(Pssssst! Whenever I send out a new letter I also post an old one here on this blog. As you can see, I send out three marvelous gems culled from the oceanic interwebs with each letter, along with updates. If you want the gems hot and fresh, you have to join the list by clicking here.)
Hello wanderer through the universe,
The end of October always has an ominous feel to it. I offer you a strategy for meeting that feeling of autumnal dread which involves listening to weird twentieth century poetry, trying to surrender all self-centeredness, and a handful of home-recorded songs.
John Berryman reading from Dream Songs
With Dream Songs, John Berryman set out to write a series of poems that would rival Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (regarded by many as the greatest American poetry). Whitman's poems are written in the first-person-- they're expansive, and while they speak of mysteries, they are never obtuse. Berryman's Dream Songs are written in the third-person, about a character named "Henry" who seems in many ways identical to Berryman himself. The Dream Songs are cramped and often obtuse, as they range unpredictably through various registers of diction-- everything from Shakespearean epithets to black-face vaudeville slang.
This video features the wild-looking Berryman himself reading reading "There Sat, Once, a Thing on Henry's Heart." For all the strangeness of the language and the jarring pace of Berryman's delivery, I find the performance to be immensely comforting-- and the final line to be revelatory.
While researching gift economies, I came across this book by Peace Pilgrim. Peace Pilgrim was an ordinary woman living in New England who one day left her home and began walking across the country with very little money and only the clothes on her body. She sought to carry the message that we could create outer peace in the world through first creating inner peace in ourselves, as she herself had done.
On her walk, she often received hospitality from kind people, but she often also slept out in the cold and rain, and ate only berries that she found in the woods. She delighted, though, in this life and said she felt very loved and protected by God.
Peace, as her friends affectionately called her, spoke often wherever she went to share her message. After her death her friends collected her writing into a book-length volume, which is available for free online.
This week I've been feeling especially inspired by Peace and her principled decision to release all attachment to her own comfort in order to call attention to truth. I'm hungry for the kind of inner peace she speaks of having.
I don't play any musical instruments. But I do sing and make up songs. I couldn't seem to work out a collaboration with my music- playing friends. So I went ahead and just recorded myself singing my songs. And now I offer them to you.
I had the rich pleasure of talking on the phone to Matthew Stillman of Stillman Says the other day. He creatively solved a few problems for me (which is at least one of his talents) without even trying. Now I'm reading his eye-opening book on the spiritual dimensions of improv comedy, A Funny Thing Happened at Mt. Sinai.
I recommend for your own rich pleasure that you check out Mr. Stillman and his book.
If you'd like to talk with me about any old thing, please don't hesitate to send me an email.