Preface: Selected Poems 2012

Sunburst over Oak, Calero County Park (2012)

    The cover photo "Sunburst over Oak" was taken by Los Cerritos Pond during a hike at Calero County Park, San Jose on October 7, 2012. I was trying to capture the flaming clouds over the hill, and was not aware of the sunburst over the oak until seeing this photo. It was used in the poem "Silence Is Golden", the title for this year's selected poems.

    I didn't write my first poem until March 7 this year for two reasons. After auditing Stanford Poetry Workshops for five years (2007-2011) with the kind generosity of Robert Pinsky, Robert Bly, Mark Doty, Kay Ryan, and Stephen Dobyns, they also asked me to participate by writing poems or essays. So lots of poems flowed out during the first three months. I could not get into Stanford Poetry Workshop this year. The visiting poet Louise Glück said she has a strict rule of not letting anyone auditing her class. So I left without a word. The second reason was moving after living at Cypress Lodge Apartments in Mountain View for 15 years. The management sold to a new owner, who decided to renovate the 60 studio apartments in the complex. Even though I wished to stay, they said everyone had to move out during the renovation. A friend found a one-bedroom apartment for me near Grant Road at double my previous rent, near shopping centers and the bus lines. So I moved there on December 30-31 with the help of friends. With over 150 boxes of books, magazines, and computer printouts, I didn't have ready access to my usual reference sources for writing poems after the move.

    The first poem "Staying For One Night" was inspired after attending Professor Tom Hare's Stanford lecture "A Place for the Mind" and a 7th century conversation between Zen Master Hui-neng and monk Yung-chia's visit. "NBA 2012 Slam Dunk Contest: Knicks Would Have Won" and "Linsanity" were inspired by the heroics of Jeremy Lin winning basketball games for the New York Knicks. "Joyfulness in the Spring" is a response poem to Emily Dickinson's Poem #1333 "Madness in the Spring" prompted by Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comics (March 21, 2012).

    "Mountain of Bliss" was inspired by the image of Giacometti's Walking Man in the Swiss 100 francs banknote that Steve Gould sent me. It led to a 1914 China $1 banknote showing a landscape transporting me to Omei Shan and meeting Chinese poets Wang Wei & Su Tung-po. "Four-Day Old Bully Baby Falcon" was written after seeing a live webcam of four baby falcons born on Easter Sunday and their nest on the rooftop of San Jose City Hall. "Gemstones for Healing" was prompted by Dr. John DeSalvo's radio interview on "Power of Crystals" and his experience shopping for gemstones. "Seagull Circus Show" was inspired by a seagull after missing my bus to Waverley Writers June Poetry Reading.

    "Nik Wallenda Niagara Tightrope Walk" was written after watching the high-wire artist's breathtaking tightrope walk across the widest part of Niagara Falls. Watching the rebroadcast on ABC, I took screen shots of Nik's 25-minutes walk and cropped them in Photoshop. It is interesting that the photos of Nik's walk at the beginning showed his stride (07:36 and 07:39) in the shape of the Platonic Lambda, Λ, "Soul of the Universe"— surely an auspicious blessing.

    "What Do You Ride?" was inspired by a query in Lew Welch's Ring of Bone (1973) on what do you ride in the mountain. While going to several hikes this year in the redwoods and Bay Area Open Space Preserve trails, I thank my flexible Puma shoes for carrying me many miles in the last fifteen years so comfortably across hills and rugged terrains. Other images of riders came while hiking and writing this poem. "Nature's Miracles: Most Massive to the Minute" was prompted by two news stories on 9-21-2012— "Elephant Makes Quite The Impression" and "Underwater crop circles from Japan". This poem is a meditation on nature's miracles from massive planets to tiny electrons. It also attempts to answer the riddle on whether our universe was created effortlessly or with great toil.

    "Geese Playing Chicken: V-Formation Collision" was written after seeing Bob Thaves' "Frank & Ernest" October 2, 2012 comics, "How about that? Geese playing chicken!" Since the geese were not really flying in the V-formation but the Λ-formation, symbolizing the "World Soul" (Plato's Timaeus 41c), I wondered what's the outcome when World Souls come in collision. The answer is a surprise, courtesy of recent data from the Hubble Space Telescope. “Silence Is Golden” was inspired by my friend's frequent remark when we're hiking. During our walk at Calero County Park on October 7, 2012, I began contemplating on the nature of silence, recalling what sages said about silence— that it is our true essence, the precious presence, absolute absence, the Pure Consciousness that is gold.

    On a Russian Ridge hike "Big Sky Beauty" (10-28), we were told to bring nature poems to share. I recalled Portola Redwoods State Park (7-1-2012) with triangular Λ-top redwoods breathing air and Λ-bottom goosepen carved by fire. There is even a Λ-middle "vanishing point" as these redwoods soar to the sky. These images of Platonic Lambda or "World Soul" in the tallest living things on earth inspired "Coast Redwoods" that was written between 1 am and 6 am the night before the hike. "San Francisco Giants Victory Parade" was written after viewing the 130 photos taken October 31, 2012 by San Jose Mercury News photographers during Giants Victory Parade in San Francisco. Because the parade was on Halloween, I surmised it was the Great Pumpkin and the Great Spirit blessing these Giants to their miraculous victories.

    "Insights at a Sage's Bathroom Sink" captures a moment 36 years ago (August 1976) at Paul Brunton's home in Blonay, Switzerland. It suddenly dawned upon me now that PB's reprimand "Don't splash too much when using the sink" may be interpreted on four levels according to Dante (Convivio II.1). It was a challenge finding a mug with water and AIM toothpaste to simulate the sink in PB's bathroom using Photoshop to illustrate this poem. Still have to write a book that we need not go outside to discover our true nature, for "I am" is already within "Aim".

    "Platonic Lambda Light" came as I was walking to Foothill College Middlefield Campus Computer Lab. Passing by Room C-6 (Foothill College EMT Paramedics), I noticed a patch of light shaped like the Platonic Lambda "World Soul". So I tell myself not to step on it. As I'm exploring inside Room C-6, looking for the source of this light, I thought of Carbon with its atomic number 6, the backbone of proteins and life. Since 6 is the first perfect number, C-6 could represent Perfect Pure Consciousness. While thinking about these symbols, I saw the gap on the roofside where sunlight made this lambda light. This gave me the perfect ending to the poem.

    "Be Thankful" was inspire by Patrick McDonnell's comics Mutts (11-23-2012). It was written during my half-hour walk to the Mountain View Post Office on Castro Street, the day after Thanksgiving. After picking up my review copy of "What Am I?", I thought of the Shaker song "Simple Gifts" that was used by Aaron Copland for Martha Graham's dance Applachian Spring. After attending Dr. Victoria Sweet's talk "God's Hotel" at Stanford (12-5-2012), I was inspired to write "Physician Treating Patient"— Is our body like a machine or a plant to be treated by a mechanic or a gardener when we're ill? Recalling Tibetan Master Zi Sheng Wang's Stanford lecture (4-20-2005), it occurred to me that our body is a mysterious miracle filled with rainbow light. "Rally Squirrel Baseball Card" was inspired by the first baseball card issued without the player's face on it. Topps card #93 showed only a squirrel running by Skip Schumaker's cleats. The Cardinals 2011 World Series ring also had the squirrel that was added to this poem.

    As this year comes to a close, I'm thankful for some spiritual messages coming my way. On Sunday, October 28, I received a long distance phone call from UK. Rose Wilde said the emails she sent to didn't go through (my InBox was full). She wanted to write me after reading about my web page on Wei Wu Wei. She and her husband had met this Irish sage in Monte Carlo and their email to my Yahoo account the next day arrived with photos of their meeting. They also told me about Alfred Aiken whose writings were most enlightening. On November 23, I picked up a review copy of Galen Sharp's book "What Am I?" that David Rivers sent to me (November 9). Galen was a student/pen pal of Terrence Gray (Wei Wu Wei), and I'm reading his wonderful book on non-volitional living. On December 13, I received an email from Ken Norton thanking me for finding the source of Einstein's quote on my web site. It was great reading about William Hermanns' "Einstein & the Poet" (1983). May the poems written this year bring as much illumination as the precious gifts coming to me.

                                                              Peter Y. Chou
                                                              Mountain View, December 14, 2012

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (12-14-2012)