Poetry and Presence



Christine Schiff, who is blogging with us this month gifted me with Everything  Beautiful Began After, a novel by Simon Van Booy whose work I had not known.

These words (in the context of love-making) capture some of what I experience during those moment of pure focus which are most healing-of-ego for me:  She swirled in the current of her life, where her sense of self was revealed as arbitrary, extraneous and so easily washed away by the force of that singular intent. (Van Boy, p. 65)

This morning’s sitting brought more of that purity of connection to not-self than yesterday’s.  I am grateful and I am committed to not grasping good, better, best experiences.  As a colloquialism in currency would have it, “I’m just sayin.’

Tonight is the first class in a series I’m teaching called “Poem Philia.”  *

I’ve chosen “Saying Things” by Marilyn Krysl which offers an experience of the untrammeled joy of being in and with words, much like meditation practice offers experience of being with being—that joy, that release.

Here’s the poem:

Saying Things

Three things quickly—pineapple, sparrowgrass, whale—

and then on to asbestos. What I want to say tonight is

words, the naming of things into their thing,

yucca, brown sugar, solo, the roll of a snare drum,

say something, say anything, you’ll see what I mean.

Say windmill, you feel the word fly out from under and away.

Say eye, say shearwater, alewife, apache, harpoon,

do you see what I’m saying, say celery, say Seattle,

say a whole city, say San Jose. You can feel the word

rising like a taste on the palate, say

tuning fork, angel, temperature, meadow, silver nitrate,

try carbon cycle, point lace, helium, Micronesia, quail.


Any word—say it—belladonna, screw auger, spitball,

any word goes like a gull up and on its way,

even lead lifts like a swallow from the nest

of your tongue. Say incandescent, bonnet, universal joint,

lint—oh I invite you to try it. Say cold cream,

corydalis, cotillion, cosmic dust,

you are all of you a generous and patient audience,

pilaster, cashmere, mattress, Washington pie,

say vise, inclinometer, enjambment, you feel your own voice

taking off like a swift, when you say a word you feel like

a gong that’s been struck, to speak is to step out of your skin,

stunned. And you’re a pulsar, finally you understand light

is both particle and wave, you can see it, as in

parlour—when do you get a chance to say parlour—

and now mackinaw, toad and ham wing their way

to the heaven of their thing. Say bellows, say sledge,

say threshold, cottonmouth, Russia leather,

say ash, picot, fallow deer, saxophone, say kitchen sink.


This is the birthday party for the mouth—it’s better than ice cream,

say waterlily, refrigerator, hartebeest, Prussian blue

and the word will take you, if you let it,

the word will take you along across the air of your head

so that you’re there as it settles into the thing it was made for,

adding to it a shimmer and the bird song of its sound,

sound that comes from you, the hand letting go

its dove, yours the mouth speaking the thing into existence,

this is what I’m talking about, this is called saying things.


–Marilyn Krysl


I dreamed that I was teaching Poem Philia to a group of public school teachers, whom I consider, along with social workers, nurses and other front-line healers, “my people.”  But my presence to them “bombed,” for want of a better word ,because I could never find the heart of why I was there with them.


The loss of center, focus, the tractor beam pull of fragmentation, measurement, marketing, etc. seems to me to be at the heart of much of the heartlessness and loss of heart we experience alone and together. How many times, and in how many de-sacralized public places, have I wished for the courage and agency to say,  “stop, let’s stop, and breathe together into that place where we are all swirling in the currents of our worth and our evanescence.


Blessings to all in and beyond our community of practice.




* Poem Philia!


If you're in love with poetry—or would like to be—- participate in this community of poetry to learn how it works—without having the mystery destroyed—!


I. Poetry Immersion: on the theory that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it, we will roll around in poetry from multiple traditions, many voices.


                        "After I read a poem, I have questions:

                who made it?  how does it work?"  W.H. Auden


Outside of class time: an hour or so of reading poetry, and some writing about poems


II. Poetry Experiments


On the theory that we learn what we do will focus on learning about by writing in particular forms that adapt well to the modern sensibility 


            Organic free verse






            Haiku and Renga




            Found Poetry


            Letter Poems








May all beings be happy ♡