Why a Poem?

As for the motivations of others, any answer to this question will be arguable; nonetheless, I offer this list.

Capital Scribe Writing

  • To “Howl” at the world about its injustices and tragedies
  • To make convincing political statements or arguments
  • A love letter or its opposite
  • A spontaneous outpouring of feelings which the writer hurries to record
  • A relaxed and careful observation about anything in the world which occupies the writer’s sensibilities
  • Responding to a challenge from other writers who are deliberately motivating each other, or writing a group poem (this is a regular form in Japanese-style poetry)

Enough of listing.

My first poems were tentative, experimental, fueled by non-romantic yearnings, deep feelings, and observations on my surroundings. I wrote this one after viewing the movie “Legends of the Fall,” the last spoken line of which is, “It was a good death:”

Will It Be a Good Death?

When all the patterns close around me,
As my spirals play out all their energies,
When the sun no longer burns inside me,
And the waters cease coursing through me,
Will we cry good tears and say goodbye without regret?
Will it be a good death?

I pray my life will warrant a good death.

Will those with whom I am love-connected say,
“It was a good death, there was honor and completeness”?
Will they peacefully help my spirit reunite
With the Great Everything?

To die a good death, I must live a good life:
Be brave, be true, my soul;
Help me toward that good death.

Homer, Alaska
11 June 1995

Shortly after writing this I returned to California and began writing poems in earnest. I connected, on the Internet and locally, with other writers of poems with whom I felt an affinity. We shared and challenged and, in some cases, read our stuff publicly in coffee houses and libraries.

This was a time when I was newly enraptured with “Nature,” now living by a regional wilderness preserve, and with the coastal Santa Cruz Mountains within easy driving distance:

Sturdy legs, strong feet
Carry spirit up, down, up.
Lush meadows beckon

Mountain valley spreads
Its myriad lives across
The nourishing Earth.

Great stands of Madrone
Reach naked limbs through forest
Toward silent sky.

Immense cathedral
Of towering conifers
Brings peace to spirit..


Liang Kai, The Sixth Patriarch Cutting the Bamboo

These verses are in haiku form (three stanzas, 5-7-5 syllables), but not true haiku, which, if they were, would be expressions rooted in Zen. The book I am currently reading addresses this subject:  The Genius of Haiku: Readings from R.H. Blyth on Poetry, Life, and Zen.

After another twenty years of playing with the haiku-form and other forms, I am now attempting to (or letting myself) get into the spirit, or mode, or ‘way’ of Zen, to continue with haiku and its variants as my preferred form of written expression.

But what is Zen? So glad you asked. D. T. Suzuki answers:

According to Huineng (the Sixth Patriarch of Chan), Zen was the ‘seeing into one’s own nature.’

That’s it!

Alan Watts, wrote many books on Eastern ways, including a book entitled “This is It, and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience” and “Become What You Are.” Here is an excerpt from the latter:

Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever…

Without further ado, because so many words have already been issued here, I offer a few haiku which may reflect the way of Zen:

not meeting the eyes
of itinerant beggars
Stockholm subway train

eating stinky cheese
the smell and taste return me
to primeval ooze

gothic punk rock band
delights not this listener
original din

planting potatoes
fighting the grasses and weeds
our summer garden


About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in poems, Poetry, Zen and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why a Poem?

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    Thanks for sharing your verse. I find it impressive. Will it Be a Good Death is particularly impressive.

    I love your list of motivations.


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Thanks, yet again, for reading and commenting. Two other ‘motivations’ which I edited out at the last moment: I cited a few of the epic poems as examples of stories in verse form, the other was “to be noticed.” I think there is always a degree of the latter in any writing one does for viewing by others, but I claim it’s just my wanting/needing to share, in the spirit of “look what I found.”


  2. Why make so much of
    Foreign patterns of rhythm?
    Herky-jerky verse.


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      In earlier times I would have answered in kind, but I have grown to respect the form and the discipline it requires.


      • Well, I’m not exactly a fan of “free verse”, or the importation of foreign rhythmic forms into English. Your recent haiku are better than most … I actually like a couple of them. If it were up to me, though, I’d change the word order in the first one:

        Stockholm subway filled
        with itinerant beggars:
        I won’t meet their eyes.

        Anyway, I don’t mean to disrespect your poetry, Ron. I just like traditional forms of English versification better than the modern stuff. Alexander Pope and William Blake and John Milton wrote real honest-to-God poetry, in my opinion. Maya Angelou, not so much.

        Here’s a poem I wrote about 40 years ago. It’s about Hinduism; specifically, the Bhagavad Gita.

        Great Krishna told Arjuna all about it:
        The world surrounds your central soul sublime.
        Like ripples spreading on the face of water,
        Your many lives are dappling space and time
        While Self — the Unmov’d Mover at the center —
        Too rarely finds Itself, caught here in matter.
        Thus all are doomed, once dead again, to enter
        This Illusion. Tell me: Who are you to doubt it?


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Many paths, one destination…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tony Jönsson says:

    I found you Ron!!

    “eating stinky cheese
    the smell and taste return me
    to primeval ooze” Ron Pavella, at Wayne’s Coffee, Malmö, Sweden 2019.

    That’s stinky cheese Ron!! Put in words!

    “Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever…”

    Watts is ponder on the enigmatic, loveable, both dreamlike and brutal essence, we call Now. And he does so gracefully!

    When all comes around maybe Now is all we’ve got! And it’s still perhaps One of the the biggest mistery of all. To embrace it may take a lifetime to achieve – or two! It is a great master for those who are willing to be its humble students.

    As Osho put it “Now is the only reality. All else is either memory or imagination.”

    Thanks for a really enjoyable “Now” back then Ron. And I hope we will met again – somenow – in the imagined future of what may be.




  4. Pingback: Why a Poem? — The Pavellas Perspective – sidewalk monastic

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