Book Review by Dana Taylor
Poetry rarely has spoken to my soul, thrilled me with insights, or caused me to sigh. While Rumi and Hafiz have inspired generations of mystics, I’ve sadly been excluded from the club. The last book of poetry I purchased was by Rod McKuen, circa 1970. So it was highly unusual for a poem on my Facebook timeline to grab my attention enough to make me order the book. And I’m so glad I did.
The book is entitled SUSCEPTIBLE TO LIGHT and the poet is CHELAN HARKIN. A sparkling delight in the Divine chimes through the pages, filled with awareness of how much we are missing. Here’s an example:
YOUR OWN DAMN JOY
The price of admission
is your own damn joy.
Please stop denying yourself this
and please stop telling yourself
you’ll only (maybe) get there when you die—-
go there now!
What kind of damn fool
puts off heaven?
Child, it lives in the center of your heart
that endless meadow of happiness and praise.
This world needs you to go there now
to do your part in turning it
into a paradise.
Harkin celebrates the natural world designed by a loving Mother/Father Creator who is shouting at us to look around and revel in the marvelous Universe. She wiggles heavenly hips, serves up buttery potatoes, opens petals to the light. She sees the tragedy of an obtuse humanity and reveals the simple solution.
THE WORST THING
The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach,
pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement through everything
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.
The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its ecstatic yowl,
The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing
in this universe
available to every soul
in every breath
Who is this Chelan Harkin? An Internet search pops up her Inner Spirit Hypnotherapy website, where she offers her healing services as a hypnotherapist. Her Facebook pages place her in Washington state and show precious photos of her year old daughter. Her popularity as a poet is obviously on the rise, I suspect largely through WOM (word-of-mouth), which is the very best kind of publicity. She’s maxed out her personal page at 5,000 friends and has migrated to her Chelan Harkin Poetry page.
SUSCEPTIBLE TO LIGHT appears to be self-published, with a second book coming out soon. I expect Ms. Harkin will soon have mainstream media knocking at her door. At a time when the world is coming out of darkness and gloom, Harkin offers an exuberant clarion call to celebrate life, love, and all creation.
Purchase Susceptible to Light at Amazon
art by Sokal Selmani, Image shared from The Cosmic Dancer
I spent some time this morning with poet Katherine T. Owen. No, we didn’t have breakfast together. Katherine lives in England and I’m in Los Angeles. I happened upon her small collection of poems via my Kindle. I have an Internet relationship with Katherine, of sorts. We met through a writing contest for spiritual authors and felt a kinship, though we’ve never exchange a word. With little fanfare Katherine has published Be Loved, Beloved—14 Spiritual Poems. I spent my morning quiet time seeped in Katherine’s words.
Her poems were forged in the midst of deep personal struggle. As a young woman Katherine was incapacitated through a disease known as M.E.—Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. In her words “I…spent fourteen years bedbound with little movement and little speech…My life took on two sides: the difficult circumstances in which I was living—fighting to survive, and the rich, although initially also grueling, spiritual journey.”
While the doctors may have called Katherine’s disease M.E, her poems reveal a major blockage of divine love as her true dis-ease. For whatever reason, Katherine deemed herself unloveable. From her sparse words emerges the picture of a woman who had the wall between God and herself removed, one revelation at a time. One poem at a time.
One thing that struck me was the stripping of ego in the work. Most of us have a comfy ego façade, but weakness and disease tore Katherine’s away. Her poems come from the heart.
It’s a short piece, easily read in half an hour, but the beauty of poetry is its ability to be fresh with each reading, like listening to a favorite song over and over. Be Loved, Beloved is a precious little tome to be revisited time and again.