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Poetry, Imagination, and Living the Questions

I'm starting this thread with an intent of inspiring dialog in the realms of imagination, questions of soul and the poetry of life.
I confess I’m wondering if this content shouldn't reside as a blog post on my personal page here at Barque… so I welcome any thoughts as to whether one thinks that should be the case (but secretly hope folks will want to contribute to it as an open forum)

Now I’m going to seed it with a couple poems and see where it leads…

I call the light and high aspects of my being spirit
and the dark and heavy aspects soul.

Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys.
Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there.
The rivers flow like warm syrup. They empty into huge oceans of soul.

Spirit is a land of high white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers.
Life is sparse and sounds travel great distances.

There is soul music, soul food, and soul love...

People need to climb the mountain not simple because it is there
But because the soulful divinity needs to be mated with the spirit.

—Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dali Lama

by Mary Oliver

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.

One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?


where and when and how is soul?
what about in my life? what about yours?
what is my question, what is yours?

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you know, the following poem from Mary Oliver ought to site right next to the one above...

by Mary Oliver

Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something
for the ear bone

is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer's head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long
and thought: the soul
might be like this
so hard, so necessary

yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn't see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don't we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it

lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
"Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving..."

Mmmm....the final stanza is a state of surrender, in which she's graced with the very thing that had eluded her.
It stirs in me the very feeling I most crave--a surprise of fullness and company, in the midst of apparent emptiness and loneliness. Nature absorbs and reflects the soul that we bring to it, which is why it is such good company and always instructive.
Mary Oliver is such a fine poet, isn't she? Always hinting at soul, but occasionally asking the direct question, as in your selection.
yes...early this year i had the great pleasure of attending an event at UCLA where she read her poetry for a couple hours. and i often drive to her poetry readings recorded in "At Blacwater Pond"
indeed, nature is a soul-balm i sadly often forget my kinship with.
a couple additions ...

Hymn of the Universe, Pensees #36
By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Fold your wings, my soul
those wings you had spread wide
to soar to the terrestrial peaks
where the light is most ardent.
It is for you to simply wait
the descent of the Fire -
supposing it to be willing to take hold of you.

by Emily Dickinson

THE SOUL should always stand ajar.
That if the heaven inquire,
He will not be obliged to wait,
Or shy of troubling her.
Depart, before the host has slid
The bolt upon the door,
To seek for the accomplished guest—
Her visitor no more.
and more...

Rest in Mystery
For it is the cradle
of the divine in each of us.

Rest in Mystery
For it is the crucible
wherein our gold is given birth.

Embrace Unknowing
For it is the unraveler of the thread
That holds together our mistaken certainty.

Embrace Unknowing
For it is the sea that binds the raindrop
In great tides of mystery.

Embrace Unknowing
For it is the weaver whose silken web
Enfolds us in Eternity.

(in Richard Moss: Words That Shine Both Ways, poem by Gill Goater)

This brings to mind another beautiful observation about life’s mysteries.

“I know no better definition of life than Jung’s, that ‘life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries which yet are one.’ The mystery which can be known by the narrow band of being we call consciousness is not the whole mystery. We never arrive at the day when we know finally and for sure what the journey has been about. We are only called to live it as consciously as we can.”

James Hollis, The Middle Passage - From Misery to Meaning in Midlife, p.114
C.G. Jung, Letters vol.1, p. 483


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