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Month: July 2016

FINDING OUT WHAT YOU THINK

FINDING OUT WHAT YOU THINK

After constructing Life-Built Poems for a number of years, I noticed something:  You can use the discipline of writing these kinds of poems to look at the world and tell yourself what you see.  Like Joan Didion, you can “write to find out what you think.”

You can also use Life-Built poems to tell metaphoric tales about what you are doing.  At the time I wrote this poem, I was devouring the books that populated the self-help and spiritual sections of every library and bookstore I could find.  I even did the dumb exercises and stuff in those books.

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NAVIGATOR MINDSET

NAVIGATOR MINDSET

In his book ISLAND WORLD:  A History of Hawaii and the United States, Gary Y. Okihiro talked to master navigator Mau Piailug, the man who taught the Hawaiians how to navigate the Hokule’a, the Hawaiian sailing canoe in the manner of their ancestors.

Piailug talked about having a star compass in his head with Polaris pointing north and the Southern Cross south.  The navigator paid attention to the rising of certain stars (which indicated east) and others setting (which showed west).  Locating the canoe’s position on the open sea depended on his estimates of the canoe’s speed and direction.

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THE STORIES OF OUR LIVES

THE STORIES OF OUR LIVES

We are all of us affected by each other’s stories.  It is the way we humans connect.   All of these stories, the ones we live and the ones others live, have the power to reach into us, to allow us to build bridges.  Telling a story, writing a poem that looks at our lives and other people’s lives is like reaching out a hand in the expectation that fingers will be there waiting to slip into our own.

This action – writing down the words– takes courage.  It very often hurts and can be a very scary thing.  Taking it one step further, sharing the story with other folks, can be an act of mana and power – a magical thing.   Sharing our stories has the power to heal.  With stories we can heal ourselves and we can heal each other.

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STEP BY STEP

STEP BY STEP

Making a poem can be a way to get your mind clear when you’re facing a major crisis.  My friend (George) Cameron Keys was the featured poet at one of our Maui Live Poets sessions at the Makawao Library.

To help him read his work, he asked another friend, Paul Janes-Brown, a noted actor in our local theater.  Cameron said he was afraid that if he read his own work he would start crying.  Paul’s reading of this poem got the rest of us in the audience misty-eyed.

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IT’S NOT FOR YOU

IT’S NOT FOR YOU

For a long while now, I’ve been trying to figure out why certain works of art (and poetry) speak so strongly and most others don’t.  I am thinking that it could be the ones that shout out loud really are attempts by the artist to actually say something Real.

What makes it Real is the courageous, open connection and access to the artist’s heart, it seems.  A lot of times we shy away from being that exposed…and maybe that’s why the work we do only mumbles.

Entrepreneur Seth Godin once said, “As soon as you’re willing to say ‘It’s not for you,’ you’re freed up to make art.”

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AS THE TOMATO TICKS…DOING THE POMODORO

AS THE TOMATO TICKS…DOING THE POMODORO

I felt silly the first time I tried this.  I had to talk myself into it over and over again.  I mean …REALLY.  You set a plastic mechanical timer (preferably one that is shaped like a tomato because it’s traditional) for 25 minutes, and then you go do a thing you’ve been putting off (like writing a blog or a poem, for instance).   When the bell rings, you stop and rest for at least five minutes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  (It’s also traditional to do the sequence four times.)  Finding the old tomato timer at the Kula Iki thrift shop was a sign that I HAD to do this, I told myself.

The plastic tomato (or whatever other silly mechanical timer you can find) is supposed to help you develop a new habit.  You have to set a particular task or project  before winding up the tomato and  then you do that task while the silly thing sits there going tic-tic-tic.

A funny thing happened, though.  This bit of silliness actually worked!  Done stuff kept piling up as I went through the ritual every day for weeks on end.  That silly tomato and me got to be great friends!

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POETRY BRAIN

POETRY BRAIN

You’ve probably seen this image before.  It’s a cartoon of your brain’s hemispheres and the kinds of thoughts each half of your brain handles.  Left brain is straight-line, logical, and full of words and numbers and measurements and stuff like that.  Right brain meanders around, spiraling in and out, just seeing what-is and mostly having a hard time talking about it.

I was reading Leonard Shlain’s book, THE ALPHABET VERSUS THE GODDESS:  The Conflict  Between Word and Image.  In it, he does a cool riff on “metaphor,” a thing that is dear to poets.  Shlain says, “When people find it necessary to express in words an inner experience such as a dream, an emotion, or complex feeling-state, they resort to a special form of speech called metaphor that is the right brain’s unique contribution to the left brain’s language capacity….  Metaphors allow one to leap across a chasm from one thought to the next.  Metaphors have multiple levels of meaning that are perceived simultaneously.”

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WRITERS WRITE

WRITERS WRITE

Everybody says it.  It’s probably even true:  “Writers write.”  They write because they can’t NOT write.  The whole not-writing thing is unsatisfactory.  They feel unsettled if they don’t capture the thoughts they think somehow….

And the best thing about writing, of course, is having written.  Then you can go do other things.

So…you want to be a Writer?  Write.  Every day.  Write.  You don’t have to use high-falutin’ words.  You can make lists.  You can make notes to yourself or to somebody else.  You can look at the world around you and check out what everybody else is doing, and then you can write.  You can unpack your head and look at all the stuff seething in there and then…write.

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UNFOLD YOUR OWN MYTH….

UNFOLD YOUR OWN MYTH….

I am one of those poets Life built:  I have no “creds” as a poet, but I do know that making a certain type of poem helped me keep my head straight through a number of karmic dust storms that blew away the world as I knew and liked it.

I guess you could call it home-grown, dirt-cheap psychotherapy.  All you really need to do it is paper, a pencil or a pen, and an awareness of the need to mend the broken circle of your life.

The act of sitting down and writing out what is in your head and your heart does take practice.

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