the world your beautiful poems of love and light. It honors your daughter, Sumana. She would be so proud of you. I remember this poem from some time back that reveals your faith, looking up towards the light from the tears and darkness.



When my sadness
Trickles down my cheek
I look up
I hear
My trees singing in bird voice
Wiping my sorrow
Death cannot strangle me
With His stony, icy touch
For the sun’s caress
Warms me
Inside out
Pitch black sky of misery
Fails to engulf me
As joys of memory
Twinkle and glow
My Lord
Let Thy light
Shine in my heart
Till my last breath


Sherry: Sumana, your strong faith humbles and inspires. Is there anything you would like to add, as we bring this heart-stirring chat to a close?
  
Sumana: I began to write with a broken heart to find myself once again. I am including here the first poem I wrote when I was back from all those stormy days. It was a 5-7-5 syllable poem resembling a Haiku, written for a prompt @ Poetry Jam:


Silence

  All words are shattered
Broken pieces piercing deep
  My heart oozing void


However, I choose to live by Gautama Buddha’s words, “Be your own light.” He uttered these words on his death bed to his tearful disciples who were broken at the thought of his passing.



"Be Your Own Light"


Sherry: "Be your own light," a message for us all and perhaps the hardest thing we come into this life to learn. Sigh. These words will stay with me for a very long time. It is what we need to do, in times of darkness.

It is a privilege to have had this chat with you, Sumana. You teach humility, faith, surrender and enduring love through your words and your very way of being. Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United? 


Sumana: What to speak of you, Mary, Susan, Rosemary and all the wonderful souls who write here at Poets United! Everything is so positive about you all. Always so full of power, love, gratitude; always uplifting. I consider it God’s grace to be among you.

Sherry: We are blessed to have you among us. Thank you for all you do for Poets United. And thank you, Sumana, for allowing us the privilege of paying tribute to your daughter’s beautiful spirit, and for the deep and loving thoughts and poems on faith that you have shared with us today. We wrap our poetic arms around you as we travel through the weeks and years together, sharing our journey of words. I hope there is some comfort here among us, for you.

A wonderful chat with a valiant poet, my friends, making a difficult journey with such grace. We are fortunate, in this community, to have such amazing pilgrims among us. This will be a hard act to follow, but do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! (Hint: there will be poems of Love, to heal our aching hearts!)