As for the motivations of others, any answer to this question will be arguable; nonetheless, I offer this list.
- 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.
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
|Great stands of Madrone
Reach naked limbs through forest
Toward silent sky.
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.’
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
|gothic punk rock band
delights not this listener