Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Poetic Conversation

The oral tradition and its revival have been central to our lives in the last 20 years or so, and I wanted to talk about why that is.  Those of us participating in salons and events like last week's Rumi's Caravan have found that it is a way to restore our spirits in these dark and confusing times.  It's not that we want to ignore the world's troubles (although sometimes I wish I could) or numb out to them; in fact, sometimes the feeling can go very deep and very dark in these events.  But somehow, by the end of the evening, I leave feeling nourished in a profound way.  As my friend Larry says, we are trying to restore the soul of the world.

What's really fun about salons and Rumi's Caravan is that we try to get into what we've been calling a "poetic conversation."  No one knows what poems are going to brought in or by whom, even in the performance events.  When it's working really well, one poem leads to another, in theme, or by the same poet, or with a similar image.  I felt that Rumi's Caravan in Oakland last week truly accomplished this.  We also had another opportunity to present later on in the week, at a retirement community in Marin County.  At this event, there were only four of us presenting, but it really did become a poetic conversation, the mood flowing and changing from very soulful and dark to humorous and playful.  It was so much fun!  And we received such appreciation afterwards.

When you bother to work on a poem or a story to be told by heart, something happens beyond just memorizing words.  The piece works you.  You wouldn't bother learning it if it didn't mean something to you to begin with, but it really lives in you after that.

All of this is why we do what we do.

Barry found a line from Rumi that I want to share  - "Learn things by heart because they die of cold on the page."

Because of the conversational aspect, some pieces you carry don't make it into the event.  I had wanted to do this poem of mine at the Caravan, but it never fit in.  So, I get to share it here.  It's called, "We Are All Pilgrims."

We are all pilgrims.
We are all pilgrims.
Some worship at the temple of materialism.
Some linger in the warm pools of Aphrodite.
Others trek to mountain peaks
or hidden springs,
seeking the source
of mystery itself.
But we all journey somewhere.
We are all pilgrims.

The roads we travel –
the dusty miles,
the muddy rain-soaked roads,
the twisting uphill trails -
drag on, so arduous and long,
with no endpoint in sight.

But then, one day,
you look into a mirror, or
catch your reflection
in still water,
and you see
that you have grown old.
Suddenly, a different destination looms.

You cry out –
I’m not ready!
Now you understand that
it was never arriving
that mattered.
You know –
deeply and without doubt –
that the pilgrimage itself
was the point.
All of those hours lost
in complaint, confusion and misery –
you realize that they were
opportunities ignored and departed.

Even now,
walking the great camino,
you rouse – repeatedly –
from drifting moments.
You desperately want
to stay open-eyed
and grateful.
But even our failures are the journey.
And we are all pilgrims.

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