Tag Archives: poet

Border Crossings

Dear Sor Juana,

Every time I go cross a border I wonder if I am brave enough to put down my occupation as poet or pilgrim or even writer. My wondering stops when I enter something more benign and less exotic like social worker or administrator. I’ve been tempted to put policy wonk, facilitator, adventurer, mother, daughter, wife or sister as well. And I also wonder why it seems to stump me each time. Being named by others is one thing, naming yourself is another.

The everyday borders we cross down our street where we are a neighbour, resident, postcode denoting more variables about who we might be, let in potential myths or half-truths as well. Getting on and off at various train stations can even bring definition to our status and have qualities bestowed upon us. There are many markers.

I prefer a more chameleon like existence, not always so clearly defined and a bit fudgy around the edges, being able to melt into places, spaces and conversations and I especially like the element of surprise I might bring. Like poetry, a little twist in the tale, can open up a new possibility and provide an insight, liberate an idea that might have been germinating in the darkness. Your response Sor Juana to your critics was to become silent and that would have been a huge surprise as you were feigned for what your vocalised in your poems, plays, letters and teachings. Joining the convent to avoid marriage and to continue your studies, and then applying your learning to address the authorities of the church were also skilful manoeuvres to stay true to your own naming of yourself as a writer and thinker.

Passing through the real and metaphorical borders with grace and grit, whatever name we are given or give ourselves, calls us to an inner stillness to our truest self and that may well cause us to hold the moment with silence.

I-am-a-Poet

Lens

Dear Hildegard,

All those glorious paintings you did that we get to enjoy and contemplate reveal a woman who could see with more than her eyes; a woman who could see with her heart, her soul and intellect as well.  This has me reflecting on the lenses we use to see and interpret the world around us. The lens of imagination and possibility has often attracted me and at the beginning of this year I imagined that I would write to you each week and try and tune in to the way you saw the world – it was an invitation and I am grateful for it. Thank you.

In this year of writing to you,  I have sought to orientate myself to see, and be in the world, in a way that I might connect with you.  As the year comes to a close I am grateful for this conversation and for the lens your life and gifts offered to me.

Seeing the world through the eyes of a poet, a mystic, a composer, a musician, a gardener, an advocate, a woman, a prophet, a community leader  … has encouraged me to draw sap from deep within myself to rise through my thoughts and actions and be embraced by a higher self, a bigger God and to listen to the Uni-Verse.

A lens can transmit and refract light and so a poetic or mystical lens applied in my daily life equips me to see more clearly, or have light shed on a subject or object and discover meaning that wasn’t there without that lens.  Light brightens and makes visible something that perhaps was hidden and using a different lens revelations certainly appear!

My glasses are multi-focals, tinted to adjust to light and are only removed to sleep. They are a part of me and I feel incomplete without them.  My glasses have corrective lenses. They correct the errors my eyes make so that I can see what is really there without distortion and they bring clarity.  This experience is equally true of any other type of lens I apply.  The lens of the poet has enabled me to see beauty all around me more easily than ever before, and has me tuning into the sounds and rhythms all around me – from birdsong to traffic.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to be surrounded by all this poetry and music.

I recall coming to an awareness and appreciation of rap music after being in the Museum of Modern Art in New York a couple of years ago. There was an exhibition about the foundations of rap music, the percussive beat, full frontal issues and rhyming narratives had eluded my understanding. However that day having walked the streets of New York and listened to sounds of the street it dawned on me that rap was the folk music of the inner city – using the sounds of traffic lights, taxis, subway calls, the “rattle of the prattle” between friends, customers and pilgrims alike and it made sense to me completely.  The exhibition gave me a new lens. I felt less overwhelmed by rap and it opened me up to a new way to eavesdrop on a generation and a culture.

The lens that has made all the difference to me this year has been gratefulness.  I have written to you previously about being a gratitude practitioner. This year I was introduced to the idea of putting on ‘gratitude glasses’ and purchased a number of oversized plastic glasses with coloured lenses and used them to share the idea of gratitude glasses with a number of groups I was working with and my peers. This has been fun and opened up many conversations about what it means to be grateful and how to name and claim the gratitude in our lives.

There is so much I have to be grateful for – not the least living where I do with the ones I love and who love me back – for being educated and employed, housed and healthy.  I yearn for a planet of inhabitants who are able to embrace gratefulness and for those of us who have plenty to share with those who have less – this is a constant call and invitation to deepen my gratitude for the abundance, a veritable cornucopia that I have been gifted and hold in trust.  Having a “Hildegard” lens to reflect and refract the light so that I can see more clearly and deeply appreciate what I am being invited into and what I inherit has been a blessing this year.

Imagine, Central Park, NY

Imagine, Central Park, NY

Heralds

The forecaster predicted rain and so it came to pass that the memorial service for Mandela drenched dignitaries and Soweto citizens alike. I watched from the comfort of my red couch. Boos for Zuma and a speech from Obama that will go down in history as one of the great speeches of the 21st Century.  Hildegard I listened to the words and songs and dabbed at my eyes along the way and prayed his death will herald a future of reconciliation and restorative justice in other parts of the world – Cuba, Palestine, Tibet came to mind. The US and Cuban leaders shook hands, Mandela’s words about Palestine filled twitter and the Dalai Lama was refused an entry visa to South Africa to appease China – so there is plenty for Mandela’s spirit to herald.

Reflecting on being a herald in this season of Advent, when there are so many heralds in the nativity story is capturing my imagination.  Those who brought the message of hope, the one who carried the child, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the astrologers, the animals too – all heralds to the news of child like no other come to greet us to in turn announce and proclaim a message of peace and justice.

The herald announces something is about to happen. The stars twinkle and turn each evening making their way through the night sky, like a town crier, each flicker a message, inviting me to join in the great cosmic event about to unfold when the day breaks.  Br David Steindl-Rast reminds us that each new day is a good day, an irreplaceable gift, one that arrives freshly delivered each and every morning.  I wake to the sounds of the birds who sing a chorus of welcome in my garden and urge me to join in the song.  As their song makes its way to my ear I wake up to the new day. A battalion of carollers arrive every morning to announce to me that the new day has arrived.

Not all heralds bring good news. My email in box delivered some news I didn’t want to read this week. News that I knew would come one day from a dear friend of an illness that has taken its next step in her body.  But in bringing that news to me I responded and was able to share an embrace in real time face to face. We were in the trenches together once and the spirit of the ANZACS somehow got us through. Her spirit is holding her too now as she lives in these precious moments of each new day.

When I look over my year I see heralds everywhere! Musicians, story-tellers, poets, dogs, children, flowers, trees – all of creation – animate and inanimate – announcing and denouncing – laying out a path before me and inviting me to go deeper.  There is no doubt that David Whyte’s work has been one a very significant herald trumpeting a way to look at the world through the lens of a poet.  This has heralded for me a new way of seeing the world. He writes:

The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.

Hildegard the Herald – you too have opened up a way for me to share thoughts and stories this yearl and as the year comes to a close I am grateful that a path was made by writing each week. A path that has lead me to new friends, new ideas, new challenges.  A path that has encouraged me to reflect and review my life in a way I had not done before.  A path that is now clearer for me to do more writing, more reflecting, more poetry … and who knows where that path is leading me … the door is open and I will keep walking through it each and every day because I aspire to be like Mandela and each day listen to W.E. Henley who wrote Invictus, herald the message: I am the captain of my soul.

NT Sunrise

NT Sunrise