Friday, August 23, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

Reasons

By Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

"Well, I am not up to a poem," he says.
He says I can't expect to write them
every night. I've got other projects—
prayers, japa, worries—
living here takes a
lot of mental effort—
and my writing projects are similar 
to one another.
Besides, I just borrowed energy and
inspiration from two nondevotee
poets. With all these reasons, my
gremlin rests his case.

I don't care. Mist white
like gauze or smoke, but sitting
in one place on the hilltop. It's darker,
Ekadasi night, and I did sixty-four.
Did I once call out to The Lord?
Maybe. He knows. The names
are the way for this age and I did
it. I chanted all day
in my room, looking out the window
at the hill and sky. It has to be a
good way to spend an Ekadasi.

Now that I'm writing I can feel
from the day's chanting
freedom from worry. I worry too much.
All day I put it aside and chanted,
and to hell with those reasons. I'm
happy to write melodies on a page, my pen
a clarinet in the darkening light.

From Gentle Power: Collected Poems 1995-1996. Port Royal, Pa, GN Press, © 1996

Ekadasi, pronounced Ee-KOD-uh-see, is a fast observed for religious reasons by the Hare Krishna community. 'I did sixty-four' refers to rounds of chanting.


Satsvarupa was a young poet before he became converted to Krishna Consciousness. After that his spiritual life became the subject of his poems, and as far as I know the earlier work has not survived. I am not a devotee, but I live in a small town that has a big Hare Krishna population, and have learned a little about the religion from friends who follow it, many of whom I met when they learned Reiki healing from me. I was designated 'a friend of the devotees'.

In 1998 I visited one of them who had moved to Mayapur in India, the headquarters of the movement. There was a big international conference there at the time, and there were books for sale. I wasn't interested in the religious volumes, but I was delighted to discover some books by Satsvarupa, whom I'd never heard of before.  

His poetry is clearly written for a devotee audience, very specific in its allusions and peppered with names of deities and so forth. It was fortunate that I had some understanding of the religion and its practices, otherwise I might have found his poetry hard to grasp. As it was, I fell instantly in love with it. It just gets to me. I think the people at Mayapur hoped I might become a convert, but it wasn't that. I'm moved by his honesty about his very human struggles to live up to his faith. I like the directness with which he engages with his experience. And then there's that indefinable something which makes art art. He is my age, I discover, so perhaps that's why I respond so readily to his poetic voice.

Most of the poems, however, I couldn't wish to have written because they are from the standpoint of a religion I don't share. This one, though, I can relate to very well. I suspect we all have our inner gremlins telling us why we needn't write a poem just now. And I expect we can all identify with the poet who, nevertheless, recognises his vocation and writes the poem.

Wikipedia tells us that he is an artist and sculptor as well as a poet, and has long been one of the most prominent Hare Krishna priests (despite the self-doubts in these poems of earlier years). He has also written many books of prose. He is a modern man, with his own website containing journal entries, poems and paintings, and even has a facebook page. His books may be obtained at his Amazon page.

I'm sorry: you'll have to go to Wikipedia to see his photo. I'm having computer troubles tonight and the image I planned to use just won't upload. For similar reasons, I can't provide a link to the Amazon page, but if you Google just Satsvarupa, it will come up.



Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

10 comments:

  1. Wow, Rosemary, thank you for this. I love the poem. He so captures the feelings of sitting on the hillside, looking at the mist and I LOVE the closing lines, "my pen a clarinet in the darkening light". Love. It. Very interesting, your tangential association with this group and your trip to the conference. What an interesting life you have lived!

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    1. Glad you love the poem, Sherry. My trip was not to the conference, but to visit my friend. It just happened that the conference was on at that time — and very interesting it was in all sorts of ways. My life, I think, is very blessed. :)

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  2. I join Sherry in this. 'Now that I'm writing I can feel
    from the day's chanting
    freedom from worry'
    and pen as clarinet - very cool image.
    Thank you Rosemary for the interesting post!

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  3. I, too, found the closing lines brought the entire poem into focus. I, too, have experienced prayer opening the way to poetry--at one time an outcome I resisted. He shares his process beautifully, with grit and happiness! I went to see his other work--how prolific! Thank you for the introduction.

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  4. Thank you for this poem and the facts about the poet, I shall follow him up.

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  5. Gremlins and faith... I guess the two go together most of the time. A poem is the magic wand that blows all doubts away. Thank you for the write. It helps keep Faith.

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  6. Rosemary, that was a very interesting poem; and I loved all the info about the poet. Thank you.

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  7. I've read some of his prose - Srila Prabhupada Lilamarita. he's an excellent writer.

    There's a long tradition of this melding of all the arts and spirituality in Hinduism. Speaking of Shiva was my constant companion many years ago. A collection of poems by Shiva devotees. An excellent read to.

    As for Satsvarup and the Hare Krishna movement - any religion that says the way back to god is to eat - sing and dance has got something going for it....

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    1. When I was in Mayapur that time, I finally 'got' the joy in the Hare Krishna movement, which is not always very evident among local devotees.

      As for your criteria — my religion, Paganism, fits that bill too. :)

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  8. I can relate to this. I have gotten out of the habit of writing poetry for so many reasons but still i miss it.

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