Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Ready for Samhain

I'm very excited about Samhain this year.  On Halloween, I'm going to celebrate my 55th birthday with a special gathering of a few witchy friends—and at the same time, celebrate and inaugurate the beginning of the writing of my memoir American Witch—the story of the long strange trip that brought me to be here, on this blog, writing to you all about the beauty and power I find on this magick path and in this sacred world.  If you enjoy this blog, please send a thought my way on Sunday night as I officially start out on this project.  After 40 years of focusing entirely on poetry, it's scary and electrifyingly intense to be embarking on a big nonfiction book project—but I feel lots of support and love and encouragement from many quarters.  So I say, "Bring it on!"

And then last night, I performed my poem "Samhain," from Eve, as part of the Halloween show at Poets Theater of Maine. The promotions described it as a "ritual poem," and it felt that way, perhaps more than any time I've read it in the past.   Was it the costume—black cloak, white dress, amber beads?  Was it the fact that for the first time for any poetry performance, I worked with a director, Assunta Kent, to prepare?  Was it simply (and not simply—very importantly!) that I was truly "off book" and able to channel the words to the audience without the interference of the page?  Was it that my daughter was part of the performance, acting the part of my "young mind" in Kent's staging?  Whatever the reason, it was a special way to usher in the season of this profound New Year in the pagan calendar when the veil between living and dead feels so thin, because it brought me close to my beloved Grandy, described in the poem (you can see a photo of Grandy and me in an earlier post here).  May you all find beautiful ways to bring meaning to the season by connecting with those you love, living and gone.  Here's the poem.  Blessed be, and Happy Samhain!


              Samhain

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my young mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that have answers for me,
intimate, waiting, bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.


from Eve



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Yoga, Sprawl, and the Black Earth Institute


I'm getting ready to head out to the annual retreat of the Black Earth Institute, where I have the honor of being a Senior Fellow this year.  It's always an extraordinarily inspiring weekend, with powerful presentations by Fellows on their work in progress, hard-hitting and urgent conversations, and, not least, memorable wine from BEI founder Patricia Monaghan's homegrown organic grapes.  How fitting a way to acknowledge this time of rich, succulent early-October ripeness.

It was at BEI that I met Christina Eisenberg, which that ultimately to my writing the play "Wolf Song."  The theme of our readings for this year's discussions is "Hope and Renewal"; who knows where this year's conversations may lead?

This year, one thing I plan to talk about is my passionate belief in the ideas expressed in this talk by James Howard Kunstler.  Kunstler's book THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE was what I was reading when I gave birth to my daughter.  That book seemed to point the way to a more inhabitable world. 

It's easy to live in the head and forget the importance of the physical.  Poetry, particularly the rhythms of of formal poetry, reminds me constantly that the physical IS the spiritual--and in the last few months, as I've been getting back into doing yoga after a long hiatus, I've been reminded that this is true in every sphere, not just that of poetry.  And it seems to be, in turn, the gist of Kunstler's urgent message for the architecture of our public realm.

Poetry, yoga, the built environment: sphere inside sphere, all working towards greater balance and harmony.  It's a challenging time right now for all of us on the planet--but what beautiful, and increasingly sustained, glimpses we keep getting into more hopeful and renewing ways of living.