Poet Daniel Ladinsky is said to be the top-selling poets in the country these days. This is quite an accomplishment in a society that would rather watch re-runs of Scandal than wax poetic. His renditions of Hafiz, Rumi and other poet saints (East and West) have been translated into seven languages and his lines are quoted by the big wigs of the new thought movement, by spiritual leaders and by just about everybody in between. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, says that The Gift (2011) is one of her top ten favorite books.
This Saturday, February 7 at 7 pm, Ladinsky and a cadre of poet/musician/artist friends, including local poet/author Lila Clay and musicians Kate Mann and Doug Goodhart, will take over Lenny Foster’s Living Light Gallery for an evening of Rumi, Hafiz and Cowgirl Poetry in Drag.” “Ten Bucks Sits Your Butt Down” says the flyer for the event. My guess is this is going to be a seat you are going to want to keep.
In preparation for the event and to find out more about this sometimes elusive writer who, rumor has it, is making Taos his home for the next year or so, I spoke recently with Ladinsky regarding Hafiz, some upcoming projects and what makes his pen, and his poetry, so darn powerful.
THE UTILITY OF POETRY QUESTION:
You have said (dove-tailing off of Hafiz) that you write “to serve/help the caravan (i.e. the world)” and you strive to make the poetry you write and render more accessible. How do you balance the utility with the mystery in writing a poem?
Daniel Ladinsky: I think a lot of people turn to art (and rely on it) as one can the beauty in nature or as one can a lover or a friend, or even a cherished pet. And just as one’s best friend or great parent or sibling will always be there for you, to me so too is Rumi and Hafiz or any great poem or a knock-out song. Art can be like a sun and parts of us are yearning worlds that need that vital light.
I have not really thought about the “mystery” in a poem, for I know pretty well the physics. I feel the best of poetry and literature is not so much a writing (working) up to achieve something─a goal or height-of-craft─but more of a bringing down of a perhaps extraordinary experience/feeling/insight and then presenting that in a way that does not bore and can intrigue and can offer something worthy of texting, tattooing or reading again at times in their life.
THE HAFIZ QUESTION:
Regarding the poetry of Hafiz, which you have been working with since you were 20, it is said that the poems you write based on his work are more renderings than interpretations or translations. How does this work? Does a particular poem spark your interest and you take it from there? Do you sit down and have a conversation with him like an old friend? Or is each circumstance is unique?
DL: In regards to this very important subject, I feel anything I would say should not be paraphrased or edited out of context and would be too long to print here if it was not edited. If any of your readers were really interested in my sincere thoughts and reply, I would suggest they read a short essay I posted at Amazon as a Reader’s Review for my best-selling Penguin book, The Gift (Penguin, 2011). The review, entitled My Portrait of Hafiz, is dated April 18, 2005. I feel this review addresses much of what you just asked me.
THE EDITING AND LETTING GO QUESTION:
When is a poem ready to be let loose into the world? How do you know when enough is enough?
DL: Well, with the some 1,000 poems I have published in six books, a clue to me of getting close to having the poem right/ready/cooked … would be a tear on my cheek or a nice chuckle.
THE COWBOY HAIKU QUESTION:
Do you wear a cowboy hat when writing cowboy haiku? (In other words, what inspired you/ inspires you to dive in to this different and unique take on this ancient literary art form? Any connection to cowboy poetry in general?)
DL: I (am working on) several haiku books. And also I claim (to be) able to qualify for that “real cowboy” status. And I think every great cowboy has a great cowgirl inside, a female Yoda counterpart, or maybe … even a feminine superior part and I felt she had something to say via Cowgirl Haiku … So I am giving her a chance. Why not? And she/me along with some wonderful full-blooded (real) female friends are doing pretty damn good.
THE TAOS QUESTION:
You usually spend time in your ranch in the Ozarks for inspiration, but I was told you have plans to stay in Taos for a while. Can you tell us what landed you here and why you are staying? Any past history with our great and eclectic part of the world or particular projects or collaborations you are working on that brought you here?
DL: I have a chance to get very involved with (be the primary director of) a series of films entitled The Mountains Hint at Our Beauty, Poetry-Music-Arts Film Series (the subtitle to the first is “This Precious Burning & Moments of Genius You Can Pawn”). With some great supporters of this series (which we have), we should be able to get the first two of these films into some lower-rung film festivals and then maybe take off from there. I feel there is a great deal of talent here in Taos that can be helpful to me with these films and some others book projects. And I am even thinking about buying an old-world little compound (with a couple dwellings on it) that was built back in the 40s and is on 3 acres and turn into a little art-film-poetry Danny in Wonderland and then incorporate that into a larger trust in the works called The Deer Valley Wildlife, Nature and Artist Trust (that would include my ranch in the Ozarks and a beautiful home I have on the East coast…and be fed by my books royalties that are now expected to last a long time).
Also, of the many places I have lived, sincerely, Taos is where I feel the most at home.
THE YOUNG POETS (AND EVERYONE ELSE) QUESTION:
You are aiming the work on the film at young poets in particular. If you could sum up your advice for young poets in one sentence, what would it be? On the flip side, our town is filled with not-so-young poets and poets-in-the-closet (and old-hack journalists who use to be poets, ha ha). Same question. One sentence. The best advice.
DL: Ask the moon or the earth, or a bird or Buddha, or your own heart for help. Then pick up a pen, pinch it in the ass the best you can, hell … it might dance!
For more information about “Rumi, Hafiz and Cowgirl in Drag” and other Ladinsky projects-in-the-works, please call (575) 737-9150.
Nikki Lyn Pugh writes for edible magazine, Taos News/Tempo and various other publications around the area. She also schleps herself out to good causes (and good people) every chance she gets as a marketing copywriter and book editor. More information can be found at www.asyourword.com.