Category: The Process of Writing

 

calmblossum

 

The poems in the series called, “Six Movements” in Wife of the House are, for me, an example of how poetry “pokes holes” in consciousness, which I mentioned in my blog called, “The Book Release Reading.” After a night under the stars in a heightened state of consciousness, having just read The Kabir Book: Ecstatic Poems by Kabir, Versions by Robert Bly, it seemed as if a veil had blown away. Clear space opened, and then rapture

…arrives
electric in the red river
reason shatters

from Movement 2

apricotblossumexplosionRapture is not about a feeling of reward one might get after a goal is achieved, or a desire is fulfilled. Rapture is more like a surprise explosion and is often interpreted as an intoxication, or even “over joyfulness;” or it is seen as a trance-like state.

For me, rapture is an expression of consciousness moving with great force toward new understanding and insight. In that sense, rapture isn’t self-indulgent, as some might think, but it serves a greater purpose. In its highest form, perhaps, rapture may move one closer to a state the yogis call “samadhi,” or enlightenment.

 At midnight it goes
that boundary between my arm
and the breeze

from Movement 5

Jack Kornfield, in Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, talks about rapture as one of the “Seven Factors of Enlightenment,” and as a process of “learning to live and practice with a light heart.” Once that happens, I think, the real work of integration can begin. Though rapture stands apart in its truth, beauty and intensity, my teacher and guide, Swami Satchidananda Yogiraj, often urged that the benefits of our attainments be used to “lead a dedicated life,” meaning to lead a life that serves a higher purpose than one’s own selfish interest.

The Process of Writing

In the past, when I won a prize, published my work, or had a book accepted for publication, expectations rose, but things did not always go well. It reminds me of my teacher, Swami Satchidananda, who often said, “make no appointments and you will have no disappointments.” Disappointment, I have noticed can sometimes lead to bitterness.

I do not consider myself to be a bitter person. When my American Sabbath school teacher called me “a martyr for my religion,” I did not connect with what she was talking about. I was not aware of holding resentment for the brutalities I experienced as a child born in Europe during the last world war.

The problem with bitterness is that, for me, it became like a secretly poisoned drink where the bitter taste could not easily be detected. Eventually, I realized I was bitter about two books that had been accepted for publication but didn’t make it through to the final process.

I was also bitter about the sense of failure I had regarding my teacher, who after learning about a poetry prize I had won, congratulated me warmly, as if he had always know I would do him proud and said, “Write, write…publish.” However, I felt for some years I was not able to live up to his words of encouragement.

One of my favorite poems that personifies a personal experience of going beyond negative patterns (such as bitterness) in Wife of the House is “Lila’s Love:

Gazing beyond plank and beam
beyond floorboard and frame
of self she twirls
to the core of eucalyptus
 

On the other side of bitterness, I discovered joy, especially, joy as a great healer. Recently, I heard a conversation and could not help but respond:

 Overheard

“Are you happy?”
“What about?”
Happiness is nothing
to be about; joy is
everything.

I am grateful these days to be aware of how unacknowledged bitterness, resentments and disappointments can create an atmosphere of insecurity and a lack of fulfillment. Joy, on the other hand, is free from all such contractions.

 Gudrun

The Process of Writing

 

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When it was suggested I address the alcoholism issue that is so much a part of the foundational background of Wife of the House, I was reluctant.

In the poem, “Dream,” I created an imaginary camel ride in order to release anger about the disease of alcoholism in my family:

…grinning he humps towards a steep bank
for a drink at the bar

I pull in reins urging
don’t leave the caravan…

It was a long time before I achieved the detachment it took for me to write the poem near the end of the book, “Song to End Estrangement.”

How private pain is
may it heal and and soften
the rough grain
of our lives…

…may I be freed from that aching need…
healed from that heartbreaking pause
before I depart.

When my ex-husband was on his death bed due to alcohol induced neurological failure and before he could no longer speak, I came to the hospital to visit him. He grabbed my hand and said, “I have always loved you.” Years of pain eased in this one encounter; still, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten the terrible damage the disease of alcoholism has caused the entire family.

My personal journey consists of releasing guilt, shame and regret to a power higher than myself. From the intention to surrender and to accept the things I cannot change, comes relief and the space to practice gratitude. Gratitude was not always easily available to me, but now that it is, I much appreciate its tremendous healing power.

During the time I was writing the poems in Wife of the House, I remember a water heater accident when my hair caught on fire. By the time I arrived at a twelve-step meeting later that week, I had accumulated a long list of complaints about how much misery I was experiencing. It was gently suggested that I might try to practice gratitude. My mind did not respond well. Gratitude? Gratitude? How can I be grateful for the terrible things going on?

It took years of persistent effort to realize how my judgments and opinions about my problems were the problem. For me, to be mindful, to be a yogini meant changing what I needed to change with wisdom and also finding a way to be with what I am not able to change, rather than losing myself to reactivity.

Gudrun

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After my first public reading from Wife of the House, someone said, “I felt so present during the reading. I went into an altered state.” That’s what it’s all about, I thought, remembering from my literary studies how poems are best when they “poke holes in consciousness.”momblog

Before I read the poem, “Dream,” I said that it was about the nature of what I had heard the Buddhist meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, call “the wanting mind.” The poem begins:

I wanted to ride the elephant
but got the camel instead…

The audience laughed, because we recognized how the wanting mind can place us in hilarious predicaments if we let it.

I also read, “Paradise Canyon” which begins:

Wind for weeks you’ve had your way
with air you won’t bed down
and be satisfied…

We also know that aversion such as the hatred of wind can function as a friction to bring us higher lessons. It felt meaningful to share those moments (when poems poked holes in my consciousness) with a larger audience at the book release reading. It is healing when we honor our common humanity with laughter and also with tears:

…he switches on the light
he returns to the center
of loneliness
holding the dark
at four corners.

from “At My Window”

After the reading, I woke up at 1:00 am. It was my birthday. I woke up to a poem. I was tired and yearned to go back to sleep, but I could not for 3 hours because the poem seemed to need to make sure it made a strong enough imprint so I would not forget. So, eventually, I went into a quiet, deep relaxation practice that my students do at the end of yoga classes, and the poem remembered itself with ease.

Birth-Day After the Age of Reason


I think I may be
falling apart.
Is that a problem?

The mind goes quiet,
the body still.

Hurrah!
I am the stars,
and the stars are me.

 

Gudrun

The Process of Writing

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During the time I was working on the poems for Wife of the House, I wrote an article for the Premier Edition of the PRACTICAL MYSTIC called “Poetry as a Spiritual Journey.” The article still CroppedRiver90seems current. Certain excerpts make me smile, because I am surprised that I knew these things then. It’s a bit like a parent suddenly thinking, wow, when did my child become a thoughtful and conscious being. Here is a quote from the article:

The concept of a spiritual quest didn’t occur to me in the beginning. All I knew was that, through the reading and writing of poetry, I experienced a joyful, creative energy such as I hardly knew existed. I wanted to develop this heightened state of consciousness….Spiritual teachers who subsequently came into my life showed me the possibility of achieving greater mental clarity [through…the] process of quiet observation and meditation.

…I often like to write poems beginning with [an area of concern] or a lack of comprehension and depict [a] clarification which is discovered by the end of the poem.

An example of such a poem in Wife of the House is “Full Moon,” which begins with:

She sits hungry
for something
she cannot eat…

and ends:

Fruit suspended
on the tree
will ripen and break loose

 

This search for discovery depends on an attitude that the poem itself is guiding me. Consequently, I work as a scribe, and the voice of the poem is a gift of higher consciousness from everything around me. If a poem is faulty…, it is because I’m not a pure instrument; I don’t always hear or see, unhindered by old programming.

Also, I don’t always know what a poem’s gift is; sometimes, it takes years. Just recently, looking at the first poem in Wife of the House as something I might want to read to an audience, I was shocked to see something I had never wanted to acknowledge before. “A Young Girl’s Dream” is about a dream that had haunted me for many years. The last stanza,

She tries and tries
to keep from going bare
blossoms dropping
to her feet

 

I understood, at last, is about the aging process. The dream was prescient, and finally I am able to admit, though blossoms may fall away, each age has its own special beauty. Going bare can also be about feeling free to be transparent.

Gudrun

The Process of Writing

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Wife of the House is a book of poetry I wrote during a time when it wasn’t cool, in reply to the question, “What do you do?” to say, “I’m a housewife.” The poems became, at times, a defiant response to the blank expressions that sometimes greeted me when I gave such an answer. I am happy to see the women’s movement has evolved to the point that a person’s individual choice to work outside the home as a young mother, or to work at home is considered to be a matter not to be pre-judged by others.housewife2

The book’s title poem, “Wife of the House,” depicts the kind of prejudice in the market place against the so-called “unemployed” wife that is thankfully less prevalent in today’s plastic money age. On the other hand, such a poem can also serve as a reminder that there are still a number of areas where change is needed in order to promote fairness and equality for women.

There are modern family issues reflected in the Wife of the House poems that continue to be negotiated in every new generation. There are issues of personal freedom within family structures, the yearning for creative expression and solitude, or how one can transition from ideas to manifestation. I am still processing some of these issues of self-realization, and by being willing to continue the work I began so many years ago have uncovered a renewed optimism and enthusiasm.

Gudrun

The Process of Writing

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