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SPOUSE INBETWEEN

In Military Life, Poetry on August 5, 2014 at 11:01 pm

By Laurel Greszler

 

Your world and mine

here and there

ticket to anywhere

 

Day one of deployment

is inbetween grief and relief

frustration and anticipation (resignation)

 

This word, spouse

tossed differently

between military and non

 

Here, it is —

signifier;

identifier;

access;

attribute;

retribute; and,

constant reminder

of the space

inbetween

now and forever.

Photo by Julie Black

Photo by Julie Black

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Feeling the Music

In Music, Poetry on September 19, 2013 at 1:01 am
frosty alaska

Photo by Jill Molloy
Alaska
2012

First Movement

Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D
began with a flourish up and down my spine,
fifteen years old and never held before
by bright strings spilling over my father’s head,

pipe in hand, eyes smoky black, jowled
appreciator of the things of man, ex-commie
turned cabby turned lawyer at the end,
how could he sit so still with that tug in

the air, I fell to the green rug with my fist
against my chest, I couldn’t help grinning
around the hurt, a funny kind of halo spun
my head, I still had to live in Maryland but

outside that room all Saturday morning shivered,
a great gold crystal just about to burst.

By Mark Smith-Soto

bubble

Photo by Roger Brown
Colorado

Used with permission (c) 2003, University of Florida Press, Our Lives Are Rivers

The Art of Communication

In Creative Living, Music, Poetry on September 19, 2013 at 1:00 am

Photo by Doug Stutler
Lily Lake – Lily Mountain
Estes Park, Colorado

“They can be a great help — words. They can become the spirit’s hands and lift and caress you.”

— Meister Eckhart

By Amy Wilson Feltz

Words have the means within them to create and destroy worlds. We know this about our own conversations, even if we don’t want to admit it. Think about the wounds that you have received from sharp words. Think about the wounds you’ve inflicted. Think about words that have brought a smile to your face. Think about words you’ve shared that made others smile.

Poetry gives those words a rhythm, a heartbeat, and draws us into the Life Source.

There’s only so much talking we can do about poetry. To experience it, we need to read some.

We Shake with Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

Housed as they are in the same body.

— Mary Oliver

There is power in words to heal and transform.

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he turned to me and heart my cry.

He lifted me up out of the pit of uproar,

out of the miry clay,

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

Many will see and fear the LORD

and put their trust in him.

— Psalm Forty, verses 2 and 3

yellowstone

Photo by Tami Bok
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming

Poetry is also a great vehicle to explore matters of faith.

From Spring, by Wendell Berry:

He goes in spring

through the evening street

to buy bread,

green trees leaning

over the sidewalk,

forsythia yellow

beneath the windows,

birds singing

as birds sing

only in spring,

and he sings, his footsteps

beating the measure of his song.

His footsteps carry him past the window,

deeper into his song.

To his death? Yes.

He walks and sings to his death.

Not much of a surprise to people of faith because most of the Old Testament was written as poetry in the Hebrew Language, and in that original language we find rhythm and rhyme and plays on words that we miss in the English.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

— Psalm Twenty-Three, verse 4

Gingko grove at the arboretum in VA - Susan Speer

Photo by Susan Speer
Gingko Grove
Virginia

What a lovely reminder that it isn’t just the content but the form of the words that can inform and shape us.

The Psalms in the Old Testament give us a way to connect with something universal about what it means to be human, to love and to fear, to grieve and to rejoice.

Poetry in general does this, too.

I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something


so simply


about love


or about pain


that even


as you are reading


you feel it


and as you read


you keep feeling it


and though it be my story


it will be common,


though it be singular


it will be known to you


so that by the end


you will think—


no, you will realize—


that it was all the while


yourself arranging the words,           


that it was all the time


words that you yourself,


out of your heart


had been saying.

— Mary Oliver

Poetry doesn’t just happen. It grows out of awareness. Out of experience with humanity and the divine. Out of an expression of beauty or sorrow that resonates with what it means to be a human being. It is the work of God in us, printing itself in black and white for the world to see.

In poetry, we remember that God is in all things.

Yellowstone Lily pads

Photo by Tami Bok
Dragonflies
Yellowstone, WY

In All Things

It was easy to love God in all that

was beautiful.

 

The lessons of deeper knowledge, though, instructed me

to embrace God in all

things.

— Saint Francis of Assisi

That God lives in us.

The beautiful thing about relationships is that, when they are valued and nurtured at least, they can provide the context and the safe place needed to clarify comments and actions that could be misunderstood.

In a correspondence between two poets* Peter O’Leary remarks that when he thinks about redefining God, he actually means that he’s been set free from making declarative statements about God by the invitation to, “Be still and know that God is God… Not to define God so much as to identify aspects of the radiating diadem of God’s afterimage.”

I think what he means by this is that if we are aware enough to know that God is with us, we’re going to be moved to describe our experience of God or our need of God.

Alicia O’Striker seems to agree, as she says, “My writing is a spiritual practice. My writing is my prayer. I imagine this is true for many poets.”

So, in the sense that poets are human and experience life as human beings do, their expression of their experiences become the expression of humanity. It’s not so much that they speak for us but that they give us the words for which we are searching to describe what we see and touch and taste and hear and feel.

In this way, poetry is very much a communal act.

Sometimes the Psalms and poetry in general can lose meaning when they become too familiar, when we just run our eyes over the words without registering their meaning. Or sometimes our minds are too full of other voices to makes sense of the words and we miss their meaning in the first place. Sometimes we write the Psalms and poetry in general off as being irrelevant, archaic even.

But the stuff of life is in there. Silence can help us find it.

Photo by Roger Brown Costa Rica

Photo by Roger Brown
Flower at Cafe Milagro
Costa Rica

Being still is not the same as freezing. To be still is to wait patiently until it is time to act again, with God’s prompting. Being still and trusting in God affords us the opportunity to take inventory of the many ways God is at work . . . and to be thankful. The spiritual disciplines of being still and then acting upon God’s prompting can be followed by deep and meaningful growth. Thanks be to God!

Alicia Ostriker said, “I believe that God is pregnant with his exiled, mute, amnesiac, repressed feminine side. Pregnant and in labor. Pregnant and in pain, for I believe our human pain is God’s labor pain, and that we can all collectively be midwives bringing the goddess back into consciousness.”

This is the work of poetry and the work of the Psalms, to invite us to see God, whole unbroken, so that we, too, may live in the divine image, whole and unbroken.

Ostriker’s words compare to Romans 8:22-23: For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they but ourselves, also, the first fruits of the Spirit, even groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, for the redemption of our body.

Feeling that God is hiding from us is cause for groaning, to be sure, but our inner silence and our inner voice and the voices of our community remind us: Absence from God is an illusion.

All we need do is Be Still. And Know that God is God.

Photo by Roger Brown

Photo by Roger Brown
Singing Sands
Dunhuang, China

*http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/182864

Sources:

Meister Eckhart, The Spirit’s Hands, “Love Poems from God” © 2002 Daniel Ladinsky/Penguin Group

We Shake with Joy & I Want to Write Something So Simply “Evidence,” Poems by Mary Oliver © 2009 by Mary Oliver/Beacon Press

Psalm 40:2,3 New American Standard Bible/New International Version/original Hebrew

Psalm 23:4 NASB

Spring Excerpt, “Wendell Berry: New Collected Poems” © 2012 Wendell Berry/Counterpoint Press

Poem Trio

In Poetry on November 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Photo by Amanda Brack
Fall Tree
Louisville, Kentucky

Fun Loving Grandmas
Hey, Barbara! Remember the time —

I’m sure you know this has to rhyme –

Remember the day little Josh came along?

We were on our way to work, doing nothing wrong.

When you got the call, I put the car in high gear.

We flew down I-20 like we had no fear.

I’m not sure if you prayed that we met no disaster.

Or, if you were thinking, “Can’t we go any faster?!”

We made it to Hendrick, no troopers in sight

And there you met little sunshine and light.

I’m sure God rode with us on that crazy day.

He kept us safe in His own divine way.

He watches us still ‘cause He knows who we are –

Fun loving grandmas behind the wheel of a car.
 

Georganne Conway

Copyright© August 2, 2008

Photo by Roger Brown

Photo by Roger Brown

Through Jesus’ Eyes

I wish that you could know me,
See into my soul.
I know that I’m not worthy,
But Jesus makes me whole.

He gives me hope when I’m afraid.
He lifts me when I’m down.
He sends me joy and a smile
To replace an ugly frown.

He runs to meet me every time
I call upon his name.
He lets me know that I don’t need
Riches, clout or fame.

I guess I’m really special
‘Cause Jesus tells me so.
He wants to spend some time with me
And always lets me know.

He wraps his arms around me
And holds me really tight.
He warms my heart and gives me rest
On a cold and lonely night.

He walks with me along the way
And never leaves my side.
He forgives me when I cannot see
Through all my foolish pride.

If only you could see me
The way my Jesus does,
We’d be friends forever
With forgiveness, faith and love.

Georganne Conway
Copyright(c)2004

Sunset Cranes

Ageless Dreams
To my fellow cancer survivors and all who support them

Threadbare carpet,
Worn woven shades,
Days gone by,
Memories of parades –

Towels with raw edges,
A sofa sunken deep,
An old, old freezer,
Bought when food was cheap.

Dresses out of style,
Shoes with signs of wear,
Hats in a pile
No longer cover lack of hair.

Some things wear out.
Don’t stand the test of time.
But my dreams are ageless
And live on in my rhyme.

Georganne Conway
Copyright ©2004

Photo by Amanda Brack
Canoe on Lake Chelan
Stehekin, Washington

Suppressing Art

In Art, Life in Society, Music, Poetry on October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm
Snow Geese NM:NWR

Photo by Roger Brown
Snow Geese
New Mexico

By Heila Rogers

Why did poets, musicians and dancers of the Stalin-era Soviet Union continue to create? Why not just stop, when they saw their loved ones and other artists being killed, or sent to the Gulag or jail?

What compelled them?

Why is art often suspect?

And… what is art actually … for?

Regimes like the Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Nazism,  – all have controlled, suppressed and hated art and artists.

This suppressive way of thinking is alive and well in every country.

Yet Adolf Hitler painted paintings. Propaganda was used in the above systems. As is sometimes the case in advertising, images were made especially to sway or manipulate.

If that’s not what art is for … then what is in fact its purpose?

Artists have been referred to as “parasites upon society.” There is a perception of making art as being a waste of time.

Glimpses of a world without art can be seen when looking at the functional-only blocks of apartment buildings in former “Soviet Republic” countries.

[Mongolia]

Much of nature consistently inspires people. Looking around us, at gloriously different varieties of creatures and plants; or unique, everyday sky and cloud patterns, we feel hopeful … and often moved to create.

Petra-RB

Photo by Roger Brown
Sandstone Formations
Petra, Jordan

When we feel, think and conclude – from an artistic place within us – we make things.

doorway

Photo by Roger Brown
Petra Cave Entrance
Jordan

Why is this threatening? What causes such a strong reaction against art and artists?

Human beings want to control other human beings. Perceived control makes us feel safe. When we tell others what to do, we have an illusion of safety. Really, we all think we know best, and how the world should be run. Therefore we’re ready to organize everyone and everything accordingly. So when someone (or something) challenges that, it must be suppressed. Or else we won’t win or succeed. We think.

This is the fatal flaw of totalitarianism. All forms of it eventually fail, because they don’t take into account (or understand) long-term reality. There is a force in the world and in human beings which will resist inappropriate control.

Whereas within art, although there are certainly elements of control and discipline, it’s viscerally about freedom. About exploring, questioning … and listening.

Real art loves, expresses truth, explores truth, attempts to honestly communicate what is true.

That doesn’t mean everything created is good or used for good.

It also doesn’t mean that everyone fights or resists wrong control. In the short-term, or without a certain perspective, it feels better to control others or to submit to (undue) influence.

Very obviously: humans can warp or misuse … well, pretty much anything and everything. But, the grace to create is there. It’s there for everyone. This might be a strange thing to say, but what if Hitler were not suppressed himself as an artist? His father forbid him go to art school. Might history have been different if he himself were not abused and wrongly controlled?

Take for example the swastika – the flag of the Third Reich, created by Hitler.

The arrangement of colors and the symbol together are visually attractive. The bent cross symbol is actually an ancient one – the root Sanskrit word “svastika” means  “to be good/lucky.” Many cultures use variations on the form:

[symbol, origin]

The Nazi swastika is self-described as being, “the symbol of the creating, acting life.” Wow. Wishful thinking on Hitler’s part? The four-arm crooked form was already being widely used in a folk-national movement, among others, when Hitler adapted it for his now infamous emblem. It is still used widely in Indian religions. [Wikipedia]

Hitler wrote (in Mein Kampf) what he wanted the symbol to mean: “As National Socialists, we see our program in our flag. In red, we see the social idea of the movement; in white, the nationalistic idea; in the swastika, the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work.” [63]

He robbed from widespread, already popular images to make, in an evil-genius way, a powerful (albeit warped) standard. He wanted so much to be an artist. Instead of representing what he stated above, the Nazi flag now represents horror, evil and … suppression.

Divergent or analytical thinking – a part of art – is discouraged and punished. As well are disagreements with policies. This intolerance for disagreement instead of being a strength, in fact indicates weakness. If someone called Stalin “a murderer and peasant slayer” (O. Mandelstam below) and the words were not true, what power would they have? But then, because propagandists have experienced success using words cleverly to manipulate people into believing certain ways, they suspect others of doing the same.

Regardless, during times of persecution and distress, the following artists were a part of creating – which sometimes did mean protest and disagreement with governmental policies or actions:

(Data, except as cited, from the book, “The Soviet Image: A Hundred Years of Photographs from Inside the TASS Archives,” by Peter Radetsky © 2007)

Anna Akhmatova:

A preeminent Russian writer of the twentieth century and a renowned poet, “In the presence of [her] I looked at the world as if I were on a new planet,” said writer Lydia Chukovskaya. Her husband was executed for alleged antigovernment activities, her son was exiled to Siberia, many of the people closest to her would be imprisoned or killed, she suffered a ban on her poetry that lasted, on and off, for three decades. She never left her home country and wrote the following in her poem “Requiem”: “No foreign sky protected me, / no stranger’s wing shielded my face. / I stand as witness to the common lot / survivor of that time, that place.”

Photo by Roger BrownPetra, Jordan

Photo by Roger Brown
Al Khazneh Ruin
Petra, Jordan

Osip Mandelstam:

Was arrested and died in the Gulag in 1938. “Poetry is respected only in this country,” he said. “There’s no place where more people are killed for it.” Circa 1925.

‘This is what I most want’

This is what I most want

un-pursued, alone

to reach beyond the light

that I am furthest from.

And for you to shine there-

no other happiness-

and learn, from starlight,

what its fire might suggest.

A star burns as a star,

light becomes light,

because our murmuring

strengthens us, and warms the night.

And I want to say to you

my little one, whispering,

I can only lift you towards the light

by means of this babbling.

Note: Written for his wife, Nadezhda.

[http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Russian/Mandelstam.htm#_Toc485874609]

The treasury, Petra, Jordan

Photo by Roger Brown
The Siq (The Shaft)
Petra, Jordan

Lydia Ruslanova:

Folk singer who toured the front constantly during the war and performed for the troops. A beloved entertainer, she performed on the steps of the Reichstag in Berlin while parts of it still smoldered. Because of her popularity and friendship with Marshal Zhukov, Stalin began to regard her as a potential threat. She and her husband were sent to the Gulag in 1948. Upon Stalin’s death, she was released and resumed performing until her death, in 1973.

Dmitri Shostakovitch:

In August 1942, during the darkest days of the siege, his Seventh Symphony was performed in Leningrad’s Philharmonic Hall. Loudspeakers broadcast the concert throughout Leningrad and, as another act of defiance, to the German troops stationed outside the city.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtjAmaG7jjA

“Regardless of when Shostakovich initially conceived the symphony, the Nazi attack and consequent relaxing of Soviet censorship gave Shostakovich the hope of writing the work for a mass audience instead of a primarily esoteric one. To do so, he had to express his hidden feelings in a way to make them accessible to the audience, allowing it to experience catharsis. A model on how to do this was Igor Stravinsky‘s Symphony of Psalms. Stravinsky’s compositions held considerable influence over Shostakovich.[13] and he had been deeply impressed with this particular work.[14]

Shostakovich’s plan was for a single-movement symphony, including a chorus and a requiem-like passage for a vocal soloist, with a text taken from the Psalms of David. With the help of his best friend, critic Ivan Sollertinsky, who was knowledgeable about the Bible, he selected excerpts from the Ninth Psalm. The idea of individual suffering became interwoven in Shostakovich’s mind with the Lord God’s vengeance for the taking of innocent blood (Verse 12, New King James Version).[14] The theme not only conveyed his outrage over Stalin’s oppression,[16] but also may have inspired him to write the Seventh Symphony in the first place.[17] “I began writing it having been deeply moved by the Psalms of David; the symphony deals with more than that, but the Psalms were the impetus,” the composer said. “David has some marvelous words on blood, that God takes revenge for blood, He doesn’t forget the cries of victims, and so on. When I think of the Psalms, I become agitated.”[17]

A public performance of a work with such a text would have been impossible before the German invasion. Now it was feasible, at least in theory, with the reference to “blood” applied at least officially to Hitler. With Stalin appealing to the Soviets’ patriotic and religious sentiments, the authorities were no longer suppressing Orthodox themes or images.[18] Yet for all the importance he placed on them, Shostakovich may have been right in writing the symphony without a text, in view of the censorship that would eventually be reimposed.[14]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._7_(Shostakovich)

The treasury

Photo by Roger Brown
Narrow gorge, East entrance
Petra, Jordan

Artists who are trying to express and share light and beauty as real and existing; along with describing the human condition, and grief, and the wrongs they see — speak in important ways for all of us.

Art lifts us, and somehow helps us to be free.

Getting It

In Art, Life in Society, Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

To be content, I must create.

A work of art, of literature, of science;

Something unique, something my own.

And to be happy, truly happy,

My creation must be recognized,

Acclaimed, and enduring.

http://fugatur.wordpress.com/about/

Street Art in Oslo, Norway by Alice Pasquini

How sad, his wife replied,

That evoking a smile, teaching a lesson,

Watching a sunset, relieving a burden

Provide you with neither contentment

Nor happiness.

You don’t get it, he shouted.

Thank goodness, she sighed.

 

By Robert Deluty

[Motherhood: Journey Into Love, An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Edwina Peterson Cross, published by Mothers At Home, Inc. (c) 1997]

The Lesson

In Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

 

An angel hovered near the earth

To listen, should I call.

God had sent the angel here

To catch me, should I fall.

 

No summons did I make above

For I felt that I knew best.

The angel could just take God’s love

And care for all the rest.

 

No need had I for any help –

My problems few & small.

I had the answers I would need

Were my back against a wall.

 

Photo by Kent Bartlett

The smallest problem began to grow.

I could not make it stop.

Trouble, trouble everywhere –

Soon there was a crop.

 

As I pondered what to do,

I raised my hands above;

Then, I felt the angel’s grasp

And God’s continued love.

 

In my despair, I found the peace

That I’d been searching for.

It was there all along

When I opened up the door.

 

More grateful now, I could not be

When I look up towards the sky

And ask my Master for His help;

For He always hears my cry.

 

He sends an angel to calm my fears

And meets my every need.

I’ll listen now and talk to Him.

I’m glad to let Him Lead.

 

Georganne Conway

Copyright © November 3, 2008

 

Real Love

In Nature, Poetry on March 17, 2012 at 2:12 am

Love is the color of the world’s tallest peaks

nothing stands taller.

 

Loves sounds like water,

like churning rivers or trickling streams.

 

Love tastes sweet

like soothing herbal tea

that fills you with warmth.

 

Love smells like the clean air of Alaska,

without any flaws.

 

Love is the shape of the never ending stars

always shining bright

 

Love is love

nothing else

 

By Daniel Rogers

Photo by Blake Strasser

… the earth is full of the unfailing love of God. (Psalm 33.5)

“Man is the only animal who causes pain to others with no other object than wanting to do so.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Mind Trap

In Poetry on January 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

Photo by Hannah Amodeo

In the midst of the dark room

In the corners of my mind,

I resurrect doom and gloom

Fear the light will leave me blind.

 

 

 

 

But when I step into the shine

Bare my heart and soul and thought,

I find the healing I had missed

Wish this feeling could be bought.

 

Oh, to store away such needs

A cancer simply feeds,

Instead to share yourself

May put cancer on the shelf.

 

Lift the veil!  Seek the sun!

Forward into life, let’s run!

Don’t get trapped into your mind,

Love is there for all to find.




Photo by Hannah Amodeo

by

Georganne Conway

(c) 2003

… God is light; in God there is no darkness at all.

(1 John 1.5 – NIV)

… God is love, and whoever abides in love in abides in God, and God abides in him.

(1 John 4.16 – ESV)


Evidence

In Art, Poetry on October 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Photo by Kent Bartlett

Leaves blowing in the breeze

Flowers dancing with graceful ease

Stars falling from the sky

A mother hears a baby’s sigh.

Barley bending in the wind

Someone talking with a friend

Frail grass clinging to the sod –

All evidence of the breath of God.

Georganne Conway
Copyright©2006