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The Life of the Poem, or the Death of the Soul


(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Uplifting Transcendental Beauties
Sitting before Their Metamorphoses
newly painted, revitalized Radha Krishna,
living art infused with bhakti we can feel
indescribably, yet noticeably, increased beauty—
chanting the king of poetry, the Gayatri mantra
with the desire to share my heart bubbling up
like provided raw ingredients and cream
with which I make butter and ghee, and offer up.

The steamroller of time moves along
pulling all into its circle of limitations,
so we try to accomplish something of value
before our day, or life, is flattened and changed,
not to be caught up in merely existing for naught
but to slow down to learn soul lessons
being helped, and helping others
by thoughtful words, verses for Krishna.
Is something art or poetry
just because I, or someone says so,
like one who throws up garbage
on a canvas, telling us we should know:
“This is profound truth, and glorious art,”
or rhapsodic rhythms, profound metaphors,
brilliantly ornate word arrangements
which only titillate the mind, not the soul.

While I do appreciate and aspire to learn
the writer or poet’s craft in displaying
literary embellishments, insightful metaphors,
a great story, an interesting, stimulating read—
art for art’s sake misses life’s real point
a jugglery of vocabulary without purpose
merely arrogance, if we forget our Source
of inspiration, life, and abilities.

A fourteen line poem examined
lavishly praised by teacher and students
who find layers of meaning in metaphors
amazed at complexity in simplicity
concluding, the author didn’t directly do it
but connected to their unconsciousness,
the truth of imagination and intellect
which is their god to praise.
Everyone has a lens or bias to filter
so I will be criticized as a shallow theist
who is against modern art and creativity—
but no—we should use every tool available
both modern and ancient art forms,
not for nothing except human vainglory,
rather, as an expression of devotion,
soul philosophy, the glory of Krishna.

I don’t criticize the writer’s gift
only because mine are limited (though true)
smugly saying meaning is everything
while having no poetic propensities—
the spiritual quest is all important,
if not meaning, at least to search for it,
using words as a bridge of revelation
a blessing bestowed to uncover God.

Rising sun heralds the new day of possibilities,
the Lord’s watchful eye, cosmic time machine;
indoor plants seemly grow for themselves
yet are benefited by beautifying our temple:
everything teaches us about the Unseen,
the sustaining, nurturing Force, Shri Krishna,
Who we are meant to know, love, and serve
giving us life, inspiration, words for our poem.
Haridas Thakur

reading and writing poetry

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. ~T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920

Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. ~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason. ~Novalis

A poem should not mean
But be.
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926

I’ve written some poetry I don’t understand myself. ~Carl Sandburg

A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer…. He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring. ~E.B. White

Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer. ~Terri Guillemets

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968


Thanks for those insightful quotes Madhavaji I am just learning as a go with this genre and appreciate exploring as much as I can and learning from other more accomplished writer and poets.

place to study poetry

Here is a link to a page that has a lot of discussion on writing poetry. In the beginning is more specific stuff to their workshopping but scroll down a bit and a lot of good information.

Reading about "Show don't tell" and "Abstractions" would be the minimum to peruse.

You can post poems there and get them critiqued but not a place for fragile egos. Should you feel the urge to submit a poem , READ THE GUIDELINES BEFORE POSTING. One quote from them: “If you want to receive comments or praise for your work, but don’t want to (or feel unable to) comment on the works of others, then you’re not looking for a workshop, you’re looking for a posting board. pffa is not for you. To paraphrase Buckminster Fuller – nobody’s a passenger here, everybody’s crew.”

They require 3 critiques for each posted poem. Reading through comments on others' poetry without posting your own is a learning experience.

The Importance of meaning

This free verse came up when I was reading a writers magazine (I am trying to improve) when one article went over the 14 line poem I mentioned here, and I was struck by "much ado about nothing". Yes, it was a pleasant read, but so what? I have read many modern poetry books and journals, and for me--who strives for meaning and Krishna centered life--I have a hard time with writing that seems to take me nowhere. At least writing should have some personal growth uplifting message, if not a spiritual one. So many poems I have read I think are trying to sound like they are deep, but are only mental wranglings about the world, or some totally insignificant event. And then there are pages of analysis trying to screw some meaning out of it. My bias is that spirituality is what brings value to anything, and can find meaning in Nature or so-called ordinary life. Otherwise, I don't see the point, and this is what I expressed. My perspective isn't bound to be appreciated, but I think at least the idea of spiritual meaning is as valuable (and to me infinitely more) than the perspective that there is no meaning, or that everyday events are important just because they exist, since this life is all there is.

More about meaning

Here is what one devotee wrote me about this poem. He was for many years a college English professor:

"Fun! Thanks for sharing this. I have one comment, writer to writer: You wrote
"While I do appreciate and aspire to learn
the writer or poet’s craft in displaying
literary embellishments, insightful metaphors, . . ."

I think you got it right in your main clause. Art for art's sake is not something we as devotees enjoy much, beyond trying to understand the craft. We shouldn't generally use metaphors, alliteration, rhyme, or any of the embellishments simply to display our prowess, but to share our heart or make a point. They usually should serve the message, not be the message. (Now, sometimes it's fun for writers to riff like that, write simply for its own sake, as exercise or simply for fun, but I don't think that's what will really satisfy devotee writers or their readers.) Rupa Goswami's poetry is probably richer in all the alankaras than any other poetry I've heard, but they simply serve to highlight Krishna's beauty.