Photo: Hindu Sadhus
In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me.
“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”
One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
'Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women'
By Jane Hirshfield (Editor)
Edited by poet and Zen devotee Hirshfield (see The October Palace , below), this anthology collects poetry by women from 43 centuries and many countries that speaks to matters of the spirit, from an Osage woman's planting initiation song ("I have made a footprint, a sacred one") to Maria de' Medici's poem to the virgin ("We mortals reign but over dreams and shadows") to the musings of medieval martyrs and fully lay contributions from Marina Tsvetaeva, H.D. and Emily Dickinson. The poems, whether deriving from oral or written tradition, are ecstatic in the original sense of the word, that of being placed outside the body; they express the wish for reunion with a deity, whether manifested in a mystical, human or natural form. One of the remarkable aspects of the volume is the tendency of the poetry to embrace the sacred and the worldly simultaneously. Another is the power of the women's emergent conversation: though they are separated by vast distances of eon and geography, the collective energy of their monologues is transformative. Especially notable are work by Mirabai (1498-1565?), a northern Indian bhakti poet; many other Asian writers are represented. The translators include Hirshfield, Arthur Waley, Langston Hughes, Robert Bly and A. K. Ramanujan. Hirshfield has provided excellent introductory notes for all of the writers.
'Efforts to explore the poetry of the sacred have focused primarily on the writings of male poets in the recent Judeo-Christian tradition. Recently, some collections have brought in a few women and have broadened their coverage to include other periods and cultures, most notably The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell. But Hirshfield's current collection brings together poems exclusively by women, poems in which, as Hirshfield tells us in the preface, "spiritual experience and spirit (in the sense of animating courage) seem to go together." Here is an astonishing array of women writers from the 22nd century B.C.E. poet Enheduanna to Nelly Sachs and Anna Akhmatova. Clear, readable translations are provided where appropriate, many of them the work of the editor, a poet herself. Highly recommended for all libraries with any interest at all in poetry.'
(Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward)