contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Poetry

POEM: RAPT FORM

FIRE upon Night the way flashing

Cove within Earth the seed receiving

South into North of us –

Eagle upon mountain and the light ascending

The Bowl of the daily dark descending

Stars beyond the shore of us

The Centre stays and the pattern fixes

The Centre moves and the diagram mixes

For many and more of us.

The Eye shines as the cast is shining

The Bowl gathers darkness as the shade is spreading

The Pentagram weaves its tent overheading

The stars and the Polestar turning and twining

Until the rotating of day.

O day and night O night of time

[the weft upon the warp of rhyme}

I backward step to the abyss

Where Form ends and Nothing is –

Where Nothing ends and All-Thing is.

Ross Nichols Prophet Priest and King: The Poetry of Ross Nichols Lewes: The Oak Tree Press, 2001 (Edited and introduced by Jay Ramsay)

“Ross Nichols, who was a contemporary of Eliot, and rated highly by many including Edwin Muir, was Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) until his sudden and unexpected death in 1975. An accomplished prose writer, essayist, editor and water colourist who exhibited at the Royal Academy, we can now see him as one of the ‘Apocalypse poets’ of the 1940’s As Chief of the Order from 1964, his contribution was substantial, re-introducing into modern Druid practice the Winter Solstice Festival and the four Celtic Fire Festivals, which he led at London and in Glastonbury.”(Book blurb)

For information about OBOD see http://www.druidry.org/

THE TAO OF URSULA K LE GUIN

“The Tao Te Ching is partly in prose, partly in verse; but as we define poetry now, not by rhyme and meter but as a patterned intensity of language, the whole thing is poetry. I wanted to catch that poetry, its terse, strange beauty. Most translations have caught meanings in their net, but prosily, letting the beauty slip through. And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning. It is the truth. We have that on good authority.

“Scholarly translations of the Tao Te Ching as a manual for rulers use a vocabulary that emphasises the uniqueness of the Taoist ‘sage’, his masculinity, his authority. This language is perpetuated, and degraded, in most modern versions. I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years.

“It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, introducing her own English version of the Tao Te Ching*

*Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Power and the Way Boston & London: Shambhala, 1998 (A new English version by Ursula K. Le Guin, with the collaboration of J.P. Seaton, Professor of Chinese, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

WILLIAM BLAKE: ETERNITY

He who binds himself to a joy

Doth the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

William Blake Complete Writings Oxford University Press, 1972 (edited by Geoffrey Keynes)

POEM: FROM LACK TO ABUNDANCE

Try to get

what you want,

and it’s already far away.

Be what you want,

know it in your heart,

and it’s already yours.

The rest is

details.

The rest,

you never really wanted anyway.

From lack to abundance,

in a heartbeat.

Jeff Foster The Way of Rest: Finding The Courage To Hold Everything In Love Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2016

WHEN I WAS A CREEK

When I was

a tree,

I sang and danced

with the wind

and offered

food and refuge

to all who came.

When I was

a cloud,

I floated freely,

bringing

shade and rain

wherever they

were needed.

When I was

a creek,

I flowed effortlessly

around stones

and nourished life

everywhere

I went.

When I was

a seed,

I held

the story

of what

I would become

inside me

until the sun

and rain

let me know

it was time

to share it.

When I was

a flower,

I opened up

to reveal

my beauty

and invited the bees

to share

the sweetness.

Now I am

human

and can do so many things,

yet I am

full of questions

about who I am

and why I’m here.

Kai Siedenburg Poems of Earth and Spirit: 70 Poems and 40 Practices to Deepen your Connection with Nature Our Nature Connection, 2017

CONTEMPLATION

I like this poem for its economy and simplicity, and for its gentle, shape-shifting animism – for the ease with which it moves between identities in nature. For me, there is power and beauty in this, all the better for a relative lack of ornament.

As a human, I do feel a bit set up. Whereas the rest of nature is awarded an innocence and generosity not always evident in the apparent world, we humans are implicitly stigmatised for our questions, and thereby separated from the rest of nature. In our mainstream culture (both religious and secular) we place ourselves above the rest of nature, so the polar opposite perspective does have a corrective value. But it leaves me unsatisfied.

My sense is that the writer is placing herself alongside me, the reader, and the other humans. She is not awarding herself a free pass on the grounds of her vividly present and enacted imaginative empathy. So I would say to her what I say to myself. As I read it, there’s a strong invitation to self-compassion in the last verse.

Our finite minds are as natural as anything on earth.. Our questions about who we are, why we’re here and what to do are part of us. For me, the only way through them is become more skilled in the process of inquiry and to learn to live by its fruits. I value this poem partly through what it evokes directly, and partly because it stimulates useful inquiry.

 

 

POEM: IN SILENCE

Be still

Listen to the stones of the wall.

Be silent, they try

To speak your

 

Name.

Listen

To the living walls.

Who are you?

Who

Are you? Whose

Silence are you?

 

Who (be quiet)

Are you (as these stones

Are quiet). Do not

Think of what you are

Still less of

What you may one day be.

Rather

Be what you are (but who?) be

The unthinkable one

You do not know.

 

Oh be still, while

You are still alive,

And all things live around you

Speaking (I do not hear)

To your own being,

Speaking by the Unknown

That is in you and in themselves.

 

“I will try, like them

To be my own silence:

And this is difficult. The whole

World is secretly on fire. The stones

Burn, even the stones

They burn me. How can  man be still or

Listen to all things burning? How can he dare

To sit with them when

All their silence

Is on fire?”

 

Thomas Merton Silence, Joy: A Selection of Writings New York: New Directions, 2018

 

POEM: A SPECIAL DAY (CHOSEN FOR ELAINE)

Today

is a very special day.

Today we celebrate

sun and rain,

light and dark,

the cycles of life,

the great turning

of the wheel.

Today we celebrate

every leaf on every tree,

every feather on every bird,

every drop of water in every stream.

Today we celebrate

green growing ones and winged ones,

two leggeds and four leggeds,

all who walk, crawl,

swim or fly.

We celebrate

each breath of air,

each morsel of food,

each beat of our hearts,

each healthy cell.

We celebrate

the profound miracle

of being alive

in this body

in this moment

on this planet.

Today,

like every other day,

is a very special day.

Kai Siedenburg Poems of Earth and Spirit: 70 Poems and 40 Practices to Deepen your Connection with Nature Our Nature Connection, 2017

(Poem shared on the occasion of my wife Elaine’s birthday. It was transcribed for me  on a card sent to me on my own birthday last month. It prompted me to buy the collection, which I recommend.)

 

HAIKU BY SARYU

Without a brush

The willow paints the wind

 

Zen Haiku, selected and translated by Jonathan Clements

London: Frances Lincoln, 2000

 

POETRY FOR THE MERRY MONTH

Below are two versions of late fourteenth century verse, written by an anonymous English author, probably from North Staffordshire or Cheshire. It depicts the turning of the wheel of the year as it moves through spring into summer.

The first version is a mid-twentieth century translation by J.R.R. Tolkien. The second is the original. The poem is embedded in the text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which arguably shows an immature warrior class (King Arthur’s knights) being taken down a peg by the primal forces of nature.

The extract here stands outside the main narrative, which occurs during the Christmas festivities of one year and the Hallowe’en to Christmas period of the next.

“But then the weather in the world makes war on the winter,

Cold creeps into the earth, clouds are uplifted,

Shining rain is shed in showers that all warm

Fall on the fair turf, flowers there open,

Of grounds and of groves green is the raiment,

Birds as busy a-building and gravely are singing

For sweetness of the soft summer that will soon be

On the way.

And blossoms burgeon and blow

In hedgerows bright and gay;

Then glorious musics go

Through the woods in proud array.

After the season of summer with its soft breezes,

When Zephyr goes sighing through seeds and herbs,

Right glad is the grass that grows in the open,

When the damp leaves

To greet a gay glance of the glistening sun”. (1)

“Bot thenne the weder of the worlde with winter hit threpes,

Colde clenges adoun, cloudes uplyften,

Shyre schedes the rayn in schowres ful warme,

Falles upon fayre flat, flowres there schewen.

Bothe groundes and the greves grene are her wedes,

Bryddes busken to bylde, and bremlych syngen

For solace of the softe somer that sues thereafter

Bi bonk;

And blossoumes bolne to blowe

Bi rawes rych and ronk,

Then notes noble innoghe

Are herde in wod so wlonk.

After, the sesoun of somer with the soft wyndes,

Quen Zeferus syfles himself on sedes and erbes;

Wela wynne is the wort that waxes theroute,

When the donkande dewed dropes of the leves,

To bide a blysful blusch of the bright sunne.”

(1) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo translated by J. R. R. Tolkien New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1975

(2) C. Cawley (ed.) Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight London: Dent & New York: Dutton: Everyman’s Library, 1962

REVISED ‘ABOUT’ APRIL 2019

Over the lifetime of this blog I have made frequent revisions of its ‘About’ statement. Most are small. Occasionally, I make a major revision which I also publish as a post. Below is my revised and edited ‘About’ of 19 April 2019.

I am James Nichol and I live in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. The Contemplative Inquiry blog started in August 2012, and includes personal sharing, discursive writing, poetry and book reviews. It explores contemplative themes and their role in human flourishing within the web of life.

In my own journey, I have found an At-Homeness in a flowing now, not linked to any specific doctrine. For me, this experience and stance enable greater presence, healing and peace. They also support imaginative openness and an ethic of aware interdependence.

I began this work within British Druidry. I continue to follow an earth-centred and embodied spiritual path, ‘secular’ rather than ‘religious’. I draw on diverse traditions, especially resonating with naturalist, eco-existentialist, pantheist and animist currents within and beyond modern Paganism.

I am wary of metaphysical truth claims, including materialist ones, with an ultimate stance of openness and unknowing. At the time of this revision, I am exploring a tradition initiated by the Greek Pagan philosopher Pyrrho of Elis, who developed his own school of contemplative scepticism after a visit to India.

My book, Contemplative Druidry: People, Practice and Potential, was published in 2014.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/contemplative-druidry-people-practice-potential/dp/1500807206/

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