Poets and Poetry in the Shadowland of Technology and Social Networking

bright flower at nightI believe in the power of poetry; and I believe we can extend that power when we make strategic use of it in that very mixed blessing, the shadow land of technology and social networking.  That is why I spend much of my valued time in these arenas and much effort supporting other writers and activists who are doing profoundly important work. I’m no longer able to storm the gates, but I can still pound the heck out of a keyboard.

After eight years, however, I find I’m losing my tolerance for those who use poetry and social networking – ostensibly to raise the community consciousness with regard to want and inequity – only to proceed to thoughtlessly undermine the care, hard work and long hours invested by others who actually do put the “active” in activism.

It is also one thing to use the tools of social networking to connect with family and friends, to form friendships based on affinity, and to earn our bread or to support those causes in which we believe. It’s quite another thing to do it as a narcissistic indulgence, especially when that indulgence is at the expense of people who need us to be – not self-concerned and histrionic – but measured voices that walk our talk in the daily play of living, working, spending, teaching (in the greater sense all good poets are teachers) and – yes! – social networking.

Poetry can be assertive and should be. If justice poetry, however, isn’t balanced and well-considered, if it isn’t complemented with right action and right living, it is the work of a poet who enjoys the sound of his or her own voice. It is in danger of devolving into an exercise of smug in the service of ego and sanctimony in the service of voyeurism.

If our compassion is all talk and no legs, it isn’t compassion at all. In the same vein, justice poetry needs teeth and its teeth come from actions consistent with values expressed. English poet and scientist, Jemma Borg, writes this in The Poet and the Planet, a feature article in the November 2015 issue of ARTEMISpoetry:

” . . . ‘art prepares us for thought’ and ‘thought prepares us for action’ (as the political activist and poet, Rukeyser wrote). There must be poetry, there must be activism; it is a continuum. So, poets can give society a guilty conscience, they can be legislators. But we also need people camped outside Shell to protest against drilling in the Arctic …”

© 2017, words and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


The recommended read for this week for children, Pizza, Pigs and Poetry: How to Write a Poem by  Jack Prelutsky,  named the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Pizza, Pigs and Poetry, How to Write a Poem is ideal for children grades 3-6.  He engages by sharing funny stories, light poems and creative technique, not forms. This seems entirely perfect for encouraging – not discouraging – this age group. Fun and funny Pizza, Pigs and Poetry would make great summer reading – and writing – and is perfect for a birthday gift or a gift for some other occasion.


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Do Not Stand by My Grave and Weep

Hanoke Japanese Gardens, Saratoga, California

Hanoke Japanese Gardens, Saratoga, California

Do not stand by my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond’s glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripening grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004), Poem 1932

That lovely poem (often wrongly attributed to Native American origin and tradition) reads like a prayer or a hymn. This is not surprising since true prayer and true poetry both come from Sacred Space. It was recited this past Saturday as we celebrated  the inspiring life of a dear friend who left his body shortly before his seventieth birthday and his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He was a nature lover and we approprately celebrated his life out-of-doors at the Hanoke Japanese Gardens. Our friend died of chronic leukemia.

Throughout the fifteen years our friend lived with dying, there was nary a complaint. Even in dying he was true to his core value, thinking of – loving – others. Among his last sentiments was the hope – the encouragement – that the lessons we’d take from his life were to live with equanimity and to live hugely, kindly and consciously.

Also read at his Celebration of Life were St. Francis’ Prayer and The Buddhist Metta (Loving Kindness) Sutra (guidance), which was written in  similiar spirit as St. Francis’ Prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

– St. Francis of Assisi

 

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Like many of us today, our friend combined the wisdom of several traditions to create a spiritual life that worked well for him. Raised a Catholic he took seriously the injunctions in St. Francis’ Prayer. He also valued the similar life philosophies of oneness, stewardship, non-attachment and respect for silence found in Buddhist scripture and practice and in Native American spirituality. His daily practice was Buddhist for Buddhism is indeed the master of meditative technology.

In memory of B.K.S. xo

May all sentient beings find peace.

If you are viewing this in an email, you will have to link through to the site to enjoy this beautiful and peaceful video with a Metta chant put to music. It’s sung in Pali but offers English subtitles.