WHEN A POEM IS NOT A POEM

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WHEN A POEM IS NOT A POEM

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WHEN A POEM IS NOT A POEM
March 8, 2014
By Michael Erlewine (Michael@Erlewine.net)

NONDUALITY

Appearances are … Not only empty.
Appearances are … The emptiness itself,
Appearing.


I like the above "poem" because it helps to remind me of the nature of appearances, not because it is short and poem-like. I mostly write prose, blogs, articles and the occasional book. And I tend to write long, not short things, as my Facebook friends know all too well.

However, there are times when no matter how long I write, I still don't get the idea across, even to myself. That is when I find myself writing these short poem-like pieces. I try to capture in a short poem what apparently is lost among too many paragraphs.

There is a difference between poetry and the things I write that resemble poetry. I don't try to write poems. Instead, I try to express an idea in as few words as possible because I find that in some cases prose, no matter how many words I write, still does not capture the idea I want to express.

When writing a "poem," I try to make the words work for me until they do, and then I stop writing. I do tweak them a bit, but mostly on-the-spot, and once I have my idea expressed I end it there. I don't try to make what I write fit or not fit any poetic form. I don't work on it for days or later. It is all about expressing the idea until I feel it is caught enough for my own reference. These "poems" are a shorthand way of archiving my spiritual experiences so that when I read them I remember what they are about.

I was enthused to find that the Tibetan Buddhists write what they call "dohas," poems of spiritual experience, but I was writing similar things many years before I discovered dohas existed. To me this kind of spiritual experience is the most important. I don't want to apologize for what I write, but I will point out that I don't expect them to measure up to academic poetry. They just aren't that. They are impromptu.

Perhaps it is as simple as intent, like sitting down with an intent to write. I don't do that. I write for clarity of mind, to keep my mind clear, and I write what passes for poems when I am speechless at prose writing. I write poems when I am so in that moment that I have no patience for long-winded writing and, try as I might, whatever I write is hemorrhaging meaning. When prose cannot capture my thoughts, this itself is a sign of impending poetry.


I like to say that prose is like carrying water in the hands; over time some meaning naturally is lost. And every once in a while, the leakage is so vast that I gradually come to a standstill until I don't feel like doing hardly anything. That's when I know that if I am going to capture this moment, it will have to be in a poem. I like to say that poetry is like drinking from the faucet. A poem is much more in your face. Sometimes brevity is the only way to communicate to myself.

I wish some of you reading this would write about your spiritual experiences, since I would like to read them. I don't think of myself as a poet, because most poets I have come across are all about academics and all of that. My "poems" would not appeal to academia because they are not "professional," although to me a "professional poet" is something of an oxymoron. I could care less about that stuff. I just want to grasp the idea in a moment.

What I am interested in is spiritual awareness in all its many forms.
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