Friday, September 28, 2018

In Lille

Archangels raising their horns
facing the dawn
facing the river, St. John
singing the light
one hundred years of sunrise

On Saturday, September 8, 2018, I read poems at the Musee Culturel du Mont-Carmel, in Lille, Maine. For more information on this incredible building and project, please go here!
Gary Lawless

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Birds fly through the sacred

photo by Sean Hawkey/WCC

His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew, releases a kestrel into the wild sky on the Greek island of Spetses. The two kestrels released that day had been rescued and rehabilitated by the Greek organization Animas link here . One flew north, the other flew south.

Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the Earth. They met at Delphi, the omphalos, the navel of the earth.

"When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin...for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, land and air - all of these are sins."
His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

two dark birds flew from Thebes.
One established the Siwa Oasis oracle in Libya.
One established the oracle at Dodona, Greece.
At Dodona, the bird flew to an oak.
The wind would stir the leaves, the sound
recognized by the birds as the voices of the gods.

"We have lost the spirit of worship. We are no longer respectful pilgrims on this earth; we have been reduced to careless consumers or passing travelers."
His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

after the rain stopped, Noah released a raven. The raven did not return.
Next he released a dove, which returned, finding no other place to land.
He waited seven days, and released the dove again.
The dove returned, with a freshly plucked olive branch in its mouth.
Seven days later, he again released the dove.
This time the dove did not return, having set foot on land.

"A merciful heart...It is a heart on fire for the whole of Creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists."
St. Isaac the Syrian

and the birds,
flying through the Sacred
every day.

In June of 2018 Gary Lawless and Beth Leonard traveled to Greece to attend the "Toward a Greener Attica - Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People" conference, called by His Al-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and held in Athens and the islands of Spetses and Hydra.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Venice Wood

Posts. Hundreds of posts. Thousands of posts. Millions of posts.A whole city built on posts. Posts driven into the mud, below the surface. More than ten million trees. Posts for buildings. Wood for houses, storage, churches, bridges. Wood for shipbuilding. Wood for docks and levee systems. Wood for heating and cooking. Wood for the glass furnaces on Murano. Wood harvested and brought to Venice: wood from the Lagoon's littoral forests - larch, pine, alder ; wood brought downriver -oak and beech forests; wood from the mountains,from Slovenia,from Istria. Brought to the Zattere, named for the barges carrying the logs, now that long, flat walkway along the Giudecca, next to the water, Fondamente, where Pound loved to walk.
All of those ghosts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

venice waters

Everything is Holy.
Bless the Lagoon, sweet Saint Lucy.
Bless the birds, the fish,
Bless the trees on the outer islands,
Bless the waves and the wind.
Send the cruise ships to Hell.
There is room there,
for one more boat.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prospect, Maine

My Grandfather Lester Dow's store, Prospect, Maine
photo undated, early 1900s


My grandfather Lester
walked down, down
to his store
at the crossroads of town,
now buried with Hannah,
across the road low
on the hillside, there
my mother's first school.
My uncle walked down,
down to the marsh and
Bucksport beyond,
to the mill, making paper,
the mill now
closed down,
soon to be gone -
From Prospect the land
falls down to the river,
Verona, to Bucksport, beyond
and the whole world,
somewhere, below us now.

(For Lester, Hannah, Earl, and Ruth Dow)

Gary Lawless

originally published in "Still Mill - poems, stories and songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine, 1930-2014"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In Ireland

Gary and Beth, with the Blasket Islands behind us -

Where every cove has a name
where every field has a name
we walk the "god-trodden"mountains
who are the dark birds
what is the yellow shrub
where every river has a spirit and
all wells are holy
from Tralee into the clouds
older than rock our
first day on earth

some other wet-weather
sung-over place
near a river
"It was long ago
if time means anything
long long ago" (Padraic Fallon)
limestone karst leads us
into clouds, into wind the
church of the ruined light
we are older than stone

fields rising into cloud, sheep
coming down the hill
coming down to
land where we
meet the rain of the day

circle fort in the field
leave flowers, leave flowers
Beltaine fires and a clear sky
leave flowers, touch stone

sink now into the peat
sink now, and sleep,
let the stones sing
over me

Gary Lawless

Beth Leonard photo - on the Burren

"low lie the fields of Athenry
where once we watched
the small free birds fly
our love was on the wing
we had dreams and songs to sing
it's so lonely round
the fields of Athenry"

Beth Leonard photo with Siobhan Lawless at the Lawless Family's Foods of Athenry"

"He was Lawless by name, Lawless by nature.
He was trouble right from the start"
Christy Moore

While in Ireland I gave a poetry reading in Dingle, at Dick Mack's Pub, as a part of the Feile na Bealtaine, on April 30, 2016. To view the short reading, in two parts, go here and here

Following in the footsteps of friends:

Here is Nanao Sakaki in Ireland:
Magic Pouch

On pilgrimage
to holy mountain Croagh Patrick
on Ireland's west coast
I found my magic pouch missing.

from Guatemala, some years ago
a black, white and purple cotton pouch
arrived and attached itself to my waist.

inside the pouch -
an Irish five pound note
an army knife
a fountain pen
a magnifying glass
a pair of sunglasses

to buy fish & chips for two persons
Irish money came yesterday.

poet Allen Ginsberg gave me the army knife
in New York City 1988.
It stayed with me as a good friend like Allen.

agile and sharp as an old star
the fountain pen, my soul, wrote many poems.

boundless chain of life -
with magnifying glass I inspected insect eggs,
flower seeds and the future of our galaxy.

the sunglasses were great for looking
into a rainbow, a sundog
& above the sundog... another rainbow.

Now the time is ripe.
I dedicate you all to Mt. Croagh Patrick.
you are gone...good luck!

Nanao Sakaki, Autumnal Equinox, 1993

and here is Gary Snyder, in Ireland:

Icy Mountains Constantly Walking
(for Seamus Heaney)

Work took me to Ireland
a twelve-hour flight.
The river Liffy
ale in a bar,
so many stories
of passions and wars -
a hilltop stone tomb
with the wind across the door.
Peat swamps go by:
people of the ice age.
Endless fields and farms
the last two thousand years.

I read my poems in Galway
just the chirp of a bug
and flew home thinking
of literature and time.

The serried rows of books
in the Long Hall at Trinity
the ranks of stony ranges
above the ice of Greenland.

Gary Snyder 1999

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poetry Walks

For several years I taught a course called "Poetry and Walking", both at Bates College and at MidCoast Senior College. We walked with Gilgamesh, walked around Japan with Basho, sauntered with Thoreau, walked the Lake District with Wordsworth, walked the Inferno with Dante and Virgil, followed Aboriginal songlines with Bruce Chatwin,read the poems of Miklos Radnoti as he walked to his death, listened to Ophelia Zepeda as she walked to water. Our text for the course, besides the work of these poets, was Rebecca Solnit's "Wanderlust - A History of Walking". As we traveled with the poets, I asked the students to take walks of their own, and then to write about them in the styles of the poets they were reading.
This summer, 2015, I spent six weeks as "artist-in-residence" at the Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport (Maine) and began to invite people to come and take "poetry walks". First I took a blank notebook to the top of Beech Hill and began a poem in it, then left it with a note encouraging people to add lines, verses, poems, drawings - to collaborate in creating a poem of place. I knew what I was seeing and feeling, but I wanted to know what other people were experiencing in the same place, and how they would choose to express it in language or visual art. In six weeks the journal gathered over 100 pages of writing, most of which can be read here.
I then began to schedule "poetry walks" - walking with other people, trying to think of the place in terms of a poem, or a poem in terms of a place - wondering how the place speaks to you, or through you, wondering which words or images each person would choose to express their relationship with the place. I also was interested in making a word/image map of the preserve - what is happening here, in this particular place - - what did you see/hear/smell/feel - and how you would choose to express that.
As we walk, there are poems all around us - plant poems, bird poems, rock poems, cloud poems light poems - I suggested that the walkers be open to the opportunities around us, to listen with both your head and heart. On one walk we had someone who birded by ear and what to me was a cacophony of sound began to be heard as differing voices - that is the vireo, that is the towhee, so i began to hear more of the conversation and its individual parts. Another walk found a plant person with us - and what was a wall of green became a community of individual lives, all worth exploring. Each person's experience of the place taught me something, gave me new ways of experiencing, enjoying, and learning from this particular place.And the poems began to happen. We could leave them behind in the notebook, or put them on line, and other people could learn from, and share, the experiences of this place.
I am interested in the words, phrases, images each person chooses to talk about a particular place, and of their experiences of it. We don't necessarily choose the same words or images, and we don't necessarily pick up on the same cues, happenings or conversations within the community of that place. Sometimes our language does not have the words to express it directly.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Phd moss biologist, member of the Potawatomi tribe, and author of two wonderful books (Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass) begins her essay "Learning the grammar of animacy" saying "To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language" "Listening in wild places, we are audience to conversations in a language not our own." Learning to hear and understand, and to speak, these languages "could well be a restraint on our mindless exploitation of land." as we "walk through a richly inhabited world of Birch people, Bear people, Rock people, beings we think of and therefore speak of as persons worthy of our respect, of inclusion in a peopled world."
There are languages, languages of the aboriginal peoples who have lived in specific places, and have created words rising up out of their direct experiences of particular places. She gives the example of the verb wiikwegamaa, which means "to be a bay", and talks about her first encounter with that word:"In that moment i could smell the water of the bay, watch it rock against the shore and hear it sift onto the sand. A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikwegamaa - to be a bay - releases the water from its bondage and lets it live. "To be a bay" holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers."
These words, these languages, these ways of being in the world are being lost, as languages and cultures and species and habitats disappear from the planet. Here is the poet W S Merwin:

Losing A Language

A breath leaves the sentences and does not come back
yet the old still remember something that they could say

but they know now that such things are no longer believed
and the young have fewer words

the noun for standing in mist by a haunted tree
the verb for I

the children will not repeat
the phrases their parents speak

somebody has persuaded them
that it is better to say everything differently

so that they can be admired somewhere
farther and farther away

where nothing that is here is known
we have little to say to each other

we are wrong and dark
in the eyes of the new owners

the radio is incomprehensible
the day is glass

when there is a voice at the door it is foreign
everywhere instead of a name there is a lie

nobody has seen it happening
nobody remembers

this is what the words were made
to prophesy

here are the extinct feathers
here is the rain we saw

(W S Merwin)

and here is a poem from the native people of Greenland, collected by Knud Rasmussen and turned into a poem by Edward Field:

Magic Words

In the very earliest time
when both people and animals lived on earth
a person could become an animal if you wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes we were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
We all spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance might have
strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen.
All you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this,
that's the way it was.

As poets, as writers, as creative beings engaged with the world, we can walk in the world and speak these magic words, and we can listen as these magic words are spoken around us. All we have to do is to "step out onto the planet" and say it. The magic words poem ends in the past tense. Our work on these "poetry walks" is to try and find language to bring it back into the present, and on into the future.
For the next year, photographer/writer Jim McCarthy and I will be wandering around the trails of the Cathance River Nature Preserve, sponsored by the Cathance River Education Alliance. We will lead monthly "creative walks", we will leave out a journal to create an ongoing poetry and image conversation at the Preserve, and have created a blog site where we will be posting writing and images (see that here )
So we invite you to come take a walk, share your words, speak them aloud, make it happen -