Surviving Has Made ME Crazy
A word about this book, which has been ripening for a long time. Ever since I awoke from my surgeries, I have been learning how integrated and useful everything is. And so, this book is not separated into cancer poems and living poems. It is not arranged chronologically, but more as a mix of then and now, as they are never far from each other: the wound and the healing, the fear and the peace, the confusion and the clarity.
In essence, if blessed, some event or lack of event undoes us until we are broken open into honest living. For me, that event was cancer. But it could be anything, at any time. What opens us may differ, but what it is that opens and what such parting can do to us is the same. So, while this all starts with illness and refers back to its canyon and its precipice, the lessons that have come through and reshaped me with their scouring belong to everyone.
This is what I have to offer. You see, the handles to all my cups have been broken off, so that I might learn that to touch and to drink are the same thing. These poems are such handle-less cups.
Upon Seeking Tu Fu As A Guide
And so I asked him, how is it God is everywhere and nowhere? He circled me like a self I couldn’t reach, “Because humans refuse to live their lives.” I was confused. He continued, “You hover rather than enter.” I was still confused. He spoke in my ear, “God is only visible within your moment entered like a burning lake.” I grew frightened. He laughed, “Even now, you peer at me as if what you see and hear are not a part of you.” I grew angry. He ignored me, “You peer at the edge of your life, so frantic to know, so unwilling to believe.” Indeed, I was frantic. He was in my face, “And now that you have cancer, you ask to be spared.” I grew depressed. He took my shoulders, “For God’s sake! Enter your own life! Enter!”
It was like jumping
I eat flowers now and birds follow me.
Wherever I go, I remain silent
When asked, I now hesitate
I water things now constantly:
I eat flowers now and birds come.
I eat and undie
"Mark Nepo is a Great Soul. His resonant heart--his frank and astonishing voice--befriend us mightily on this mysterious trail. These are words to live with, by and among--with deepest gratitude."
Setting down this new volume of Mark Nepo’s poetry, I feel a cascade of sensations: Hollowness in the belly, as if I am falling down and through, warmth circulating in the chest, a prior-to-speech pulsing in the throat. Together, in intimate accord, these poems offer articulate revelations about life, about being human, about what is most often left unexamined, unspoken, and therefore left unknown. This book is unrelenting, thrilling, achingly rough, palpable… a portal filled with life… to which I bow.
How does it feel to walk beside someone who presumes an earthy, unfathomable grace within every single moment? Mark Nepo’s poems leech medicine from deep within each wound. They calibrate our heart’s careful attention so we may witness the reassuring alchemy that enables illness to live as healing; where brokenness emerges as wholeness. And most importantly, we feel how darkness, deliberately saturated with precise and loving awareness, can actually become light.
Mark Nepo’s poems challenge us to consider the therapeutic possibilities
of language. Heart to heart, soul to soul, through a natural world as yet
uncorrupted by the toxicities of enmity and cynicism, Nepo takes us on
an unforgettable healing journey, revising medicalized pathology reports
and their dire prognoses into a deeply humane narrative of suffering, forgiveness,
and ultimately triumph. Surviving Has Made Me
Crazy—yes, for love, for life, and for the unthinkable prospect of solace and peace.
These poems are medicine. They have offered me
the gift of companionship and guidance as I sort through the meaning of
my own loss, my own resistance to change, and the transformations of self
and spirit that await if I am open to them.
These poems attest to the quickening that comes with a spiritual love
of life and all its manifold mysteries.
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