The Way of Poetry

I initially thought of naming this post “The Way of Writing,” but that, I quickly realized, would have led down an entirely differnt path, and it was not the path I wanted to take in this post.  I knew that the topic I have been dancing about for quite some time is that, for me, writing a novel, or even a short story, is a whole different activity than writing a poem (not to mention writing a scholarly essay, which I one time loved to write, but which the thought of now makes me want to take a nap!). I guess writing any prose, really, (other than poetic prose, prose poems, tanka prose or haibun) is so far removed from, what I call here ” The Way of Poetry” for one very simple reason.

Writing prose is not a Way, a Practice, a Doorway, a Pathway for me.  I realize that this may not apply to other writers, and, don’t get me wrong, I love to write prose and sink into a character, a setting, a scene.  In addition, the creativity involved, the passion, the effort put forth…these are similar no matter what form I am using to express myself. However, after over 40 years of writing almost daily…including rambling in journals and jotting down haiku and tanka, when I want to explore myself…my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs, my intentions, or my inner nature…I always turn to poetic writing in one form or another. img_4382

To put it simply, poetry is a Way for me…a Way in…a Way to the Dharma…a Way to an experience of life As it is. Poetry has been the way I explore my pain, my desires, my anger, my fears. It has taken me on some healing pathways and it has taken me for some wild rides. I have written long rambling ten page poems and have fallen in love with the brevity of tanka (five lines). I have written tanka in sequences to form long stories or to look at something from different angles. And just recently I have discovered and am fascinated my a new (to me) short-form style of poetry…the cherita.

A cherita is 6 lines, with the first line/stanza being a verse, then two lines in the next verse, followed by three line/stanzas in the last verse. This form (cherita is a Malay word for story or tale) was created in 1997 by ai li, a gifted writer of haiku, tanka, and other short-forms and the founding editor of “still”, and it has been embraced and practiced by hundreds of poets. What follows are two examples of this form, which I absolutely love.

where did love go?

i’m in an empty room
with no furniture to call my own

a battered suitcase, one fading love letter
no one left to remind me
as to who I am

(Larry Kimmel)

the ancient monk

forgot long ago
how to speak

his prayer
prays itself
in his soul

(John Tehan)

img_5367Poetry…I always seem to find my way back to it, no matter how long my creative travels are, no matter how long I stay away. I love, as I said before, to write prose, just as I love to sew bags, draw and watercolor paint, and re-arrange furniture. But, whereas all of my many creative endeavors bring me great joy, it is poetry that never fails to bring me closer to nature, to my nature, to the universe, to all that is, to this present moment. It is poetry, that for me, is consistently closest to what Lao Tzu in The Tao Te Ching called “the gateway to all understanding.”

From my journals over the years:

five lines
phrases of lightness
coming to me
from the center
of nowhere

waking up
what is real?
those dreams of flying
by taking long leaping stride
feel more like memories

to be alone
is not the same texture
as the cave
of longing for all that leaves–
it whispers on skin like silk

I leave him
with only the green trunk
opening the lid
scraps of poems and dreams
drift upward like dense fog

img_5424We may have many methods of creating, whether hobbies or careers, but usually there is one particular activity that for each of us acts as a Way into this very moment, into our true nature. For me, the writing of poetry has always been that Way.


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