Greetings Readers, Teachers, Yogis and Librarians!
Library Week and Poetry Month both fall in April and with all of the yoga classes popping up at libraries over the past few years, you will have plenty of opportunities to sit, write and move! This is the special formula from the Writing Yoga® method that can help you to live a calmer, more creative and compassionate life. Each Wednesday there is a new prompt to help you do just that. Scroll down to get right to it.
When I was a kid, the library was my favorite place to be. It was quiet and calm and I could read all day long without interruption. When was the last time you got to do ANYTHING without interruption? Mindfulness was not in the dictionary back then, but the world moved slower without the Internet. Libraries today still have one of the few quiet public places anywhere. So take time this week to sit and mindfully read in your favorite chair or at the library. Maybe even try a...
You can't blame the people of Long Island. Until recently, most cultural, literary, and historic landmarks were hard to find. As a reader of blog posts with Whitman in the title you might not believe me, but it seems that more Long Islanders have heard of the Walt Whitman Mall than its namesake.
For the record, Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and the mall came second.
When my children were younger, I would explore the small grounds of his birthplace, have a picnic and visit the museum and interpretive center. So much has changed! The WWBA now offers regular programing and some are over zoom so visits can happen without leaving your house.
I wrote the poem "Concrete Walt" with all of our multitudes in mind. In the spirit of Whitman, I imagined the Indigenous Long Islanders, the sailors and farmers, shoppers at the mall across the street, bugs and birds hiding in trees, the pollution below. All of it.
The land where the mall sits...
I've been obsessed with this collection of poetry called Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World by Pádraig Ó Tuama. I bought the audiobook for a trip knowing nothing more than the title.
From my journal: On the plane/close my eyes/relax my hands/ press play. It's familiar words, my former poetry teacher, mystical, brilliant. She is speaking to me. Her voice/not her voice/ every voice:
I pray for this to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body's position to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking.
- Aracelis Girmay.
Her class was just as magical as those words. Poetry was a place both sweet and haunting. It makes us question, think and feel. Pádraig Ó Tuama chose poets from all around the world who accomplish all that. We are different. We are the same.
I have studied under, watched, read and listened to most of the poets in this...
Our principal asked us to pick a word at the start of the school year. The word would be our North Star to guide our goals, inform our lessons, and inspire us to do great work. School initiatives sometimes fall away as the year progresses, but a good administrator won't let that happen.
She didn't let that happen. We revisited our words at the start of the new year. What would your word be?
It feels poetic to pick just one word. No long lists, no big visions, no novels. I thought about it for days. Nothing felt right. If you know my work, you know that there are three words I think about a lot: calm, creative, and compassionate. It is my desire to see all students, teachers and classrooms feel that way in every school around the world. But these words can't be separated.
Why? It is easy to be calm if we feel safe. When we feel safe, we are free to find creative solutions, work harder, and take big risks. Safety means we are not threatened...
Venus stands in the middle of Dallas. She’s golden, glowing and powerful, but her bedroom is a mess. Could it be she has too much to wear? This artwork, Venere deglistracci dorata (Golden Venus of Rags), by Michelangelo Pistoletto was created between 1967-1971, long before Forever 21 sold disposable clothes.
I took this picture and sent it to my daughter by text, “This looks like your room.” Very funny, she said. But it’s true. It does.
What does it take to create beauty? Naked, Venus is stunning. What transformation will be made by adorning rags? What is true beauty? What is excess? Do you really need all those clothes, Venus?
Write Venus a note. Begin something like this: Dear Venus, How far you have come from Botticelli’s shell. Or, Dear Venus, let’s sing to Bananarama and wear rubber bracelets up and down our arms. Or, Dear Venus, I’m sorry it took me so long to write, please forgive me for not understanding your...
A horse rides through the streets of Dallas. Soon he will be back on the range, dusting dirt off his jeans, but for now, he’s suspended in a painting on the 12th floor hotel wall.
I passed this cowboy on my way to the rooftop pool. He tipped his hat. At least I could have sworn he did.
The man pushing a pickle cart definitely tipped his hat. We were on Houston in New York’s lower east side. He was wheeling past, heading to Delancey and I was in 1899.
Every city has history and imaginary ghosts. What stories do the ghosts of your city tell?
I stood in front of the cowboy at the hotel. He would never have met the pickle man in New York City. I relate better to tenements than ranches, but both are far away from my life today. When we write about the past through the lens of a modern visitor, interesting things can happen in the mind and on the page.
Find a park bench in any town or city and visit it with your notebook. Notice the people...
Nothing like a bee sting to interrupt your Zen.
I raise my hand in the lawn for a seated twisted yoga pose. My waist is wrung out like a wet rag. I think I’m so graceful, my fingers reaching for sky. My arm moves in slow motion toward the grass. I’m fully in the moment, describing the pose to my students step-by-step. The gaze comes last and with my head and neck aligned with the spine there is no reason to look down.
When my hand reaches the earth, it meets a bee. I’m stung. My yogi mind observes. It says, “You have been stung by a bee.” Yes, I have been stung, it hurts, and the class remains centered in the pose while I look down at my swollen finger and continue to cue.
It’s near the end of class and my non-yogi mind says, “Run! Get ice. Get Benadryl. Your throat will close. You will go into shock. You will die.”
We finish class. I ice my hand. I’m calm and surprised to be alive.
Have you ever been stung? I have...
Like the glowing match on its cover, Marie-Elizabeth Mali’s book, Steady, My Gaze, is spiritual chiaroscuro, a quiet conversation between light and darkness. Reading Steady, My Gaze, makes me feel as if I’m on retreat. I’m uplifted one moment, carried away in gorgeous imagery and masterful writing, and then slammed by reality in the next. Although, in these poems, the slamming is beautiful too.
“Silent Retreat,” The final section, is among my favorite. The words of Adyashanti, the retreat leader, are threaded throughout each poem. “The image you have of yourself/ is unworthy because it’s an image,/ unreal. You interpret it to mean/ you are unworthy, but it’s the image/ that’s unworthy, not you.” The next stanza is in the speaker’s voice, “Resonant body strings, our sitting/ thrums the room./ At the back of the hall, a toilet/ flushes like thunderclap.” Such is life; the...