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Abbey Bookshelf: Poetry Writing Edition

I adore poetry and often find it to be a source of profound wisdom as valuable to me as other sacred texts. I sometimes write them myself and post them, although they often stay tucked in the pages of my journal. I love to lead poetry-writing exercises in some of my retreat and training programs, and of course I adore hosting the Poetry Parties here at the Abbey where you, my splendidly creative readers, share your own poetic gifts so generously with me.

I’m feeling inspired to make poetry-writing a more sustained practice in my quiet moments, so I am pulling some good books off of my shelf to help give me the impetus if I need it.

Some of my favorite resources include Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Wooldridge, Finding What You Didn’t Lose and Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making by John Fox, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonzio and Dorianne Laux, and Writing The Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired Path To Appreciating And Writing Sacred Poetry by Ray McGinnis.

Some of the poets who inspire me (I’ll let you search for specific titles): Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, Lynn Ungar, Denise Levertov, David Whyte, Billy Collins, Rumi, Hafiz just to name a few.

Here are some of my favorite poem videos from Billy Collins, worth it just to hear him read the poems aloud:

The CountryThe Dead, and Forgetfulness.  Take a few moments to breathe in the beauty of the spoken word.

Discovering these led me back to Amazon to see if he has an audio CD available, which of course he does (and now I have to buy!) — Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space. Then there’s also Mary Oliver’s great audio recording of her reading poetry — At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver Reads Mary Oliver. I got to see her read at Town Hall here in Seattle a couple of years ago and was moved to tears by the simple fact that the venue had sold out. It gave me such hope to think a poet could draw such crowds.

I also have several of David Whyte’s audio CDs which are not exclusively of him reading his poetry, he shares wisdom about many great themes and then weaves his own poetry and the poems of others through his narrative.  Although I see he has a new release — The Echo in the Well — that looks like it is devoted primarily to the reading of his poems.

There are many CDs available of Rumi’s poems being read out loud, I like A Gift Of Love: Deepak & Friends Present Music Inspired By The Love Poems Of Rumi, but I adore Pure Water – Poetry of Rumi which is accompanied by the cello (cello is hands down my favorite instrument — so soulful), plus I love hearing Coleman Barks read Rumi out loud, the Southern accent with the Sufi mystic is such an odd combination but his passion for the words makes it work and The Passion of Rumi which is Rumi read in Persian accompanied by Persian music, simply stunning.

Another CD I enjoy that is a compilation of readings of different poets accompanied by music is Only Breath which has Jami Sieber’s lush cello playing.

Who are your favorite poets?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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7 Responses

  1. I found a wonderful book for those of us that love to write poetry but get intimidated by types of poetic forms. This book is menat for children so the child inside me is eating it up!

    A Kick in the Head Paul Janeczko

  2. Thanks, Christine. I love these posts. Will be back later to explore.

    i just received a copy of ‘Anam Cara” by John O’Donahue. Not poetry but certainly poetic…I heard part of it when it was on cassette tape several years ago.This cost $60 but we are using it for a reunion retreat of our spiritual direction class so I may donate it to the center that trained us. I hope to get to it today. His voice is breathtaking…reaches down to your very soul.

    I, too, adore the sound of the cello…I am anxious to hear “bits” of the ones with cello background on I-Tunes or Amazon. I have a feeling, my finger will push “buy now.”

  3. Otagaki Rengetsu has provided much inspiration
    in developing a way, or sacred philosophy of life,
    to walk with in the arts:

    Three favorite Japanese poets, on the use of a
    writing bursh:

    Ema Saiko (1787-1861)
    (tr. from BREEZE THROUGH BAMBOO, p.59)

    I wake, with no one around the room is clean.
    As always I rub the musk ink, and it sounds swish-swish.
    The bamboo, not waiting for the moon in the window,
    in light shades, aslant, aslant, emerges through my hand.

    Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875)
    (tr. from LOTUS MOON, p.108)

    Taking up the brush
    just for the joy of it,
    writing on and on,
    leaving behind
    long lines of dancing letters.

    Abutsu-ni (1222?-1283)
    AN ANTHOLOGY, p.353)

    As black as ink sticks:
    cormorants, “birds of the isles,”
    on the white beach sands!
    If my brush possessed the skill,
    I would put them in a picture.

  4. I’m going to have to take some time later to watch the videos.

    I would put Leonard Cohen, Maya Angelou and Marge Piercy on my list of indispensible poets, together with many of those you name.

    And I so agree with you about the cello. I have a friend who’s a cellist and she stayed with me for a while. She used to practice in the house, and it was glorious to listen, and to feel the vibration of the music so close by in my body.