Tag Archives: poems

The Element Book of Mystical Verse

Covering the poetic ground, so to speak, from the Vedas through Stevie Smith, this is a book that I picked up on a discount rack at Barnes and Noble about a year ago. Recently, I dug it off the shelf, looking perhaps for something to link myself as a poet to the ages. And I discovered something — modern Poetry tends to the concrete, to examining the trivial as if it were somehow majestic and universally enlightening — which it is, of course — and treating anything that touches on greater themes, on the piercing of the veil, reaching through the “Cloud of Unknowing” as some kind of wishy-washy, meaningless search for existence outside of the existential quagmire that we have created with our technology. Most of the Poetry I read lately from modern sources seems to be like our cultural bias — absolutely materialistic, with little or no spiritual significance to the reader. Most of it deals with our fascination with cynicism, and disregard of something more elemental.

Who has the time, most would ask, to delve into the dark night of the soul? After all, the darkness has been artificially illuminated by night-lights, television sets, street lamps and glow-in-the-dark alarm clocks. We are as a culture surrounded by the white noise of our own busyness. And that, I think, is our greatest tragedy. That regardless of the spiritual path we think we are on, we seek to remedy symptoms not recognizing the cause of our sickness.

When did we, as artists, become so useless? Where are those touchstones upon which the future can be solidly constructed? I realize that EVERY religion, regardless of its temporal might, is always only one generation from extinction. But we insist that the precepts and underpinnings of those religions can be passed from generation to generation with laws, edicts and some kind of controlling mechanism that will direct the energies of youth into suitable pursuits, with the spectre of eternal ostracism as the deterrent to aberration.

There is a sobering lesson to be learned from reading such a treasury of “mystical works”. Mysticism is about absolute personal and individual interaction with something larger than yourself — however you choose to define it. Ultimately, that is freedom and liberty — and perhaps anarchy. But it is absolutely essential to the development of humankind. To their evolution into something more than parrots who regurgitate upon command the experience of someone else and pass it off as their own interpretation of reality.

What we as a culture suffer from is spiritual plagiarism. And rather than fight against it, advising the individual to seek their own truth, based on where their feet are actually on the path, so many of our so-called elders rely upon the convenience of control to shape the world to be. No wonder there is “nothing new under the sun.” It is because we instruct our young to seek within the box that we ourselves are constricted within. So few wonder what is beyond the confines of the cardboard — so that when the natural elements deteriorate the boundaries, there is great shock and concern that the actual SKY can be see through the remaining wisps of corrugation.

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Poems that Changed my Life

UPDATED to include URLs for the poems (and man, that was a bit of work)

Here’s my list of twenty or so (oh, how limiting), in no particular order. Poets, what are yours?

1. Howl, Allen Ginsberg
2. The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot
3. The Stolen Child, W. B. Yeats
4. Auto Wreck, Karl Shapiro
5. The Men That Don’t Fit In, Robert Service
6. Richard III, William Shakespeare
7. A Season in Hell, Arthur Rimbaud
8. Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore (I know it’s cheating, but they don’t have individual titles)
9. The Double Room, Charles Baudelaire
10. Fiddler Jones, Edgar Lee Masters
11. America, Allen Ginsberg
12. Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
13. Directive, Robert Frost
14. Faust, Johann Goethe
15. the cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls, e.e. cummings
16. The Book of Thel, William Blake
17. Fern Hill, Dylan Thomas
18. The Moonviewing Party, Basho
19. Chicago, Carl Sandburg
20. Evangeline, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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A Poem is Different from a Song

A poem is different for me from a song
One takes a single image and distills its essence,
While the other takes a story and dissects its scenes;
Each has as its focus a sole point of view, most times,
That relies on the quality of perception, and perception of quality
of the individual who serves as the focal point.

A poem is different for me from a song
One takes the personal and makes it universal,
While the other turns the cosmos into an individual epiphany;
Each describes a lesson taught by life’s strange instructors,
But one glorifies a failing grade, and the other,
Laughs at the curve-setter.

A poem is different for me from a song
One is a persuader, smooth talk and choice words,
While the other is crude and direct, to the point;
Each builds a case for a circus of peers,
But one prosecutes for the sake of the law,
and one defends indigent soul.

A poem is different for me from a song
One is written, an arrangement of words;
While the other is sung from the chest and the head;
Each speaks a language that doesn’t quite translate,
But one knows the vocabulary of its speaker,
And the other, knows only the words.

25 NOV 2002

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