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Tamsin Smith Headshot

Of Odes and Oms

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This Sunday -- day of rest for the restless - I'm signed up to take a yoga class for writers. I love the idea of unleashing my imagination while aligning my spine. Time to get limber, physically and lyrically. Enter me, muse, through the sweat of my arm balance, the tears of my back bend. Deliver me from distraction and ennui, that I may find stillness in sequence, flow in a single ah! bright breath.

It used to be that writing came most easily to me in times of turbulence. The ink seemed to burst best as my heart did the same. For what is creativity at its core but some ancient limbic urge to feel pleasure and solve problems? But these days, I find words pouring into and out of me at all times. Surprising this, especially, as calm is the pervasive element in what has been a lifescape of topographical diversity. I still have highs and lows, but the delta between is slim. Life is groovy indeed, and even more so, as I find creativity also abounds in this space.

So why a class? Well, why not. There is always much more to be learned, explored, and shared, especially from a great teacher, who one admires -- physically and lyrically. But I do have a specific charge in mind. While prose and commentary come quite easily to me, writing poetry presents a steeper challenge. Partially, it's because verse is so important to me that I struggle with the thought of putting forth mediocre poems. I think it's less about my ego and more about wanting to honor more adequately the greatness of the art.

Sure, I write poetry as mode of personal expression. But, in another circle of my soul, I strive to craft verse as a prayer offered in respect for the illimitable power that a true poem conjures. One example: the briefest lines from Auden can bring me to my knees in awe. "Lay your sleeping head, my love,/Human on my faithless arm..." Another: I spent a night last week with Craig Arnold's final collection, entranced by the spell of his woven words. "But the heart loves the sound of its own breaking/It circles itself in a knot of ice and glass and steel/a kaleidoscope that she never tires of turning over..."

I could list thousands of lines that slice me to the core in the most delicious of ways. That's why I mostly write about poetry -- to pass on the pleasure. But, this Sunday, with the help of the magical and marvelous mojo master Mark Morford, I've decided to work on unlocking my own poems, as he guides us back and forth from our mats to our notebooks. Each of my vinyasa-loosened jottings will be offered as a love letter to the poets who have brought me immeasurable joy through the grace of their touch. I will dedicate my practice and what ever arises from it to them with appreciation, rather than self-judgment.

For so much of yoga is about finding one's own unique expression in a common and repeated pose. Form -- whether the asanas of yoga or the meter and rhyme of verse -- is a container that allows us to open up. Oh, blessed paradox. Our fullest selves coaxed from a crucible of constraint. We need those challenges, however, to teach us what we're capable of, to show us what we have to give, and to remind us that we stand on the shoulders of giants... and that they too were human, they too walked the path, stumbled, suffered, and still kept reaching towards us. Reach back, feel them move in you, let them move through you.

Listen to Rainer Maria Rilke: "beyond your own life build the great arch of unimagined bridges...only in bright and purely granted achievement can we realize the wonder...Take your practiced powers and stretch them out..."