Archive for January 2012

He practiced
He was able to play
Who he was

I recently ran across the following article about making poetry a spiritual practice:

The entire article is well worth the reading, but the first way of the thirteen really rung some bells for me. (I hope they don’t mind I repost)

1. Cultivate Uselessness. Poetry and spiritual life overlap – if they are genuine, neither are undertaken for any kind of worldly advantage, prestige or use. Much of our life is spent in the acquisitive mode, in Wordsworth’s “getting and spending” – we need to butter our parsnips somehow – but the value of poetry is in its antithesis: the appreciative mode. Yes, we need to buy things and earn money, but poets need to stake their claim in uselessness – in non-utilitarian appreciation. Our primary mode of being should be one of appreciation. We should just stand back and enjoy it all – relate to life not for what it can give us but for its own sake. Within this larger uselessness, we’ll need to work to pay the bills and feed the cat, but our real work is appreciation. This implies an element of asceticism. We need to live simply with as few distractions as possible so that we can get on with the real business of poetry.


I have never heard this before, but I realized that this “appreciative mode” is where I feel most Shea, it’s where I escape to – but it is also where I experience the most guilt and “ought-to’s” and ought-not’s”. I just want to stand and pause for a moment and tell you I am useless here, by design.

The other little boys wanted to be astronauts and firefighters and cowboy types – I said I wanted to play with words.

I will refrain from over-excusing the last many years, but playing with words, it seems, does not easily buy bread.

Yesterday I discovered I was bored and I thought about why and thought about what I wanted out of life, I thought about my calling and a little boy answered surprising me.

Today I find myself in a self-structured classroom working on a self-defined degree towards an end that matters to me if no one else.

Tomorrow I want to be known, among some at least, as Shea the poet


Part of me has always been a poet. I have fed the hunger through lyrics for cheesy metal songs and punk songs about breakfast cereals. A couple of years ago I started (re-re-re-started) a personal journal and prayer log. At first it was a bunch of whining self-pity crap and I quit again several times. Slowly I found the words began spilling out into my journal as poetry, slowly my journaling had meaning and my prayers had true soul. That old hunger grew.

For years I loved the *idea* of poetry more than poetry itself, which seems a strange position to take, but I am learning that it is natural when you have urge without skill. Today I want to build the skill – and this site will be my classroom. I cannot currently afford a real classroom with a live teacher, so I am designing my own course of study. I figure I need 4 things

  • An Expert
  • Example
  • Practice
  • Feedback

For my expert, I have searched the shelves of my local Value Village and found a wonderful manual for “Writers of Poetry, Verse and Song Lyrics”. Written by Clement Wood and published back in 1946, Poet’s Handbook shall be my starting expert to teach me the things I do not yet know about poetry. Of course the web is overflowing with resources to assist, and I will post as I discover.

For Example, I once again went begging at a thrift store. It is amazing how many poetry books, journals and anthologies are lonely there, asking only pennies to be enjoyed. I also ran across Roger Housden and his Ten Poems to Change Your Life in the bargain bin (sorry Roger) and I found I loved reading his essays about particular poems and I think I will follow his example here and write some essays about the poems I read.

For practice, I have my journal freshly stocked with 5×7 white lined paper and this WordPress blog - Common Oddity.

For feedback, I have a writers account at Writers Cafe – please support my efforts by reading and responding there as the energy is available.

If my reader wandered here because they too wish to be known someday as a poet, I hope my notes and logged learning experiences here, along with whatever poetry drips out along the way, will aid them towards their destination.


There is an uncertainty
Silent and careless of your seeking
There is an uncertainty
That beckons you seek
That knows your name

Both are mystery
One is a revelation and a violation
Both are fearful
One has balm

You and I both
  agree that there are
First Principles

indeed exist, they form
   the reality around us

think we agree that these
   are absolutes – not flimsy or whimsy

   have been persuaded
that we (the we of humankind)
hold these in hand today,
   or that we shall by the morrow

   have been persuaded
that underlying every principal we will
ever hold in hand,
   is another we have assumed

   do hold many more in our hands today
   than Pascal did. Should
we fail to destroy
   ourselves by 2212,
we shall hold many many more

Maybe we shall cure cancer and hatred,
maybe we will learn they are the same thing and take a scalpel in hand
maybe we are already so mad with greed that we will paint our nickels gold, again
maybe a new word will be spoken
maybe an old word will inspire a new tipping point – will reveal a First Principle

Wisdom is practiced when discerning the intent within the onrushing stream… I speak to you … my waters are muddied with love… I think you recognize it… the coursing element is foundational … principal … but still flows from some deeper well which is only hinted at … only sensed at … by a existence we have only guessed at