Sunday, February 21, 2016

March 5, 2016 Meditation and Writing Group

[Ink wash by Erin Reirdon]

Last month for our February meditation and writing group we continued our exploration of haibun/haiku/ and American Sentences.

I introduced Denise Levertov's fine essay on the line from Poet in the World which served as an excellent study for an E.E. Cummings poem Vince brought in. 

Thus far, we have looked at the condensed line found in haiku or lyric. The alternative would be the long line expressed as "projective verse" in Charles Olson's 1950  famous essay which I have mentioned several times in relation to Whitman and Ginsberg.

Here are a few hybrid prose/poem works to look into. 

About Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko

Excerpt from Book of Jon by Eleni Siklianos

With a seamless weave of letters, reminiscences, poems and journal entries, Sikelianos creates a loving portrait-and an unblinking indictment-of her father. Jon, a multitalented, eccentric visionary, emerges as a brilliant, charming, irresponsible, frustrating, and ultimately tragic hero.

Complete Text of Patterson--classic  long poem by William Carlos Williams in the objectivist tradition of "no ideas but in things" 

Anne Waldman's Jovis Trilogy is probably the longest epic poem ever written in the English language

These hybrid forms seem especially useful for memoir and large themes. Sometimes it is useful to create clusters of shorter poems in a sequence as a means to  explore new ground. Poet Gary Snyder spent decades working on his long poem, "Mountains and Rivers without End." a perspective drawn from a classical Chinese painting dipicting a journey. 

I am now into my 5th year of working on Dragon's Crease (a line from Emily Dickinson) which explores the theme of women and power from a multi-cultural pount of view. 

Two Poem drafts from Dragons' Crease - a work in progress

Women of Ashes

Females born in the year of the Fire Horse
Known for boldness, disobedience, lively minds
Too outspoken for marriage---
Most often beautiful and cunning
Another way of saying intelligent.
In 1966, the Year of the Fire Horse,
Japanese census reported millions
Less in their annual statistics.
The method in imperial China was two buckets
Next to the birthing pallet—
One with water for washing the son
The other for ashes to bury the daughter.

Osama’s Third Wife

She was the spinster wife
Nine years older, unattractive but highly educated
The papers say,
A university professor past her prime
It's also said she had a regal bearing and direct line to the prophet.
They had only one child.
 How amazing  he wanted her
Gave her a son that Soft spoken man
with  elegant speech that thrilled
millions of school girls
Who would then name their first born—Osama.
What did she think with an advanced degree in child psychology
When this father forbid a plastic nipple for his child
Dying of  dehydration as a violation to his principles
That man who would pose  in position favored by the prophet
In mountain caves with his Kleshnikov 

The next meditation and writing group will meet Saturday, March 5th 11:00 AM-2:00 PM at the Shambhala Center in Sheburne Falls, MA. Please RSVP

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


After Milarepa

I do not mean to read myself into paralysis with the NY Times
about child sex slaves    with unspeakable techniques
or those thousands of infected chickens
buried alive in China, a heap of plastic
bags beneath loose earth bulldozed into containment.
I mean instead to practice moments of awareness--
walk, sit, sleep and,  yes, read.
Today, I contemplate the meaning of sangha
how we gather together, wake each other
by mishap, and the great benefit
of that instead of this.

I don't mean to look the other way
while I indulge
in household dreams
as if this sand castle isn't already
dissolving in centrifuge.

What I mean to do is break
myself on rocks, taste dirt,
breathe out starlight into the cold dark.

Jacqueline Gens


Sunday, February 14, 2016

In the Spirit of St Valentine


Eros the loosener of limbs troubles me

Eros shook my mind like a mountain wind
falling on green shoots
                                not oaks of antiquity
        but wild bamboo
root by railroad tracks
their sound awakening me 
to the slow arrow

--Jacqueline Gens

Friday, February 05, 2016

To My Mother Olga on Her Birthday

Today is my mother Olga's birthday. My brother Mike posted this lovely photo of her on his Facebook page taken around the time she first arrived in the US in 1948. She was so happy to come to America after the deprivations of living through WWII  in Shanghai, China where she was born to Russian emigre parents. 

I wrote this poem for her one day after picking ramps near Packers Corner Farm in Guilford, VT where I lived at various times.


For Olga Paccidova Shriner (1930-1987)

You don’t see them at first
until you stop and look slowly
at loose leaves of winter debris
scattered across the forest floor.
After awhile, tufts of greenery emerge,
thousands of tender shoots
still too early to pick.
This is the method I learned from Yettie,
a Sephardic Jew from Salonika--
once my neighbor on Packer Corners Road,
To gather morels one year, we sat
on the ground until we noticed our field of vision
shifting to nascent specks of white.
She’s here because of her grandfather’s second sight--
reading in tea leaves that things
were not as they seemed.
They left the dinner table, food half-eaten,
for distant Aegean isles, surviving the war
because of his divinations.

The real miracle year after year
the leeks grow only in this one place.
Each spring, I try to remember
their irony taste drawn from deep soil humus,
decayed pine, juniper, crushed maple leaves,
moss, and rotted wood--
Often, I forget the wild leeks of Keats Brook Road.
I can’t remember how we ended up
in this New England neighborhood—
my mother, Olga (like Yettie), worlds away from her native Shanghai
where bombs fell, first from Japanese then American planes
as she rode her bicycle through the city
to collect bread rations from the Jewish ghetto.
Her heroic stories our dinner table conversation for decades—
We knew that daily ride through fear: sounds, smells,
her chronic hunger, the blown up bits of pregnant women and children.
It’s the shrapnel that kills you, you know, not the bombs.
We allowed her the telling over and over
surrounded by her beloved collection of Americana.
She’s here in the woods now
buried over the hill on Carpenter Road
an early death from cancer at age fifty-eight.
Some years, I do remember the harvest
of wild leeks, their bitter vitality,
my mind a continuity of pungent smells and thoughts
of family, friends, survival, the old world still here
growing up on a hillside in Vermont each year---
regardless if we live or die,
holding forth as though eternal
in a wild assembly of tenderness.