Featured Poet: Rabbi Rami Shapiro

We are launching a new series this spring with poets whose work we love and want to feature!

Our next poet is Rabbi Rami Shapiro, whose work is deeply inspired by the happening of God.  You can hear Rabbi Rami reading his poem “The 23rd Psalm” below and read more about the connections he makes between poetry and the sacred.

After Psalm 93 

The earth is secure;
it is I who imagine her frailty.
The earth stands firm;
it is I who plot her downfall.
She is greater than me,
and includes me in a larger scheme.
I am her child
though not her only child.
I am her hope
though not her only hope.
I am one she grew
to see her own face,
to know her own mind,
to foster surprise.
I am one who can know I am One.

Themes of His Work

All my work is rooted in the Yiddish realization: alles iz Gott, everything is God. I am a panentheist. I experience God is YHVH (from the Hebrew verb “to be”) the nondual Happening happening as all happening. If God is Happening happening as all happening, then everything that happens is God’s will, not in some egoic sense but in the sense that everything that happens happens because at the moment it happens nothing else could happen. This realization liberates me from the drama about why bad things happen to good people. They happen for the same reason good things happen to good (and bad) people—things happen. Free from the drama about suffering we are free to alleviate actual suffering.

Attending

Here I am— waiting.
Watching.
Listening.
Attending to what is within and without.
Your whispered breath fills me with wonder and wisdom,
and I bend embraced by You who are all.
For a moment I no longer breathe,
I am breathed.
For an instant I know the truth of who I am— Your breath,
a fleeting exhalation of
All into This.
How wondrous this moment
when breath breathes and knows itself Divine!

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Poetry and the Sacred

I agree with St. Paul that God is that in which we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28), therefore I don’t think in terms of coming into the presence of the sacred because there is nowhere where the sacred is not. I can awaken to what is, but not draw closer to what is. And one way I can awaken is through reading and writing poetry.

Reading poetry—and here I’m talking about spirituality-oriented poetry and liturgy—is a sacred practice when I yield to the words rather than try to understand them. This is when reading poetry is like listening to music: I am surrendered to the sound of music or words and allow them to take me where they will. Writing poetry is something altogether different.

I’ve published 36 books, all but three are prose. But whether prose or poetry I can’t claim to have written these books as a conscious act. I rewrite and hone each verse or sentence consciously, but the original writing is a gift of grace coming through me and not from me. This gift is what makes writing a spiritual practice for me.

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Unending Love

I am loved by an unending love.
I am embraced by arms that find me
even when I am hidden from myself.
I am touched by fingers that soothe me
even when I am too proud for soothing.
I am counseled by voices that guide me
even when I am too embittered to hear.
I am loved by an unending love.

I am supported by hands that uplift me
even in the midst of a fall.
I am urged on by eyes that meet me
even when I am too weak for meeting.
I am loved by an unending love.

Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled;
may mine too be the arms and the fingers,
the voice and the hands,
the eyes and the smile
that compels another to say:
“I am loved by an unending love.”

About Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, PH.D is an award–winning author of over thirty-six books on religion and spirituality. Rabbi Rami directs the One River Foundation, writes the Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler column for Spirituality and Health magazine, and hosts the magazine’s weekly podcast, Essential Conversations with Rabbi Rami.

 

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Dreaming of Stones

Christine Valters Paintner‘s new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones has just been published by Paraclete Press.

The poems in Dreaming of Stones are about what endures: hope and desire, changing seasons, wild places, love, and the wisdom of mystics. Inspired by the poet’s time living in Ireland these readings invite you into deeper ways of seeing the world. They have an incantational quality. Drawing on her commitment as a Benedictine oblate, the poems arise out of a practice of sitting in silence and lectio divina, in which life becomes the holy text.

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