Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Poets

The Future Belongs to South America

Jessie Sandova, From the Monastery to the World: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal (Counterpoint Press, 2017)

I had initial high hopes for reading the correspondence of Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal. I started reading Merton in the early 80s and Cardenal in the late 2000s. Alas, unlike the blazing selected letters between Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who were friends and equals, this correspondence was one between an older, maturer spiritual master and his devoted, younger student. There is a fair amount of mundane exchange on writing, publishing, translating their works in both the USA and Latin America. (There was at one point a Merton Reading Club in Managua.)

Most of the passages I marked were from Merton’s letters to Cardenal, such as the following…

Merton as kvetcher: Gethsemani is terrible. Tremendous commerce—everybody is going mad with the cheese business. I want to leave very badly.… Do you know that some fanatical Catholics in Louisville have burned my books, declaring me an atheist because I am opposed to the Vietnam War? …This country is mad with hatred, frustration, stupidity, confusion. That there should be such ignorance and stupidity in a civilized land is just incomprehensible…. On the other hand, I would be ashamed to be in a Latin American country and to be known as a North American…. We simply cannot look to the established powers an structures at the moment for any kind of constructive and living activity. It is all dead ossified, corrupt, stinking, full of lies and hypocrisy, and even when a few people seriously mean well they are so deep in the corruption and inertia that are everywhere that they can accomplish nothing that does not stink of dishonesty and death. All of it is rooted in the cynical greed for power and money, which invades everything and corrupts everything. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dharma Brother Wang Wei

Devoted Buddhist
Semi-recluse
Noticer of the minute particulars
Painter of vast emptiness
Appreciator of interbeing moment by moment
Befriender of sages, visitors and travelers moving in and out of the Ch’an world

His wife dead at thirty
He gravitates to Buddha,
The Dharma, the Sangha
And what better sangha
Than the 10,000 things
Which come and go?

See David Hinton, The Selected Poems of Wang Wei

Wang Wei

Yiddish Writers/5

I have often felt the instead of writing my autobiography I would like to write the biography of my poems. I mean, tell the life story of some of my poems…

–H. Leivick

Share the Wealth with Carolina and Christina: A Glimpse into Two Cubana-Americana’s Stories

Carolina Dominguez from Miami and Christina Arrom from Chicago, are Cubana-Americanas who were influenced by the stories of their parents, but especially their grandparents’ lives in Cuba.

After Carolina served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for two years in Belize City she moved to Chicago to study social work and work at an all girls high school. “Growing up in Miami allowed me to taste their stories and almost feel like I was in La Havana. However, leaving Miami and living in Italy and Central America allowed me to see how other people viewed Fidel Castro and the new relations between the U.S and Cuba. Working at both a geriatric urology center in the pulse of Little Havana and a poetry organization once back from Belize allowed me to witness the stories of patients who lived the exile, the Mariel Exodus and the title ‘Peter Pan kid.’ In attempt to understand and document this close history of my family I began to write poetry to try and delve into what being Cuban meant to me. Writing poetry about the stories I heard opened me up to write about my own story.”

Christina served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Antonio, Texas. She Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News of Inspiration from Rereading Lindsey Trout Hughes’s Letters and Poems

 

In the last year and a half, I have benefited enormously from exchanges with Lindsey, who lives in Brooklyn.

A Letter Is… by Emily Guck-McGuigan

A letter is….

A humanly imperfect cartography of thoughts and experience
Made not for self-exploration
(Though insight often emerges from the act)
But for sending on–
Inviting,
“Imagine yourself here!”
Read the rest of this entry »

Lobbyist for Tenderness

I first read Allen Ginsberg’s City Lights paperback Howl and Other Poems late one autumn night 1980 with friends at the White Castle at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.  A few months after Mev Puleo died, I read most of Ginsberg’s work over a couple of months. And here it is, 2017, and I recently finished with appreciation the latest publication  from the American bard (who died in 1997), interviews selected by Ginsberg biographer Michael Schumacher.  This volume, First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg, is not as large and jewel-saturated as David Carter’s Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, but I  still found helpful reminders, avuncular advice, and serene encouragement.

Here are a few of the ways  interviewers and others saw Allen Ginsberg:  “poet, prophet, teacher”; “surrealist folk-hero”; “lobbyist for tenderness”; a man with a “friendly intermingling of smile and solemnity”; a lifelong learner with “a curiosity without boundaries”;  a person “seemingness fearless of the consequences of exposing his mind.”  What follows are a few samples of Ginsberg’s candor to his various interviewers over nearly four decades… Read the rest of this entry »

Remember–Longing, Too, Is Impermanent

To a man who said we should meet, 
even if it were only for a single time
Even if I now saw you
Only once,
I would long for you
Through worlds,
Worlds.

–Izumi Shikibu

trans. Jane Hirshfield w/ Mariko Artani, The Ink Dark Moon

 

The Best Minds of My Generation: For Rob Trousdale and Lindsey Trout Hughes

Re: Allen Ginsberg, The Best Minds of My Generation:A Literary History  of the Beats, edited by Bill Morgan

Dear Rob and Lindsey,

I’m grateful to you both for sharing your writing  with me and through me, to others—may these poems and pieces continue to animate  “Mayahana bodhisattvic compassionate empathy” (A. Ginsberg) in the years to come, ever reverberating through world wide web.

I recently finished Allen’s personal history of  his generation of writing comrades put together from his lectures at Naropa and Brooklyn College. I particularly enjoyed the many chapters on Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso, and want to share with you some passages that may offer you stimulation/encouragement/anamnesis for your own writing practice.

As prof, his method was “to read from the texts, read my favorite fragments or things that were important to us as a group at the time. Big sentences that knocked everybody out, that turned everybody on…. [the] gists [that were] historical epiphanies for us.” [11] Lindsey, as actor, think of the tens of thousands of lines you learned for your roles—you could regale us with  so many that would knock us out.

In commenting on Kerouac’s first novel, Ginsberg observed, “I think Kerouac was reading The Brothers Karamazov at the time, and so divided himself up somewhat similarly into Dostoevsky’s characters.”  I’m currently editing 400+ pages of manuscript material and find myself doing something similar.  [93]

Maybe you both have your versions of Kerouac’s scribbling away in notebooks: “These little notebooks provided raw materials of two kinds: diaristic details, like a reporter’s notes, about events at hand and an endless retracing in memory of all the events in his life, reaching back to his earliest childhood memories in Lowell.” [266]  I never tire of mentioning the exuberant text along these lines, Joe Brainard’s I Remember. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Me by My True Names

35 years ago today, I participated in the mass demonstration in New York City against nuclear arms. While there, I heard Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh read aloud this English translation of one of his poems.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–
even today I am still arriving. Read the rest of this entry »