White Board, Poetry and Being WEek 3

White Board Week 3 Poetry and Being

Dear All, 

Thank you all for being such a wonderful group. It was a joy for me to explore these, some of my favourite, poems with you over the last three weeks. Poetry is a definite support for my own spiritual understanding and a way of connecting me more profoundly with day to day realities. I sense that this is the case for many of you, as witnessed so powerfully in the comments that arose in today’s meeting. Overall your contributions were fabulous: reading them below provides a whole course of introduction into the spirituality of these poets.

You will also find all the slides (for Week 3)  used in a separate posting in this space.

And here is the link for the video of our last session:

Passcode: 764998

But firstly, as presented in class can I please give you the details about the literary, contemplative pilgrimage which is happening in early July next year. Click on the link below for more details. 

UK Pilgrimage 2023 – Reho Travel

This web site has not yet finalised booking details but if you are interested it would be good soon to send through your expression of interest, via email, to:  studytours@reho.com

I would also like to mention that I am running a week-long exploration on Judith Wright’s poetry, especially on her concern with the environment, with indigenous peoples and with her spirituality. This happens in early December this year at the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre on Lake George. It is an amazing location and very close to Judith Wright’s last home in Braidwood. There are limited places for this (maximum of 14) and this is already over half full. So be quick if this hits the mark for you.  Click on the link below for more details.

Poetry and Spirit: Judith Wright – Environmental, Indigenous and Spiritual Concerns

  • This runs from Fri, Dec 2, 20224:00 PM  to Thu, Dec 8, 20221:30 PM.
  • To find out more, and for bookings go to this link: 

Upcoming Courses — Silver Wattle Quaker Centre

In friendship


White Board Notes Week 3

T.S. Eliot “A condition of complete simplicity”: is this the heart of Eliot’s quest for Being?

Jill sensed a number of links  in the direction of the simplicity of childhood) between Eliot, Wordsworth and Hopkins

Colleen: “complete simplicity” is  about living in the present moment; it is finding the inner stillness, between “two waves of the sea” .  Roosevelt’s words may have relevance: “do what you can with what you have right here…” Do the words: “(Costing not less than everything)”

imply that we have to give our whole self to these moments?

Janet/ Martin. This is about that spiritual journey, the soul entering the dark night. It is having to go through that refining fire; moving “in measure like a dancer” can be seen as the experience of stripping away all the dross. It is a return to Eden, mirrored in the childen in the apple tree.  We sensed that this passage was talking more about the life-time journey rather than the stillness of the present moment.

John: the state of simplicity can’t always be easily fabricated. Circumstances often prevent the possibility of living in that state of simplicity, but at other times  circumstances can push us into that direction.

Vic: grandchildren can often provide such moments of complets simplicity: the smile after playing a chord, the joy in their heart; it is possible for adults to there in the moment of such an experience…

Jill:  The idea of complete simplicity ties in with knowing the place for the first time.  

The last three lines from Dante bring together images of the  Crown of thorns and fire together with the union with soul.

Michael: in the Cloud of Unknowing ch 47 “knit the ghostly knot of burning love betwixt thee and thy God, in ghostly onehead and according of will.”

Here is an additional answer to Leanne’s question about “the fire and the rose are one”. In the annotated edition of T.S. Eliot’ Poems (Volume 1), the following comment appears: “in Aug 1917, while TSE was its assistant editor, the Egoist printed B. Durak’s The Unseen Attendant: “As the rose-fire of the hidden sun dawning over a winter sea, there comes to you the love that is enflaming, enlightening.” (1044). There is also the possible connection with the Rosa Mystica, which links Mary with the Rose and The Flame of love.

M.NourbeSe Philip

Do you agree that the “anguish” of “language” morphs into a new language- a liberating song of release from turmoil and repression? If so, then how has M.NourbeSe Philip undermined the destructive force of the erosion of language?

Vic: the power of this poem is felt in the delivery. It is so different from reading the poem on the page. On first reading, it is “really interesting”, but after hearing,  it has a profound visceral impact. What she expresses applies to all of us who have DNA and the passage of history running through us. Our Being, our spirituality is part of our history, waiting to be uncovered- as this poem manages to do.  

Martin: confronted by this totally amazing and powerful poem, we witness how she subverts the oppressors, whether they are the various edicts or the multiple choice questions; all these she subverts. And her potential answer is contained in the vertical sections, the licking of the child, which is an image of the original return to paradise and the language of that direct physical experience.  So here the long tradition of physically embodied language is being passed on to the new born; but the poem also dramatizes how much “stuff” has intervened between that experience and the present moment.

Pauline: this poem had a big impact;  the poem is very Raw; it goes to the gut; it is heart-felt. All the other poems we have looked at, while being about similar issues, have been written in a “civilised” way. This poem is raw and visceral. It shows the juxtaposition of power and disclocation; but also gives voice to her identity  and strength. Even though it explores sexism and racism and globalisation, it goes to the heart of her own conflict, and raises that conflict  for her. She has found her voice in a new way through depicting the English language.

Jock:  the form of this poem allows us to feel her experience through the tongue with which the poem is spoken.  And the tongue itself becomes a central metaphor in the poem. Beyond colonialism there is here a desire for communication and relationship.

Vic: one thing comes through here, it is the reference to fire (as in other poems). But here, in this poem it is not a reference, it IS A FIRE!!

Jill: But for me, flying in the face of the discussion so far, my answer is “No, this is not a poem about liberation. It  is a political statement. It something she needs to express, but it is at the beginning of the liberation, not the end.

Martin: It is a lament… a defiant lament….

Marie:  It is about how we communicate who we are in our own voice rather than through their language….

G.M. Hopkins

“The Windhover”

Q. “The Windhover”  How does Hopkins’s vigorous, visual and kinetic language enact his quest for Being?

Jonathan/ Colleen…this poem dramatizes the sedated self then an opening to the beauty of the world. There is this sense of being unleashed. The poem enacts that sudden burst of creativity and appreciation. The poet is not looking at himself at all. It is a moment of ecstasy.

Di : It is important not to miss the Dedication in this poem, under the title, “To Christ”. The poem is about Christ. There are so many clues about this, for example, about being about the Dauphin, the Son of God. The first part is about catching that moment. It is not something you see very often, this powerful beauty of nature. This is where God speaks to us,  but it is also about the nature of Christ himself. We are the sheer plod, we are the ordinary,  but even there in the ordinary there is the extraordinary.  

Vic: As a child I remember the plough, with the mouldboard, the spike, that folded over the earth. Hopkins gives quite a different, graphic description of the plough cutting open the soil, making it shine brilliantly against the dark background.

John: It is not only the beauty that is revealed, but the absolute sense of freedom of the bird.

“Spring and Fall”

Hopkins here confronts himself and us with the sobering image of a grief-stricken child who foreshadows the loss of Being that we are all in quest of.

Michael: In this poem we perhaps see Hopkins’s own experience reflected. He had such a difficult life himself, often filled with trauma; perhaps he  saw his own life reflected in Margaret.  Through poems like “The Windhover” Hopkins  often found moments to lift himself beyond the turmoil into such moments of complete Being.

William Wordsworth

Q. How adequate do you find Wordsworth’s dramatization of a state of complete Being?

Jill: For me it is entirely adequate; it  gives me a connection with spirituality. It does not do this as deeply as the Hopkins poem however.  Wordsworth is more detached in his way of describing the experience (perhaps “emotion recollected in tranquility” – Preface to Lyrical Ballads). In the Hopkins poem he is right in the experience: experience, presence,  stillness,  oneness of Being. All these are there in Hopkins.  

Marg: we thought the poem was very relaxed,  serene. It felt like  you were floating down the river Wye. However the last 5 lines, with their reference to the living soul and the life of things, woke us all up with its force.

Martin: We questioned whether the last lines referred  to death or to a meditative state that is not necessarily the end of life.

Greg: We concentrated on the last lines. It reminded me of Yoga-nidra, in which you enter a state of something like pure Being,  just being a living soul where you see into the life of things. There is a huge paradox in this that in the moment when we seem to die to our ordinary habitual self, at that moment, we see into the life of things!

No time for

George Herbert  

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