Maitreyabandhu , a poet and Triratna Order Member from the London Buddhist Centre, writes with news of his latest article, published in Magma 51, a well-known poetry journal. He says “It’s called 13 Ways of Making Poetry a Spiritual Practice - so far the response has been very positive. So I thought I’d make it a bit known. Here’s the opening paragraph and first two points:
‘Spiritual life is primarily concerned with overcoming self-centredness, with committing ourselves to values such as empathy and insight. Poetry can be a spiritual practice, a way of life. My thirteen points describe some of the more important aspects of that life.
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.
2. Work Hard. Floppy, soppy, badly made poems are not ‘spiritual’ – however laudable their sentiments might be. Spiritual life is a pursuit of excellence; in fact it is the pursuit of excellence par excellence: the cultivation of excellence at every level of our being and activity – moral excellence, intellectual and emotional excellence, human excellence. False feeling, unearned epiphany, cliché and platitude are stand-ins in for authentic feeling, clear thinking and imaginative sympathy. Drafting and redrafting is therefore a spiritual practice, a pursuit of excellence.