Roger Housden is author of the Ten Poems series as well as Dancing with Joy, Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living, Risking Everything, and other books. He was born in the UK and lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Housden, one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, loves poetry and writes essays about them that are filled with fresh insights and poignant observations about human nature and the world around us. In the introduction to this new collection, he notes:
"Every one of the poems in this book has struck me a blow, a direct hit, each of them, into the heart of hearts. Every one of them, in its own way, has opened a door for me to go deeper into my own experience, my own longings, my own sorrows and joys, and into the silence that surrounds all of this, all of us, always. Through these poems I have been able to unravel the nuances and subtleties of feeling that have flowed from the events of my life. Through the mirror pool of these poems, my life has become clearer, quieter, more trusting. It has become what it was already becoming, but the poems have given me the inspiration to inform the process in language. I have no doubt that, like all great literature, these poems can change a person's life in a heartbeat."
Housden believes that poetry sharpens our ability to pay attention to what is happening within us and outside us as the world presses itself into our consciousness. The ten poems in this volume are all about change change in ourselves, change in the universe, change in our hearts and minds. Housden begins with "Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII" by Rainer Maria Rilke which in its first line counsels:
"Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears."
Housden writes about the end of a love relationship and the changes that have rocked his life. He believes that this change, although painful, has helped him come to "a deeper tenderness in my own life." With Rilke, he advises us to embrace change.
Love compels us to change our ways as evidenced in "Gate C22" by Ellen Bass, which Housden calls "one of the more luscious and delightful poems I have ever read," and Jane Hirshfield's "Each Moment A White Bull Steps Shining Into the World." These poets admonish us to be open to love's erotic surprises and to the wildness that often accompanies our yearnings for others. Housden writes of the afterglow of Hirshfield's poem:
"The price of new life, of a sudden influx of possibility from a direction never contemplated, is always surrender. And surrender means not only relinquishing resistance as we are hit by the wave, but also having no agenda for the way it will all turn out. Otherwise, we would be bargaining, and surrender is never a bargain you would want to make."
The other poems in this collection explore the many different facets of personal change:
• Leonard Cohen's "Leaving Mt. Baldy" which delineates the nature of humility
• Marie Howe's "What the Living Do" which embraces the imperfections of the day
• Jack Gilbert's "A Brief for the Defense" which salutes the supreme value of attention
• David Whyte's "What to Remember When Waking" which challenges us to live wholeheartedly
• Hafiz's "With That Moon Language' which calls us to give free expression of our love
• St. Symeon the Theologian's "Awaken as the Beloved" which honors the presence of God in us
• C. P. Cavafy's "Ithaka" which embraces the journey