Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Poetry Challenge, Part II…Environment.

November 12, 2010

Irish Coast, janekohut-bartels, watercolor....

We read from a number of poets how they approach their writing of poetry, though I also heard privately some interesting ideas.

There is no exclusive method for writing poetry, at least that is clear. People proceed from different ‘places’, mental processes, and it is all to the good for the development of poetry.

Something that Shashi said sparked off some additional thoughts:  Shashi wrote something “about people leaving everything to write.”

That raised some issues with other writers, as I see by my email.

How much do we draw from our immediate environment in our writing?  Do we need isolation from the masses  to concentrate our thoughts and work?  How much support and encouragement do we get or  do we seek from our communities?  And then again, should we seek it from these people around us?  Are they the ‘stuff’ of poetry or are they the stuff and material of chaos, distraction, pettiness?

I think these are legitimate questions, queries.  I know that I live in a community that is broken, or perhaps ” filled with” so many issues: there seems to be two communities here in this part of Atlanta:  there is the daily hum of many issues  one would find in an urban community: racial issues, prostitution, drugs, unemployment, crime,  politics, opportunism of politicians, and the general living issues…going to work, family, and this big so-called ‘community’ that is really so divided by race, class, age and many other things, including drugs that are ‘acceptable’ to some because they don’t street deal.  It’s ok, because it’s done amongst friends.  (Drugs are a major issue in Atlanta, and now we understand that the Mexican drug cartels are very comfortable using Atlanta as a depot for further distribution.)

There is also an interesting issue of gentrification.  Over the past 10 years or so, this community has seen an influx of middle class whites and some blacks move in and try to establish themselves here.  Funny though, they seem afraid of their black neighbors.  Not all of them, but many, including some who call themselves ministers or are self-proclaimed leaders, community mouthpieces.

Perhaps it is easier for those of us (and not many) who have been here for 30-40 years.  We settle into the environment and either make our peace or we leave.  Many have, or with the current economic situation, are forced from their houses.  Foreclosures are no stranger to this land.

But back to the issue of poetical environment, for lack of a better term.  There is a lot of chaos out there.  There is an attitude that writers and poets are not doing what is oh- so- necessary right now, like running back and forth  to meetings,  joining community causes, etc.  Perhaps there is resentment for those of us who march to a different drummer, who are deeply involved with a personal creative life that demands a big portion of our day, attention and energies.

Artists, poets, writers have always been marginalized by society. Especially by those who don’t understand or have an artistic bone in their bodies.  We are expected to put aside our intense, creative abilities and become like them: living pale half-lives but demanding that we acknowledge their ‘rightness’ to lead or ‘influence’ a community.

I spent years here trying to make changes I thought or was told were necessary for ‘bettering’ the community.  That was a crock of shit.  I only delayed my own development as a writer and as a creative woman.  We swallow or believe so much inferior stuff because it is delivered by people who are sooner or later  revealed to be mundane, humdrum opportunists…with definite agendas.

And it goes deeper.  Especially amongst the young white liberals that insist the rest of us who have been here many decades learn the lessons they are going to sooner or later fall upon.  They want us to shut up as they reinvent the fucking wheel.

So it goes back to environment.  I live in an area of Atlanta that is heavily treed.  I look outside,  I go outside, I wave to my neighbors of many, many years, but I take solace and inspiration in what I see of Nature around me.  I look up at what I call ‘the saddle’, off in the distance, the juncture of trees that dip down and in a certain light look like mountains, and in another  are infused with gold from the falling sun.

Perhaps because I am what is called a ‘nature poet’ I have every reason to pull for my poetry from my environment.  But that environment must be above and beyond the chaos of humanity and those who would tell me what I must think and do. My life, and the life of other artistic, creative people here must be above the mundane that passes for ‘community’ and  leadership in this area.

I don’t buy their shit for one moment.  Our poetry, if we are poets, depends upon our independence and our intense, creative lives.

That is the internal environment we need to succor.

Lady Nyo


A pale moon rises,

Unheralded, surprising us

With its presence so early at dusk.

The summer heat makes it waver

Like a ghost under water.

The cicadas hold their breath-

Their leg-fiddles muted,

And the earth turns quiet

If only for a moment.

Brushing the lush green tree tops

It floats upward into a still-lavender sky,

Gaining presence, strength, gleam

As it balances in the darkening light,

A well-trod path– fascinating eternity.

A world-weary face appears

And casts a bemused gaze downward

Before sailing through the night

Into the harbor of Dawn.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

Voluntary Simplicity, ecology and changing the patterns of our lives.

June 27, 2009

I have been thinking of a lot of issues, some not new, some dropped for other things, and some that will not stay down.  We can get detoured in life by personal issues, and we can lose the bigger picture.

Sometimes aging helps as we try to refocus our eyes, energies towards something that means more than what we see around us and what we are doing.  We live in the West surrounded with material abundance and a lot of spiritual confusion.  We can hide our behavior within the confines of Orthodox or Liberal religions, but that is a shell.  The true mark of a person is our relationship to the rest of the world, perhaps where we step out of the comfort or the boundaries of what we know and open ourselves to things alien and unknown.  Our experiences and influences should be challenged and growth is only possible when we do so.

Recently these things have come home to me as I find myself dissatisfied with what I see around me and with a yearning to do something ‘more’.  Perhaps all of us are influenced, affected by the current world economic situation. We should be.  Even if we suffer only a small fraction of what is happening, we can not stand aside and continue to ignore or to dismiss that events are world changing and earth shaking.

I believe we stand at a critical juncture.  For a while, it was a time of withdrawal, a time of research, a time exploration into those things of interest, but perhaps ultimately shallow and not supportive of life.  The dualism of our thinking (which pits materialism against spiritualism) must be transcended if we are to be generators of a new world; and there can be no doubt that we need to resolve and reform many things in this world.

It’s not only myself that has been pushed to this realization, but friends from some unexpected places.  Mac the Knife, a writer and practitioner of shibari  (  is turning some acreage into biofuel, a three year plan of organics that takes him far afield from what I know of him.  Jimi Tatu of  shibari fame and teaching is also presently working hard on their (his and Sumi’s) little farm.  Other friends are working in intensive organic gardens and turning their efforts to these things because they believe these things are the ‘stuff’ of a better life, a deeper committment to the Earth for better reasons.

Recently I found my old copy of “Voluntary Simplicity” by Duane Elgin.  I sat down to read this book, printed in 1981, and realized how much I didn’t understand when I first read it, (20 years ago), yet it did have a fundamental influence on me and propelled me into Quakerism, (which lasted for 12 years) and ecological issues which lasted longer.  I wrote for major publications on permaculture up until 2005, urban pioneering and intensive gardening, lectured locally a bit, but then put these issues on a back burner of life when other things became of interest.  Still, these issues were deeper and broader than what I was recently experiencing and they never stopped nagging at the edges of my consciousness.

Recently I received a lovely letter from Duane Elgin, encouraging me, thanking me for my passionate poetry in a compassionate life.  I was amazed.  And I thought a bit more about that ‘compassionate life’.  Really, what did my life account for?  And I wondered just how much compassion I really exhibited.

I had to think more on what I was doing.  Some recent influences helped, and a letter from Dr. RK Singh helped lay some of these issues bare.  When we think we are alone in our dismay and confusion, we can get overwhelmed.  When we realize that we are part of the bigger picture of it all, we can take comfort and ask for ideas and glean guidance.

I wrote to RK about my anger concerning religions….all religions, and I received this answer:

“I agree with you, Jane, that no religion is diseased beyond redemption. And it is the followers of religions, and their gurus, that corrupt and debase humanity to the lowest level. We see all around us in India the naked game of what you call “prejudiced rationalization for hatred and contempt” by the right wing political parties and groups, but the silent majority only suffers. I have been UNCOMFORTABLE with institutionalization of faith/religion/ideology as it ultimately corrupts and degrades humanity. Politicalisation of all such groups, without excluding fundamentalists,  in the  name of democracy has ruined the prospect  of living in the environment of  tolerance  and peaceful coexistence. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the current trends continue for another five to ten years.
I have always thought I am a misfit in this world and have been living a life of helplessness. As I composed the following haiku this morning:

Not a day without
begging gods to solve problems–
faith in helplessness

We like it or not, the game of convenience has been  taking its toll, and willy-nilly, we all have been participants in it.


RK is writing about religions, he is also hitting at broader issues.  The web and fabric of all of our lives that ideology, religion, politics have impacted.  We can not avoid any of this. He is acutely aware of this.

I hope in future blog entries to write more about the fundamentals of Voluntary Simplicity because that is where I am starting. Well, my husband Fred and I are starting.  We know that we have gone far afield in this issue…and we need to regroup, rethink our lives and go forth with a plan.  With our friends above, and the understanding that we are not alone, at all, that others with consciousness are feeling these same Discomforts,  we can choose to make a difference in our lives and impact the environment around us.

It all is a matter of a further evolution, after all.

Energy of hope

expresses the dynamics,

We roll up our sleeves.

Lady Nyo

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