The Wild Iris

Louise Glück’s lyrical voice springs up from the deep recesses of her soul onto the essence of the flowers, the spirits and to god. The meditative contemplation of what it means to be alive and crossing to the conflicting feelings of fitting your life in the confines of the reality of death. She undresses it all delicately plucking the shadows off of the petals, the days, and the seasons.

A rebirth happens, “hear me out: that which you call death I remember” (The Wild Iris). Glück goes on to speak to god as a monk who toils in god’s garden in prayers, poems she names “Matins”. God responds, and so do the spirits residing in the garden, near the flowers, “you are all the same to us, solitary, standing above us planning your silly lives…” (Scilla). Glück seems to make god’s voice as a resentful entity, a little indifferent to the suffering because in the end its not that god doesn’t care, it’s because our lives are meant to be lived, “you wanted everything told to you and nothing thought through yourselves” (Retreating Light).

It’s interesting how when we come to deal with our mortality, we will extend our hands and point accusingly to a god we make up on our own. Through each poem Glück progresses with this idea, unraveling our human condition to want everything spelled out, “we do not grieve as you grieve, dear suffering master; you are more lost than we are” (Violets). Identifying a great entity as something like us, grabbing them by the ear and scolding them for our existence. In Daises, she plainly argues, “the garden is not the real world. Machines are the real world” as a reciprocation to this god who says, “all this belongs to you: on the other hand, I planted the seeds”.

This argument that bounces like light illuminating these ideas of the world as god’s garden; humans as the creation, and the humble servant monk trying to find a connection to this hard work and its meaning to this god. I think The Wild Iris is such a beautiful collection of poetry, a lyrical meditation on the soul’s longing to reach out its arms to touch this god we’ve been told about.

In my opinion our maker is not some man crossed arms in judgement of his creation, the true god is not like us at all but is an entity that manifests through the bloom and perpetual seeding of life. It’s up to us, through our own observation, aware of the soul residing in us, to speak to god in time. And Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris gives us a glimpse of how that conversation might go. It might be different for everyone, and that’s the beauty in searching within and trying to make sense of what is presented to us as faith and how then we interpret and unravel it in the language of our own individual souls.

Nombrar y Nombrarme

I came across Alejandra Pizarnik from a diary entry last October. This sentence stood out to me: “Ahora se que cada poema debe ser causada por un absoluto escandalo en la sangre” “Now I know that every poem must be caused by an absolute scandal in the blood”. I knew what she meant, how frustrating it feels when you’re pushing yourself to make poetry like you’re a factory spitting out products. It took awhile to really let it sink in because we all have our moments when the things are stirred and then the aftermath is placed within the confines of whatever medium is desired by the soul in that moment.

I became distracted by other things until I came across Pizarnik again by stumbling on this screenshot:


Alejandra Pizarnik in a letter to Silvina Ocampo “Alejandra” (2013), directed by Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina

I was intrigued and went on a mission to find the movie. It’s from the biographical movie titled Alejandra (2013). I became so enthralled with her story, felt a little validated when learning she too would keep a journal with quotations, and overall felt a sadness in knowing how painful she felt life was and saw no point in continuing trying her hardest to let it all go. Throughout the film, Vanessa Molina brings to life Pizarnik’s poetry, adopting the tonality of her voice. Then towards the end the only audio recording of Alejandra’s actual voice is heard. I was moved to tears, and since then every time I read a poem, my inner voice now has adapted her tonality, her grave emphasis to each word, asking me to dig a little deeper.

As I was watching this film I was eating a mandarin, and now every time I eat a mandarin or smell citrus I will always remember Alejandra. I love when scents or food get associated with something I end up loving. It makes me feel so connected to everything in a very beautiful, romantic way.

If you’re curious and want to be inspired also, here’s the movie in its entirety with English subtitles, and let me know what Alejandra Pizarnik has stirred within you.

(trigger warning for mentions of suicide and suicide)

Full diary entry:

Domingo 24 de Noviembre de 1957

Desalentada por mi poesia. Abortos nada mas. Ahora se que cada poema debe ser causada por un absoluto escandalo en la sangre. No se puede escribir con la imaginacion sola o con el intelecto solo; es menestar que el sexo y la infancia y el corazon y los grandes miedos y las ideas y la sed y de nuevo el miedo trabajen al unisono mientras yo me inclino hacia la hoja, mientras yo me despeño en el papel e intento nombrar y nombrarme.

Alejandra Pizarnik, Diarios.

My translation:

Sunday November 24, 1957

Discouraged by my poetry. Abortions only. Now I know every poem is caused by an absolute scandal in the blood. You can’t write with only the imagination or only with intellect; its necessary that the sex and the childhood, and the heart and the great fears and the ideas and the thirst and again the fear work in unison while I bow towards the sheet, while I collapse in the paper and attempt to name and to name myself.

Alejandra Pizarnik, Diarios.

The Book of Hours

I came across Rainer Maria Rilke in the year 2014. I would read anecdotes and quotes of his, and then I stumbled upon, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”, a piece of poetry extracted from The Book of Hours: Prayers to a Lowly God. Everyone who seems enamored with this poem tends to interpret it differently. When I first read the poem, it stayed with me immediately after reading it, the lines floating across my mind, my own voice echoing in my ears. The sheer beauty of what Rilke was trying to capture, in the midst of unraveling it through the voice of a monk, captivated me. It’s my north star, whenever I don’t know what to do when it comes to poetry I turn to Rilke’s The Book of Hours, and it allows me to re-calibrate my spirit.

There’s the circulated translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Borrows, but my favorite translation is from the original German by Annemarie S. Kidder. Translating poetry is an art-form in and of itself. To capture what a poet does in their native language is trying to route the rhythm of their being. Poetry is the rhythm of our spirit plucked through the waves of emotions we feel. Seeing the original German side by side with the translation, I feel more at ease as I pronounce the words in it’s original capture. You cannot read this poem on its own, Rilke demands you to read The Book of Hours in its entirety in order for you to understand the beauty you see in, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”. As Kidder says in the introduction, “For Rilke, the duty of the artist is to travel the austere journey of self-discovery. He compares this journey to life in a religious order, whereby the artist practices releasing all trifling and temporary things as by placing them outside the door, purging his or herself of them…” Because for Rilke this allows us to come to terms with solitude and solitude allows us to find the space we need to expand and create honestly.

Whatever your impressions of God are, as someone who creates, this need to figure out the self in order to express what needs to be extracted from the soul and heart, you have to understand the surrender to something greater than the self. You can argue of the ability of the human to accomplish so much, but at the end of our life we have to bow at and come to terms with our mortality and the edge of our journey. But while we are alive, the borders of our lives extend to the greatness of the divine. Trying to reconcile the both enriches our understanding of ourselves. We try to explain everything, gathering facts and figures but still we fall short to explain those things that can’t be held within numbers. I love The Book of Hours because it is a journey of questioning, of trying to understand this god, and ultimately trying to understand ourselves in front of such a phenomena.

At the Bottom of the Heart

“But city life sometimes takes away the ‘early dew of morning’. Still the longing for the ‘old, old story’ remains; whatever is at the bottom of the heart stays there”

Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh by John Peter Russell. Vincent watches me while I write.

In the current age of self-branding I was trying to find a way to brand myself. Creating this site is a way to share what is passed over in the publishing sphere, and I wanted to give it a name. But the idea of branding myself caused me to look at myself as a product. I know in order to make it you gotta sell a little of your something right? I tried many names but my own because it didn’t feel right. I felt a little lost as to how to share what I create. I felt sad and useless, and deeply troubled with the notion of selling myself as a name, as a brand. I pushed writing aside for a while to reflect and dove into anything that pulled at my sensitivities. I rediscovered Vincent Van Gogh and delved a little further into his life. Feeling excited to have found my soul kin, I ordered his autobiography, letters to his brother Theo, his life in his own words. Sixteen pages in, and I found this quote and it struck me right in the heart. I knew what he meant. The naturalness of ourselves, the waking newness of ourselves in each day is robbed by the demands of a busy life. The city is tough on the soul, constantly demanding more us. And yet the longing for something simple, something our ancestors knew is there. At the bottom of the heart lies the fossils of the old, passed on through us. Right then and there I found what I wanted to name all of this. It feels fitting to me to name all my efforts as the early dew of morning- everything I create in spite of the demands, everything I hold dear and what gives me a sense of purpose. Whatever is at the bottom of my heart- the old stories, the histories, stay there like fossils waiting to be discovered in time.

So, what’s at the bottom of your heart?

Rumi’s Little Book of Life

I have made this little book into an oracle of sorts. If I feel lost or a sadness has come to visit me a while and I no longer have the patience to host this visitor, I take the little book, close my eyes and flip to a page, and there will be my antidote, the elixir to help me on my way.

Rumi will always move me, even if some days I feel like a statue. Reading even a couple of lines softens me and reminds me of my humanity. He always feel like a hand on my shoulder letting me know to always look for the Divine. And the Divine is the confirmation that our soul is light and will lead us in the right direction, to love.

Love is an attribute of God wanting nothing
repentance is an attribute of man, it is a worm
to Love’s dragon, absurd in God’s presence.
Love for anything but Him is unreal
for that which is not Him is a gilded object
shining outside yet empty inside,
light and golden on the outside yet dark within.
The moment divine light disappears
darkness is revealed and unreal love
is extinguished like a candle,
the body is discarded and beauty returns to its source.
The moonlight goes back to the moon
and its reflection disappears from the black wall.
Divine love is the sun of perfection
the Divine Word is its Light
and the creatures are its shadow.

From, “Part Two: Garden of the Heart”.
Rumi’s Little Book of Life. Translated By: Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin.

Poem XX

Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems are something to behold. Poem XX is the one that moved me, the one that shed a light on something within me I needed to understand, about what the soul is, what the soul is made of.

“That conversation we were always on the edge of having, runs on in my head”, what is this conversation? The internal monologue we have, that inner voice that gathers our intuition and hands it to us. I then read it over and over sharpening my understanding of the soul. Is it a mirror, reflecting the vulnerabilities of ourselves we hide? Not necessarily. We are so prone to continue this life ignoring ourselves for the sake of having a life people think is worth living. There comes a time though, a small moment, where we see ourselves, and the neglect that has caused our grief, “…drowning in secrets, fear wound round her throat”. This grief we try to set aside, throw whatever we can at it, but it’s still determined to creep up when we believe to have defeated it. Our soul is not a mirror, but it will show us what we have been neglecting, how we have been hurting. And then, the sudden realization that we can indeed have a hand at shaping our soul, to have a hand at expanding and growing by nourishing it, to realize it is ours, it is mine, “and soon I shall know I was talking to my own soul”.

This was my interpretation of it and sometimes I wonder if I’m right or wrong. But then again, even though the writer had a certain intention with it, how it is received is something entirely different. I like to think of poetry and other art forms like a road sign, something that highlights what you’ve been mulling over and over again in the palm of your hands, and at times medicine, an elixir that brings the understanding you need in order to continue on.

And now I ask, what has moved you on this Monday, or lately?

Poem XX from Twenty-One Love Poems in, The Dream of a Common Language by: Adrienne Rich

Gabriel’s Wing- 19 Ghazal No.1

What does it mean to be moved? Moved to tears? to anger? to sadness? to happiness? Something within us stirs and is alive waiting for anything that has the capacity to brighten or dim, to enhance or mute, to grow or to shrink. As a creative person, as a writer, and as a human being I want to talk about what moves me, and what stays with me. So, I want to share pieces of work that has moved something within me, that has stirred my essence, and has eventually stained a bit of my existence.

In “Gabriel’s Wing”, Allama Iqbal’s constant questioning of “mine or Yours?” has stayed with me ever since I came across the poem five years ago. My own spiritual journey is holy at this moment, to the point that it feels a little difficult to fully share. I started this journey around the time I read this poem. “Mine or Yours?” the responsibility of life, of being, touching upon the idea of perfection and the faults. When some of us finally arrive to the threshold of our God, we have our arms wide open and in need of the embrace of the Divine. Our own notions of a pure love is sort of tainted a bit by the idea of mother and father, so we arrive here- ‘my maker’ and assign them the role of mother and father. I couldn’t help but to think of when a child has done something wrong, the father looks over to the mother to say, ‘that’s your child not mine’ when reading this poem. We somehow take it upon ourselves that this must be a collaborative work, me and God, God as the parent but also us creating our God and confusingly God creating us. We’re here wondering if everything we see is ours or God’s. When everything is not perfect as we think it should be, whose fault is that? We either think too much or too little of ourselves, so it’s natural that we think too much or too little of God.

No matter where one is on their spiritual journey, there’s always this sincere questioning of God. The God we are taught about, the God we don’t see, the God we do see, and the God we wish could be if only people try to believe enough. But here Iqbal questions everything we are aware of so far; if heaven is corrupted, is it God’s heaven or my heaven? If I’m ignorant of the world’s woes, is it God’s fault or mine? If all of life is truly meaningless, am I to blame or can I blame God for that? Should I know of Your faults God, how an angel dared to rebel at the moment of You showing Your magnificent powers of creation, will that make You weaker in my eyes, should it affect my devotion to you? Everything that is holy is Yours God but didn’t I, as a human being, had a hand in writing those words? And me, a human you made, am I still Yours God, will you still claim me God if I’m no longer perfect in your eyes or will I stand alone?

If we want to be skeptical, we could say all of this is ours. The reality here is ours and we should accept blame where blame is due. When a human being decides to harm others, God didn’t reach within them and move them to destroy another’s world the same way Satan did not move them to do the same. So, this God we question is the likeness we seek. We wish to put a mirror to our faults and yet we shy away at the last minute: ‘there must be something grand that can take all the blame, both good and bad, I don’t want the responsibility of all of that’.

For me, God is not a man in the sky, and we are not made in that man’s likeness. I’m confident I know for sure what God isn’t, but I still don’t fully know what God truly is. My own journey is still roving. I’m still trying to figure out what God is. I came across Simone Weil’s words today, “Love needs reality. What is more terrible than the discovery that through a bodily appearance we have been loving an imaginary being” (from “Love”, Simone Weil: An Anthology) and it stirs up that feeling again when I question my devotion to a God I chose to believe in; how could I love someone I don’t see? To be asked to take things on faith and faith alone is an exercise of the heart’s will, its capacity to love, and a test to our humanity. What makes us real,what makes us human? Hoping for an all-powerful being we can’t see to love us as we are is a ridiculous endeavor. It makes people angry and upset to say that, hell it makes me upset to even say it. So, when I read “Gabriel’s Wing”, it brought to my attention my creator and the responsibility of things whether they are perfect or not, and are these things perfect in the first place if they could change with perspective and blame?

I know what God is not through these questions. For now, I am content in the unraveling of this spiritual world as a new one blooms before me, with me before it, understanding everything from questioning everything I’ve been told about it.

“Gabriel’s Wing” is a piece of work that has stained me, not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. The line, “and man, that thing of dust, that star whose shining lights your world-” is a line that makes me smile. There’s always that residue left within us, like a child looking up at their parent, whether joyful or sad, how powerful are we to have that capacity to light up someone’s world, aren’t we something?