When I was the Forest

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When I was the Forest
by Meister Eckhart

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing,
when I was the sky
itself,

No one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
For there was nothing
I could not
love.

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came;
and I wept; I wept.  And tears
I had never known
before.

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains, I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged–I begged to wed every object
and creature.

And when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms
and He did not say “Where have you been?”
For then, I knew my soul,
every soul has always held Him.

Writing Prompt:
Over the course life, there are things that we lose and things that we  find.
Perhaps we’ve been left and/or we’ve left others at times.
Is there something in your life that was “found” then lost and was there a yearning and then a returning?  Describe it in prose or poetry.

 

Possible, Impossible

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Living in a somewhat “remote” area, there can be a tendency to imagine that we are unaffected by what goes on in the outside world.  This is definitely a false bubble.  The decisions that are made by those in roles of leadership trickle down to affect everyone.  Following is the third poem in my hexalogy of poems.

Sonnet #3 in the hexalogy of poems.

Possible, impossible, a constant weave
Do we have control over where we go?
When the powers that be cause us to grieve,
Can we grab the reins, redirect the flow?

When so-called leaders don’t know how to lead
When ambassadorship, isn’t their forte
Why do we entrust what we hold sacred
to those who lead us to certain “muerte“?

Resources are finite, global warming, fact
Denial has been a way of life too long
We are coming up against our earth’s lack
How can she provide when we ignore her song?

This regime cannot withstand the earth’s dream
She will have her way as they sit and scheme.

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It can feel scary to hold views that oppose the systems that are in power.  Poetry written and then poetry that is shared are creative ways to express our views.

Writing Prompt:
Are you more comfortable voicing your concerns or discontent in a poem or prose than in your daily conversations?  Then write the poem or prose and share it (or not) when you so choose.

At a Certain Point…

“At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea,
to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready.
Now I will stop and be wholly attentive.
You empty yourself and wait, listening.”
by Annie Dillard
from Teaching a Stone to Talk

If a stone could talk, what would it say?

When was the last time you walked by a lake or in the woods,
climbed a mountain (or a hill), waded in a stream,
sat beside a tree?
Contemplated by a river?

Nature is sensual.  So are we.  Nature communicates to us in many ways.  One obvious way is through the senses.  We taste the cold shock of water from a mountain spring.  We touch the rough bark of an old tree.  We are soothed by the melange of nature’s colors when viewing a landscape.  We hear bubbling springs and wind through trees.  We smell fresh air and heady spring blossoms.

Living in the mountains for nearly twenty years now, I have been impressed and imprinted with the natural world that daily surrounds me.  Though the view from my kitchen window is the same, it is always different.  The alternating seasons reference change.

I lived in a big city by the ocean for most of  my life.  Like the mountains, the ocean is a strong presence.  I was, sometimes without realizing it, in daily conversation with the sea.  I took my troubles to the ocean, sat in the sand dunes or clambered over ice plant and down to the beach below.  Every sense was piqued.  And I always felt received and replenished in some way.

Writing Prompt:
What about you?  Take yourself to a nature spot.  Bring your journal and a pen.  Spend some time there.  Sit on a boulder or beside a stream.nature9Ask your questions.  Voice your complaints.  Get quiet and listen…what is nature communicating to you today?

Writers’ Conferences

YES, SAY YES TO ATTENDING AT LEAST ONE WRITER’S CONFERENCE!  I have been to a few and would like to attend more.

The first one was a five-day long conference held in Ashland, Oregon.  I worked with one poet/instructor, Kim Addonizio.  At the end of the conference, each of the participants had produced some work with depth.  Five days with one instructor and a cohesive group, allowed us to explore in an atmosphere of ongoing  inspiration and safety.  This experience proved to be invaluable.

The second writer’s conference I attended, South Coast Writers Conference, has been held annually in Gold Beach, Oregon.  This was a three-day conference with an array of instructors from  several different genres.  Examples of some of the topics might include: “Healing through the Written Word,” or “Are You Allowed to Joke About That?,” or “Hero Quests and Graphic Novels,” or “Making Money in Magazine Articles.”  Participating writers could choose the classes that were of interest to them.  The instructors and themes vary from year-to-year.

The third was more of a poetry writing workshop, two days only.  This was just a lot of fun and introduced variety into the usual things I do as a writer.  Not to mention that I got to meet other writers and poets who, sort of, understand you…because they face what you are facing as a solitary writer.

Some of my deepest and most focused writing has come directly from these conferences.  Or they re-initiated, baptized me again in some way, into the craft I love.

For Your Consideration:
If you want to jumpstart your writing, go to a Writer’s Conference or Workshop. Just do it.

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A Riff off of Rilke

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Rilke’s poem:

You Who Never Arrived
by Rainer Maria Rilke

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you.  I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment.  All the immense
images in me–the far-off, deeply felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing, An open window
in a country house–, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.  Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and startled, gave back
my too-sudden image.  Who knows?  perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

 

my poem:

© by Christine O’Brien

An open window in a country house,
and you almost stepped out pensive to meet me.”
You, who awoke with sleep in your eyes
and brushed away the dream of me.
Whose new dawn’s light
caused me to vanish like some unborn ghost.
Whose tossings and turnings
restless night callings
of my yet unnamed self
while my whisper tickled your
slumbering ear.
Whose sweet scent was blown
through the window of your dreams
and you shuddered
as my soft footfalls in the night
sought to awaken you
to my unformed body
lying beside you
praying that daylight wouldn’t discharge
us from tactile knowing.

Writing Prompt:
Does Rilke’s poem inspire something in you?  If so, choose one line of his poem as a prompt for your own poem imitating his style.  Let the Rilke in you express itself.
Have fun!

Note:  I recommend reading Rilke’s poem aloud.  There is something in the dreamy rhythm that is captivating.

Rilke

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Tribute to Rilke
© by Christine O’Brien

The rose’s petals teach us how to see
through a multitude of eyelids, says he.
Beneath the lids, “oh pure contradiction,
joy of being.”  Jubilation.

“There are no lakes until eternity,”
as we stumble forward into infinity.
“To fall from the mastered emotion” is the way
though we seek rest through the weary day.

His tribute to Holderlin, poet of light,
movement “like the moon…and underneath bright…”
Rilke invades soul countries to retrieve
pure essence of truth, no time to deceive.

The questing seeker that he was, tense with
desire to know the self and crack the myth
which imprisons so many, the unwary
in such depths plummeted, a poet’s quarry.

Extracting from despair as well as from glory
not to be “shut out” from the star’s story.
For we are part of something grander
though we live small lives of misplaced wonder.

Employing the dross of a childhood curtailed
grew a man of soul, the sensitive prevailed.
Opening, then, my own heart to deep sight;
his poetry traverses both depth and height.

“Even here, though, something can bloom”
Lifts the weary from unwarranted gloom
“almost cheerfully with a lightness”
his poetry a beacon towards brightness.

Writing Prompt:
This poem, a tribute to Rainer Maria Rilke, is conversational with some of Rilke’s poetry.
Find a poem that you love and engage in conversation with it, incorporating a line or two into your own poem.  Allow the poet’s lines to lead you into the poem’s
theme and then follow your own train of thought.

Note:  In the poem above, Rilke’s lines are italicized and in purple.

Entering the Wilderness with Vivaldi!

Today, rainy and wet outdoors, I decide “It’s a good painting day.”

Many an art instructor suggests that you “paint to music.”  I rev up Spotify to see what is on my playlist.  Ah, Antonio Vivaldi.  I wonder what inspired him?  Brushes and paints in the ready.  Take me away, Antonio!  Immediately I’m immersed in an intense and manic Vivaldi. I go manic on the canvas.  Then, abruptly, the music shifts to lyrical and light.  WHAT!

Do I stay with the manic?  Or do I transition into lyrical as I’m painting?  Or, do I turn the music off completely?  Guess what?  I, that means you too, can do whatever I (or you) want.  I can stay with Vivaldi on speed or adapt to lyrical…or shut the music off entirely.  Vivaldi’s Storm, at least, got this painting off the ground! Right?

 

Painting or Writing Prompt:
What does this music inspire in you?  Take three minutes and listen to this piece with pen and paper nearby.  Afterwards, take your journal and write away!  Let your writing be in direct response to where Vivaldi’s music takes you.  Or grab your paints, a large brush and a piece of 140# weight watercolor paper–a large sheet is the most fun–play Vivaldi’s Storm as you play on the substrate.