It’s easy to forget, especially around U.S. Independence Day, how much trial and error went into the creation of American democracy, how much of what Americans now take for granted wasn’t fully formed for decades after 1776.
A balloon flies over Eisenmann Memorial in Berlin. (photo: Danny/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
Our household was a heavy one. I always felt the presence of sadness and loss; those emotions were part of everything that took place in our family, including birthdays and personal achievements. I knew where the sadness and sense of loss came from, to an extent, from stories that Aba (my father Yehoshua) told — and from his writings.
Growing up, I did not want to touch those places where the sadness and loss came from. Ouri, my oldest brother, calls these hard to touch places hamekomot harotetim, “the trembling places” inside of us.
The farm and now heritage center of Byron Herbert Reece, who lived and wrote in the Choestoe area of Union County, Georgia. (photo: UGArdener/Flickr, CC by-NC 2.0).
It’s about as simple as poems come:
Easter is on the field:
With bloom their tomb unsealed
To April air.
New as the dew shake cold,
Beside their anxious dams:
Easter is on the fold.
William Blake, the English poet and engraver, wrote two poems entitled “Holy Thursday” — one a “song of innocence” and one a “song of experience.”
Each of them decry the wretched realities of children in poverty but tell different stories, in different tones. The Song of Experience begins, in outrage:
Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduc’d to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?
Last week, I spent two days exploring the glorious streets of Paris in the emerging bloom of spring. As I wound my way through the city’s arrondissements toward the Eiffel Tower, I serendipitously stumbled upon this street sign honoring the French poet Sully Prudhomme.
Japan has been on all our minds and in all our hearts. There doesn’t seem to be enough capacity in the human soul to witness nature unleash its force on man in this way. Helplessness still sits with us even after the contributing of funds to relief efforts.
The magnitude of the disaster and continuing saga has made us all feel vulnerable to the uncertainty of life. We can’t fathom how recovery can possibly follow such devastation.
Then there’s me here in my studio just painting clouds and wondering how what I do could possibly matter. And then today I happened upon this Rilke poem after I finished the painting shown above. And the words could not be more profound and with them my painting feels right again.
Threshold of Spring
Harshness gone. All at once caring spread over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,
(photo: Eric Tastad/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
Last summer, soon after returning from meeting my new niece, now nearly nine months old, the check engine light on my ’98 Honda hatchback came on. We brought it in to a mechanic’s shop that we hadn’t been to before. All the men who worked there were wearing these shirts that looked like bowling uniforms to me, with the script of Import Authority dancing across their backs. I had entered another world.
When we returned to pick it up, I looked down at the receipt and saw the phrase “Diagnose: cause of light.” Once again, I had entered another world.
A guest post from Charity Burns on her new-found respect for the Sufi poet while slipping on an icy Brooklyn sidewalk.
(photo: Scott Jungling/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
I so enjoyed your show with the poet Ms. Alexander. It emboldened me to forward one of my poems. “Twisted” is a biographical and personal reflection of God’s grace unfolding in the life of someone (myself as well as others), who with the benefit of years of hindsight, can agree with those before them who said, “My soul looks back and wonder, how I got over!”
By Empty Tomb
A bastard born,
Not meant to be,
No concept of my father’s tree.
Without a compass, adrift at sea,
Another brother … twisted.
A guest contributor uses poetry as a vehicle for processing his faith, doubts and depression during the Advent season.
by Jessica Kramer, guest contributor
“Mom’s birthday breakfast” (photo: Jessica Kramer/Flickr)
Christmas is almost upon us. In seeking God during this time, I have sought renewal in the darkness of winter, in the stillness in which to hear God. This fourth week of Advent brings promise of harmony, that the (often disjointed) pieces of our lives, hearts, and emotions might be joined into a single, but rich and layered, sound of joy.
Elizabeth Alexander on poetry, the art of revision and letting creative expressions be, and remaining open to the world around you with E. Ethelbert Miller.
Do you haiku? John Lederach shares 12 haiku based on a three-day dialogue with Krista Tippett and others. These conversational poems capture the tension, promise, and paradox of moral action and meaningful language.