GNL number 83

from the Church of Skippy
the GOOD NEWS lately
a report on doings at meeting #83, Sunday, May 11, 2014,
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

Poetry is nothing but healthy speech.
—Henry David Thoreau

The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.
—Jean Cocteau

Formerly, people believed that the sugar cane alone yielded sugar: Nowadays it is extracted from almost anything. It is the same with poetry. Let us draw it, no matter whence, for it lies everywhere, and in all things.
—Gustav Flaubert

The only problem with Haiku is that you just get started and then…
—–Roger McGough


THEME

Sue opened this conversation on Poetry—from Emily D to Dr. Seuss, which was fitting, as she has written poems herself almost her whole adult life. She spoke of and read many poets’ work to us, including Emily Dickinson, whose life she said had been quiet but also filled with caretaking of family as they grew ill and died. Sue read several strong quotes and poems from such writers as William Hass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tomas Transtromer, Lucille Clifton and James Richardson. And she spoke of her own poetry writing and need for it, not knowing where it’s going at first and writing to find words, to clarify. (See AFTERWORDS for her notes and quotes.)

Anna said she was unprepared for this topic, as she’d not had much interest in reading or writing poetry in her life; this was in contrast with her quite cerebral older sister Esther, who she recalled writing a lot of poems as a teenager. Anna said she herself was much more physical, and we noted her creative expression as a young woman had been in modern dance, and later in photography. When we asked for an update on Esther, whom she hadn’t seen in years, Anna obliged with a reminder that her sister was living in a nice assisted living community in Amherst, MA, and that led to another idea:

Gail and others remembered Amherst was also where Emily Dickinson’s home is, a place we’d talked about visiting; and a great idea was born—we should do a dual-purpose field trip to see Emily D’s home and take Anna to see Esther. Which we will work on. Then Gail took out a book that both she and Virginia love, a collection of poems with favorites marked by both of them—Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, and she read us many wonderfully funny wise poems, and at the end added a lovely one of her own. (See AW.)

Cynthia likes poetry and writing it, and has written some for COS meetings. She was reminded today where this may have come from, thinking about her Grandma who liked poetry too and exposed her to it. And about a special teacher she had in school who encouraged her in this interest and would try to get her to read poems aloud when Cynthia, who had a speech impediment, was reluctant. She also recalled her attraction to big blond football player Ron being sealed when she found out he wrote poetry too. And she read us a favorite Emily poem, I Dwell in Possibility. (For which see AW.)

Ann had done a lot of reading and put together something like a paper, comparing Emily, Ogden Nash and Dr. Seuss on various subjects like birds, bugs, and life. Which included Emily in different colors from grim to playful, and the other two, definitely not grim. And to conclude, she gave us some 6-wordies, including one about the Dalai Lama. And that prompted her hilarious description of a video of the Dalai Lama with entourage on a ski lift for the first time, and then when they disembarked, the mad mess of rolling arms and legs and especially, laughter. (See AW for the many poems and 6ws.)

Nancy had brought a lot of poems too, from several favorite sources. Chief among these were poems by Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry and Walt Whitman. And from long ago and far away—17th century India, the whimsical voice of Sant (Saint) Tukaram, as translated by a whimsical, presentday American voice, Daniel Ladinsky. And she concluded with an excerpt, alas with no pictures, of that classic poem One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss. (See AW for poems.)

We decided to direct our offering this time to the Schoharie County Animal Shelter (and almost on that note, Mollie dog burst in the door with her pop Ron).


BENEDICTION

For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding; it is the deepest part of autobiography.
—Robert Penn Warren

Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poetry is an act of peace.
—Pablo Neruda

Breathe in experiences,
breathe out poetry.
—Muriel Rukeyser

Every single soul is a poem.
—Michael Franti


NEXT TIME

Sunday, June 8 (1030) at Sue Spivack’s house on Quarry St., Cobleskill. The topic is Luck/Fate/Not?


AFTERWORDS

from Sue:

  • “Poetry in its own way is ultimately mythology, the telling of the stories of the soul in its adventures on this earth.” ~ Stanley Kunitz
  • ‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.’ William Wordsworth
  • “In my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse and the joining of its parts seems light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed.” ~Basho
  • “Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” ~Carl Sandburg
  • ‘I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering. ~Robert Frost
  • “The poet is the priest of the invisible.” ~Wallace Stevens

I spoke about and/or read from the following books:
“speaking of loss” by Lucille Clifton, two-headed woman, U Mass Pr, 1980, p. 12
Naomi Shihab Nye, Transfer-Poems, BOA Editions, 2011, a book dedicated and using the words of her Palestinian father
Robert Hass, The Apples Trees at Olema, New & Selected Poems, Harper Collins Publ, “The Problem of Describing Trees,” http://www.smith.edu/poetrycenter/poets/theproblem.html
The Poetry of Zen, translated & edited by Sam Hamill & J.P. Seaton, Shambhala, 2007, haiku on p. 177
A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle
James Richardson, Interglacial: New & Selected Poems & Aphorisms, Ausable Press, 2004 , part 15, “How Things Are: A Suite for Lucretius

I noted the last stanza:
“…this saying
that tries to be like seeing, this seeing trying to be heard,
these sentences, which are one further sense,
straining to vanish into something they call you,
or to be vanished into, as a lake makes
so much of its forgetting of the rain?”

and his aphorism #33 p.217: “Happiness is the readiness to be happy.”
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Little, Brown & Co, 1961, #249 “Wild Nights
#937 I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind” and spoke of poets who challenge and ultimately reward me:

  • Tomas Transtromer, The Great Enigma–New Collected Poems, New Directions, 2006
  • Jean Valentine, Door in the Mountain–New and Collected Poems, 1954-2003, Wesleyan U. Press, 2004

good anthologies:
Roger Housden, Editor, {Risking Everything} 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, Harmony Books, 2003
Good Poems for Hard Times, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor, Viking 2005

from Gail:
The name of the book I read from is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Poems read are The Acrobats, Early Bird, I’m Making a List, Invention, Melinda Mae, My Beard. And then my Poem:
Early morning sun
Sending spears of
Sunlight over the
Frosted field
With the moon up
Above saying good night

from Cynthia:

I dwell in Possibility-
A fairer House than Prose-
More numerous of Windows-
Superior-for Doors-
Of Chambers as the Cedars-
Impregnable of eye-
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky-
Of Visitors- the fairest-
For Occupation -This-
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise.
—–Emily Dickinson

And from Cyn too: her recipe for those great pretzels, with the idea that this is the first of many from all of us to come in for inclusion in the Fabulous Skippy Cookbook (Please, you all, send your favorites in):
HOUSE-WARMING PRETZELS (in lieu of the traditional salt & bread gift for NANCY’S NEW HOME)
4-5 C flour {part whole grain if you like}
2 TBSP sugar
1 scant TBSP dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 C milk
1/2 C water
2 TBSP vegetable oil
combine 2 C of the flour with sugar, yeast & salt in large mixing bowl.
heat milk, water and oil to very warm & stir into dry ingredients.
stir in enough remaining flour {I used some pumpernickel & whole wheat}
to make soft dough.
turn out onto floured surface and knead with enough additional flour to make
smooth and elastic. cover and let rest about 10 minutes.
divide dough into 14 equal pieces and roll each into a 20 inch {or so} rope.
shape into pretzels or hearts or twists- place onto greased baking sheets, cover
and let rest another 10 minutes or so til slightly risen.
brush lightly with a beaten egg or milk and bake @ 350 for 15 minutes.
remove from oven,{I turned mine over at this point}and brush again with egg or milk
sprinkle with poppy seed or sesame seed and salt, return to bake another 15 minutes.
serve with mustard or cream cheese
from Ann:

Poetry – Emily Dickinson, Dr.Seuss et al
“Nature” is what we see
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity. —–Emily Dickinson

In the name of the bee
And of the butterfly
And of the breeze, Amen —–Emily Dickinson
THESE ARE THE DAYS WHEN BIRDS COME BACK
THESE are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June,–
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine! —–Emily Dickinson

The Sea-gull
Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;
He weeps because he’s not an ea-gull.
Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull,
Could you explain it to your she-gull? —–Ogden Nash

THE MURMUR OF A BEE

THE murmur of a bee
A witchcraft yieldeth me.
If any ask me why,
‘Twere easier to die
Than tell.

The red upon the hill
Taketh away my will;
If anybody sneer,
Take care, for God is here,
That’s all.

The breaking of the day
Addeth to my degree;
If any ask me how,
Artist, who drew me so,
Must tell! —–Emily Dickinson

The Firefly
The firefly’s flame
Is something for which science has no name.
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a person’s posteerier. —–Ogden Nash

I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.
‘T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.
I did not know the ample bread,
‘T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature’s dining-room.
The plenty hurt me, ‘t was so new,–
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.
Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away. —–Emily Dickinson

The Termite
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today. —–Ogden Nash

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d advertise — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog! —–Emily Dickinson

My fellow man I do not care for
I often ask me, what’s he there for? —–Ogden Nash

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. —–Dr. Seuss

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! —–Dr. Seuss

For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears. —–Emily Dickinson

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child. —–Dr. Seuss
Crossing the Border
Senescence begins
And middle age ends
The day your descendants
Outnumber your friends
—–Ogden Nash

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? —–Dr. Seuss

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain. —–Emily Dickinson

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. —–Dr. Seuss

Reminiscent Reflection
When I consider how my life is spent,
I hardly ever repent. —–Ogden Nash

Six Wordies

Early spring morning, enveloping bird song.
True happiness? Asks smiling Dalai Lama.
My myth is better than yours.
Garden section, shelves of killing supplies.

from Nancy:
I read from the following books (and also recommended Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, and the anthology edited by Josh Baran, 365 Nirvana Here and Now):

from the Earth Prayers
anthology, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon:

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
—–Mary Oliver

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
—–Wendell Berry

I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so placid
and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands
of years ago,
Nor one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
—–Walt Whitman

When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird,
When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.
—–Wendell Berry
—————————————————————-
Three by Indian saint of the 17th century, Tukaram,
from Love Poems From God, 12 Sacred Voices From the East and West, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky:
I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog “God.”
First he looked
confused,
then he started smiling, then he even
danced.
I kept at it: now he doesn’t even
bite.
I am wondering if this
might work on
people?
————————————–
A
delirious gang
of club-bearing ants surrounded an elephant’s house
and started shouting,
“You better watch out!”
I understand exactly what the elephant then thought:
Scholars, you are lucky
I am always
in a good
mood.
_____________________
I
was invited
to a fancy event and when
I got there one of the guests said,
“Tukaram, your shirt is on backwards and so are
your pants,
and it looks like your hair never heard the word comb,
and your shoes don’t
match.”
I replied,
“Thanks, I noticed all that before leaving,
but why try to fool
anyone.”
————-
And finally, here is a mere excerpt, but we strongly refer you to the real thing, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by the good Dr. Seuss:
Yes, some are red. And some are blue.
Some are old. And some are new.
Some are sad, And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.
We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast,
And some are slow.
Some are high,
And some are low,
Not one of them
Is like another.
Don’t ask us why.
Go ask your mother.
And now good night.
It is time to sleep.
So we will sleep with our pet Zeep.
Today is gone.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Everyday, from here to there,
Funny things are everywhere.

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