Welcome to the Spiritual Poetry Portal
Join us within the panorama below--
"Wave Garden" themes (throughout the Poetry Portal) by Dafna Mordecai
hosted by Richard Schiffman
The Spiritual Poetry Portal
where inspiration is a click away!
Many of us were
first introduced to the inner life of the Spirit by reading great poetry in school. We
caught glimpses of a deeper truth in the words of writers like Walt Whitman, William
Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. But most people lose touch with poetry as
they grow older. While almost everyone can still remember a line, a striking metaphor or
image from a favorite poem, few turn to poetry for daily inspiration in their lives.
unfortunate, because poetry offers not just delight, but wisdom of a kind that is hard to
come by in our sound bite culture. Yet poems also present us with difficulties of language
and interpretation that may scare many readers off initially. Moreover, a lot of
contemporary writing is obscure, overly intellectual, or frankly narcissistic, and has
lost its deeper connections to the spiritual wellsprings which watered the roots of poetry
in the past.
But the good news is that great poems continue to be written. And many of them are just a click away on the internet. In these pages well introduce you to some of these gems, and hopefully encourage you to write your own!
My name is Richard Schiffman. I am a spiritual author and a former journalist who started writing poetry a few years back. Im glad that I did! For me writing and reading poetry has become a meditation, a way to become reacquainted with my own deeper self. In these pages Ill share with you some of my own recent work, as well as my reflections on the poetry of the Spirit. Most of all Ill offer links to some favorite contemporary poems and poets, places where you can begin your own exploration into this rich and exciting world.
For communication and dialogue about The Spiritual Poetry Portal you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Detail from"Wave Garden, theme A" by Dafna Mordecai
Poetry of the Spirit-- Some Reflections
There are times
when words seem inadequate to convey our deeper experiences in life. How do we speak about
the hush of a snowy morning, the awe we under the stars at night, or the intimacy and
tenderness of first love? How much less can we express the ecstasy of a mystical awakening
in which time and space collapse into the limitless awareness of Divine Presence.
is an effort to find words for the wordless. As such, it is bound, in one sense, to fail.
But, paradoxically, the effort to express the inexpressible can serve as a finger
pointing toward the moon, in the language of Zen. That is to say, at its best
spiritual poetry brings us to the edge of the Great Mystery in which we live and move.
poets have lived in all nations and periods of human history. Yet their words feel
timeless, because they speak to us of what most fundamentally we are. They remind us
that we are not just a body of flesh and blood moving through a world of transience and
death. We are not just mental beings flailing on the puppet strings of thought and
emotion. Yes, of course we are that too! Still there is something within all of us that
refuses to surrender to any limited condition. There is something that still re-members
its connections to the larger life beyond our skins.
is the voice of that remembrance. It reminds us of all that we are not finally conditioned
creatures at the mercy of external circumstance, but inwardly the master of all we
survey as the poet William Cowper wrote. We are children of the Most High, sparks of
the creative fire which forged the universe! In the faces of men and women I see
God wrote Walt Whitman in his immortal American spiritual classic, Leaves of
poetry does not content itself with stating abstract, universal truths. It revels in the
momentary and the particular. It fully honors the actual sights, sounds, persons and
events of life. Unlike pure philosophy or metaphysics, poetry never loses sight of the
physical creation. It uses the language of the senses to root inner experience firmly in
the real world of our experience.
sees Eternity in a grain of sand. And a heaven in a wildflower, as William
Blake so memorably expressed it. And it hears a frog jumping into a pond (in Bashos
famous haiku) as a call to Timeless Presence. It also brings God down from heaven to the
earth. It conceives of the Everlasting, not as some metaphysically distant ruler, or
bloodless divine essence, but as the personal Beloved of the soul, as in the ecstatic
devotional poetry of Saint John of the Cross, Mirabhai, Kabir and so many others.
When we think of
spiritual poetry, we often think of the great writers of the past. Amazingly, the Sufi,
Jalaluddin Rumi, is the bestselling poet in America today! It is no accident that this
13th century mystic speaks to many people more directly and powerfully than our own
contemporaries! But the unique genius of a Rumi should not blind us to the fact that he
speaks of experiences and states of at-one-ment that are equally available to us today. All
of us are budding Rumi's who can write poems that flow from our own experience of Spirit.
All of us are budding Rumi's who can write poems that flow from our own experience of Spirit.
The word Spirit is etymologically associated with the Latin root for breath. Poetry is also a spoken art attuned to the natural rhythms of the human breath, and the still deeper and more hidden breathings of the soul. It is the natural and fully spontaneous outbreathing of the Spirit within us.
In earlier times
poets were widely regarded as prophets, bards and seers, who brought down the knowledge of
the gods to the human world. The essentially spiritual nature of poetic speech was
understood and highly valued. As the modern world became increasingly secular and
skeptical of nonmaterial reality, however, poets increasingly used their art for personal
psychological exploration, the so-called confessional poetry which dominated
much of twentieth century verse. Others, the language poets, reflected on the
inability of speech to convey universally valid meanings.
In many circles,
nature poetry, religious poetry, humorous verse, even love poetry were frowned upon as
being sentimental or naive. While the skeptical temper of the times in the academic
literary establishment has often discouraged overt spiritual expression, many
poets continue to swim against the prevailing current and create works of great depth and
Fueled by the explosion of poetry in new venues like the internet, email and slam festivals, there has been a growing demand for a new nonacademic poetry that speaks directly to the heart. Poetry is also increasingly being performed together with other arts like music, dance and film. Inspired voices like Mary Oliver, Robert Bly, Naomi Shihab Nye and Coleman Barks attract large audiences from outside the traditional literary world. I regard these writers as the forerunners of a new poetry of the Spirit.
to reach Richard Schiffman, email email@example.com
Water Detail from"Wave Garden, theme A" by Dafna Mordecai
Richard's Poems -- Richard's Links
and links to Richard's poems to other poets
Here is a sampling of my poems and links to several which are available on the internet:
The fortune that you seek is in another cookie,
was my fortune. So Ill be equally frank-- the wisdom
that you covet is in another poem. The life that you desire
is in a different universe. The cookie you are craving
is in another jar. The jar is buried somewhere in Tennessee.
Dont even think of searching for it. If you found that jar,
everything would go kerflooey for a thousand miles around.
It is the jar of your fate in an alternate reality. Dont even
think of living that life. Dont even think of eating that cookie.
Be a smart cookie-- eat whats on your plate, not in some jar
in Tennessee. Thats my wisdom for today, though I know
its not what you were looking for.
To you who are lost today like a needle in a haystack,
reading this poem alone. Alone, brother island,
sister moon. The ocean is big, the sky is bigger,
but no one knows your measure--
no one can say where you end
and the world begins.
And why talk about the world, when you yourself
are the world that contains the world--
which is alone in you, not you in it.
Can you be tender with this homeless globe
rocking it in your cradle, enfolding it with your ocean?
It is the child that you were born to cherish. This swarm
of all and everything alone in all and everything.
Only you can soothe it.
Brother island, sister moon, the ocean is big,
the sky is bigger. But love dwarfs all--
as the thinker is greater than his thought,
the doer exceeds her deeds, the dreamer
wilder than the wildest dreams,
the giver the biggest gift of all.
Therefore, pour yourself as gift--
the worlds gift to itself. But do not tell us.
Thats the point, be nameless, like the wind,
the rain, swelling the shoreless ocean,
ripping the hearts sky open.
Until nothing remains outside it.
Or within it.
The heart is not a needle
in a haystack. It is the haystack--
and it was never lost.
After the Opera
The curtain parts one last time
and the ones who killed
and were killed,
who loved inordinately,
who went berserk, were flayed alive,
descended to Hades,
raged, wept, schemed--
victims and victimizers
smile and nod and graciously bow.
So glad its finally over,
they stride off
suddenly a bit ridiculous
in their overwrought costumes.
And the crowd-- still dark,
like God beyond the footlights of the world--
rises to its feet
roars like the sea.
*Thanks to Southern Poetry Review, Rosebud, and Sojourners for permission to reprint these poems
Detail from "Wave Garden III" by Dafna Mordecai (see entire work below)
links to more poems by Richard Schiffman
Watching the Birdwatcher, Sunglasses
Crows and Hawks
Bullet and Memorial Day Excursion
Sermon to the Trash
A Poem After Rumi
Inter-Animal Dialogue, Quetzalcoatl, Cloud Nation
Richard's links to other poets
Art by Dafna Mordecai
Here are some great sites for spiritual poetry:
Wave Garden I
A group of poems on the theme of gratefulness from Brother David Stendl-Rasts fine website.
Wave Garden II
Extensive collection of sacred poetry from around the world arranged according to themes.
Wave Garden III
A good site for exploring Zen and Buddhist-inspired poetry, with a nice collection of quotes on the subject of poetry itself.
Wave Garden A (detail)
Numinous: Spiritual Poetry, a webzine out of
Wave Garden A (detail)
A nice selection of old and new poems.
Wave Garden B
A selection by the poet, Jane Hirshfield of 22 of her favorite spiritual poems on the Poetry Foundation website, one of the best resources for poetry on the internet.
Wave Garden B (detail)
Bill Moyers has done wonderful books and broadcasts with a variety of spiritual poets. Click on Enjoy poetry from our archives, to hear interviews and readings by Coleman Barks and others.
"Soul Excavations" (details below) by Dafna Mordecai
Richard's personal favorites:
One of the
bestselling poets in
This is a compassionate masterpiece by the Buddhist meditation master, Thich Nhat Hanh, Please Call Me By My True Names
A sampling of Tagore poems, not exactly a contemporary, but one of the great masters of the mystical lyric.
One of my favorite Jane Hirshfield poems, read by the author. Also check out some of the other videos on this page.
To hear Naomi Shihab Nye speak is a thrilling experience. She writes poems dripping with empathy, humor and spiritual insight. Dont miss her!
Linda Pastan writes luminous, generally short and accessible poems. Here is a one in response to one of my favorite Whitman poems.
Some contemporary translations of Rumi by Coleman Barks and others.
Former poet laureate, Californian Robert Haas creates poetry that is both meditative and sensual. He is also one of the finest and most generous teachers and essayists on poetics alive today.
InterSpiritual Dialogue 'n Action (ISDnA, est. 2002) & Broadband Contemplative Alliances Network (bcan.ws, est. 2004) with Brother Wayne. Multiplex Maingate is www.isdna.org; Multiplex Visitors Center is multiplex.isdna.org. All rights reserved for original materials first published here; thanks to many associates for linked and associated materials. ISDnA's educational partner is One Spirit Interfaith (www.onespiritinterfaith.org), ISDnA is a founding member of The Order of Universal Interfaith (OUnI www.ouni.org), World Council of Interfaith Congregations (WCIC, www.ouni.org), The Coalition for OneVoice (www.coalitionforonevoice.org) and the Universal Order of Sannyasa (originally envisioned by Bro. Wayne, www.orderofsannyasa.org). Administrator Contact firstname.lastname@example.org