Poetry with Purpose

In planning for the Becoming Cascadian weekend May 31-June 3, 2018, the model used by my spiritual community (Subud) for its annual kejiwaan gathering is key. A very democratic affair in which there is an opening and closing circle which every attendee is welcome to speak and breakout sessions which are proposed by attendees and selected and slotted via voting.

I know of one breakout session to be offered and that is by Mark Gonnerman. He’s working on the wording, but an early version is: Living-in-Place with Peter Berg & Gary Snyder in Mind. Peter Berg was the man most responsible for fostering the notion of bioregionalism and Gary Snyder one of the world’s most accomplished living poets.

Gonnerman grew up in Northfield, Minnesota and attended Harvard Divinity School. As a Lieberman Fellow, he completed his Ph.D. and was founding director of the Aurora Forum at Stanford University. Married to Meri Mitsuyoshi, he is a teacher and independent scholar based in San Jose, California and is the author of:

A Sense of the Whole: Reading Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End. I just started reading this and dig this paragraph:

If Mountains and Rivers has an overriding purpose apart from the aesthetic pleasures it provides, it is to engender a conversation in the heart-mind of the reader. The desired shift in this case is from identification with outmoded nation-state systems to participation in local community life, from centralized hierarchy to decentralized collaboration, from the stresses of competition to the satisfactions of mutual regard and cooperation, from modern monocultural monotheism to promiscuous postmodern polytheism, from consumerism to conservation, from fragmentation to a sense of the whole. This shift may begin in the very activity of reading. How one reads affects what one learns and, for many, reading has become just another consumer activity. The Mountains & Rivers workshop was organized in large part as an effort to curtail (if only for a moment) consumerist habits of reading that are now widely taught and reinforced in ways that eclipse the importance if not the existence of other reading modes . . .

Gonnerman goes on to differentiate consumerist reading and reading as meditation, an “approach that expands awareness and deepens insight.” And you have the kind of material that we’re looking for with the Becoming Cascadian retreat and others coming up, including Deep in Cascadia in Cumberland, BC, which is a sold-out affair.

Add Andrew Schelling to this weekend, and you have incredible depth of experience and knowledge of poetry, poetics and place. Andrew’s bio:

Andrew Schelling is a poet, translator, and essay writer. He has published twenty books, including seven of translation from India’s early poetry. His own work encounters the rhythms and features of the natural world, as well delving into linguistics. Recent titles are From the Arapaho Songbook and the folkloric study, Tracks Along the Left Coast: Jaime de Angulo & Pacific Coast Culture. Schelling lives in the Southern Rocky Mountain Ecoregion and teaches at Naropa University





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Sam Hamill’s Last Book

After Morning Rain will be released tomorrow (Tuesday, May 15, 2018.) It is the last book by renowned poet, translator, editor and founder of Copper Canyon Press, Sam Hamill and there will be a launch at his house in Anacortes, Washington, starting at 3pm.

Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, the internationally-known Shakuhachi flute master will perform. He collaborated with Sam on many occasions, including November 1, 2014, about which I wrote this post, which includes a link to sound from that evening.

The book itself is quintessential Hamill, with allusions to ancient Chinese and other world poets (Lorca, Sappho, Gwendolyn Brooks), memories of travel in Buenos Aires, Paris and elsewhere and poems about getting old. He’s at his best when there are zen-like moments of inspiration, such as in:


Only the fish who leaps
sees the moon on the water.


To Margaret, the Librarian

It was a librarian
who first showed me
how to properly

open a book.
The rest

is all my fault.

You can hear him read that poem and one other from the new book here. 

Chris Yohmei Blasdel

There will be saké and Sam stories, flute music, copies of the new book and a gathering of the Friends of Sam. During his recent memorial, also at his house, those who knew Sam best gathered — not in the living room with a view of the bay and Mt. Baker, but around the dining room table where they’d spent many nights with Sam, listening to country music, drinking too much saké and hearing Sam pontificate on the ills of the world (ecocide, &c.) and/or poetry, maybe a story about Denise Levertov, or another one of Sam’s many life friends.

(Photo by Ian Boyden)

But the post-Hamill era has begun and if there was any doubt about that, the display at his memorial of the glass jar of what was left of Sam’s vertebrae after his cremation, and his ashes divided up into small, round, elegant containers for his friends and loved ones to bury in a special place, or make into objects of art, these items made things painfully clear, Sam’s gone and there will never be another poet and human quite like him.

SPLAB is working on plans to create an edition of the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Anacortes that would be dedicated to his memory and if you have interest in making that a reality, please get in touch.

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Anne Waldman, Andrew Schelling 2001 Interview

From the archives:

Northwestern Exposure #336 for 4/22/01 – 55:00

Subject: The Poetic Activism Legacy of Allen Ginsberg
Guests: Anne Waldman & Andrew Schelling
Contact: Naropa University
Date Aired: 4/22/2001
Summary: Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, co-founded by Anne and Allen Ginsberg in 1974 and now part of Naropa University, discussed Allen’s poetry activism, his legacy and how projects designed to help young people express themselves are critical in the effort to prevent high school violence. Anne read from her new book: Marriage: A Sentence. They also discussed Allen’s Mind Writing Slogans, his American Sentences form & erotic poems of ancient India, The Cane Groves of Narmada River, which Andrew has translated.

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