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Lions Roar : November 2015
time, and part of it is orality. Poetry is very old—it predates writing and literature. That’s also part of my linguistic and anthropology background—I learned to appreciate nonliterate cultures and prehistory, and what is now called deep history. Years ago when we were young, Jim Harrison and I did a poetry reading tour in upstate Michigan. It was a pilot program to see if poets in the schools might be a viable idea, to see if stu- dents would sit still and listen to poets talk about poetry. That was before Jim wrote short stories. The kids enjoyed it a lot. For one thing, we said bad words. Poetry gives you permission to say any kind of language, using any kind of grammar. One of my neighbors has been doing poetry classes for children for years. He says, “One of the first things I do is I tell all the children in the third grade, ‘Write a lie.’ They love it. They say, ‘You mean we can write something down that’s not true?’” It’s a wonderful permission. You’ve said that your new collection of poetry, This Present Moment, will be your last. Does that mean you’re not continuing to write poetry? You don’t plan to write poetry. If it comes to you, fine; if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. It took me ten years before I felt like I could let this collection go. I’ll be writing some more, of course, but I don’t think I’ll be putting together another collection. In fact, I’m gearing up to do a new prose book taken from a history of the environment of China I was working on in the 1970s. Most of it is already written. Its title is The Great Clod, which is a Chuang Tzu line. He was a contemporary of Lao Tzu’s, the other great creative Taoist writer. He says, “The great clod nourishes me, comforts me, chills me, feeds me. If I appreciate my life I should appreci- ate my death.” You also said that you weren’t sure if you liked This Present Moment. Have you made up your mind about its merits? Its strength is that I let it be imperfect. [Laughs] That’s what I’m learning. There’s a Japanese saying: “Imperfection is best.” That’s one of their aesthetic sayings. I decided I’m not going to hold it down to the line and get it just right. There are things in there that I don’t know what I think of. But people like it; I can see that. ♦ You don’t plan to write poetry. If it comes to you, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. naropa.edu/align align your future Nestled in the foothills of Boulder, Naropa University combines a Western liberal arts education with Eastern wisdom practices. Naropa offers accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificate programs in more than two dozen fields of study, including: 1000-hour Yoga Teacher Training, Art Therapy, Body Psychotherapy, Music, Performing Arts, Contemplative Psychology SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 75