Monday, December 19, 2005

wakeful sleeping

If you want victory, eternity,

Then burn in the fire of love, don't sleep.

You slept a hundred nights, what did you gain?

For God's sake, tonight don't sleep till dawn.

#109: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Victory caught my eye in this first line. Is it not what we all crave for? Triumph over adversity, victory over our enemies both without and within. Victory, especially, over death, for the awareness of the finitude of our lives is what plagues us most.

Although staying awake all night might be a useful excercise in ascetic practise, I don't think this is what Rumi is recommending here. He is simply asking for an awareness of the wakefulness that characterizes our sleeping or dreaming selves. I think this theme is well elaborated by poet Robert Bly in Iron John. I believe Bly writes a poem first thing every morning while his sleep-consciousness is still a little awake. Devotees of dreams write out what they recollect of the night's events. I currently try to capture my mood and preoccupations with a little longhand writing followed by an attempt at a response to a Rumi verse. If a strong dream has come up, I will write about that but I don't use that as a primary focus.

Sometimes, during times of stress, we can't sleep at night and we might even wake up suddenly at 3am, a time recognised as a deep point. Perhaps we need our lover of the night to join us and give his or her slant on the tiresome times. Perhaps we are taking things too seriously and need a comic, quirky, surreal or just plain crazy spin on things.

As a small connecting thread between yesterday and today, here is a short excerpt from City That Does Not Sleep, a poem by Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca, translated by Robert Bly.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

And my favourite passage from Lorca's essay on The Duende.

Naturally, when flight is achieved, all feel its effects: the initiate coming to see at last how style triumphs over inferior matter, and the unenlightened, through the I-don't-know-what of an authentic emotion. Some years ago, in a dancing contest at Jerez de la Frontera, an old lady of eighty, competing against beautiful women and young girls with waists as supple as water, carried off the prize merely by the act of raising her arms, throwing back her head, and stamping the little platform with a blow of her feet; but in the conclave of muses and angels foregathered there - beauties of form and beauties of smile - the dying duende triumphed as it had to, trailing the rusted knife blades of its wings along the ground.



At Tuesday, 20 December, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Anne, you rock!

At Tuesday, 20 December, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

BTW, the writing a poem first thing in the morning: Bly got that from one of my poetic idols, William Stafford. Most affecting is reading the poem Stafford wrote the morning of his death.

At Tuesday, 20 December, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

Thanks, Bob, glad you liked this one.

Thanks, too, for that info and link on William Stafford. That was an exquisite last poem he wrote.


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