Love both poems. I'll have to read some of Collins' work now. Ginberg reminds us of the fact that the principles of Taiji spill over into all other aspects of our life, though maybe not exactly as his obstacle course. :^) Ah, well. I need to read through the thread now. Thanks for both poems.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry of late, and I love how it puts me in an observational mode—how it makes me notice the stories and textures and moods around me. So I thought I would post a couple of poems that kind of dovetail with taijiquan practice. The first is Allen Ginsberg’s “In my kitchen in New York,” which I remember spurring some good discussions on taiji forums long past. To me, it brings back memories of times when the only place I had to practice was my living room/kitchen in a little house in Arcata, CA while attending Humboldt State, where I would have to move furniture & roll up the rug, so that the room preparation almost became a ritual part of my practice.
In my kitchen in New York
by Allen Ginsberg
(for Bataan Faigao)
Bend knees, shift weight
Picasso's blue deathhead self portrait
tacked on refrigerator door
This is the only space in the apartment
big enough to do t'ai chi
Straighten right foot & rise--I wonder
if I should have set aside that garbage
Raise up my hands & bring them back to
shoulders--The towels and pyjama
laundry's hanging on a rope in the hall
Push down & grasp the sparrow's tail
Those paper boxes of grocery bags are
blocking the closed door
Turn north--I should hang up all
those pots on the stovetop
Am I holding the world right? That
Hopi picture on the wall shows
rain & lightning bolt
Turn right again--thru the door, God
my office space is a mess of
pictures & unanswered letters
Left on my hips--Thank God Arthur Rimbaud's
watching me from over the sink
Single whip--piano's in the room, well
Steven & Maria finally'll move to their
own apartment next week! His pants're
still here & Julius in his bed
This gesture's the opposite of St. Francis
in Ecstasy by Bellini--hands
down for me
I better concentrate on what I'm doing
weight in belly, move by hips
No, that was the single whip--that apron's
hanging on the North wall a year
I haven't used it once
Except to wipe my hands--the Crane
spreads its wings have I paid
the electric bill?
Playing the guitar do I have enough $
to leave the rent paid while I'm
Brush knee--that was good
halavah, pounded sesame seed,
in the icebox a week
Withdraw & push--I should
get a loft or giant living room
The land speculators bought up all
the sqaure feet in Manhattan,
beginning with the Indians
Cross hands--I should write
a letter to the Times saying
Come to rest hands down knees
straight--I wonder how
my liver's doing. O.K. I guess
tonite, I quit smoking last
week. I wonder if they'll blow
up an H Bomb? Probably not.
-Manhattan Midnite, September 5, 1984
The second poem is by one of my favorite contemporary poets, Billy Collins, who is often warmly funny in his writing, in a sort of Zhuangzi-like way. The poem has nothing directly to do with taijiquan, I’m certain, but for me it captures some of the physical majesty that I sometimes feel in my practice, where I feel like I’m taking the earth out for a spin.
At the first chink of sunrise,
the windows on one side of the house
are frosted with stark orange light,
and in every pale blue window
on the other side
a full moon hangs, a round, white blaze.
I look out one side, then the other,
moving from room to room
as if between countries or parts of my life.
Then I stop and stand in the middle,
extend both arms
like Leonardo’s man, naked in a perfect circle.
And when I begin to turn slowly
I can feel the whole house turning with me,
rotating free of the earth.
The sun and moon in all the windows
move, too, with the tips of my fingers,
the solar system turning by degrees
with me, morning’s egomaniac,
turning on the hallway carpet in my slippers,
taking the cold orange, blue, and white
for a quiet, unhurried spin,
all wheel and compass, axis and reel,
as wide awake as I will ever be.
—Billy Collins, in Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, Random House, 2001, p. 72.