Incense and poetry

incense-trayOne of the most popular units in the Introduction to Chado class is the Incense and Poetry night. Even the more experienced students come back to participate with the new students. It is a fabulous and emotional night of listening to the incense, composing and sharing poetry and of course sweets and tea.incense1

We prepare the wood incense (jinko) by burying a live coal in ash, and put the mica plate on top.  It is a personal way to enjoy listening to the incense.  As the wood is heated, the volatile oils are released and we can smell the wonderful fragrance.  It changes over time, with the first notes giving way to middle and finally deeper notes.incense2

Because the sense of smell is one of the more primitive senses, it does not have a direct path to the verbal part of the brain, so it is difficult for people to describe or talk about what they are smelling.   When we express ourselves in poetry, it involves other parts of our brain.incense3

We had three different wood incense chips, and after each participant had a chance to listen 3 times, they could begin to compose their poem inspired by the incense.  After everyone is finished composing, we share the poems.incense

With permission, I am publishing the poems composed that night.

red poplar melting
sweet ash asunder, hold me
in your nighted gaze

Delicate splinter
Decomposition’s glory
3 breaths, one long sigh

Aged wooden footsteps
Still but felt across the rush
Warm embers, cool snow

High in the mountain
Smelling the wind in pines
I float with the birds
And feel the sun warm me

Spicy, a market
forgotten, lands far away,
bells ring in the breeze

Ambient temple floors
echoing the footsteps of
all who once tread there

Smoke swirling in air
children laughter
Christmas is a delight

Sweet breeze
on top of the hot desert rocks
I’m a firefly resting

opal sand filling
air with time and time again
is the dust of you

Bright yellow stillness of galleries
Salty splintered wood
odd early season twilight

Elusive tendrils
Journey amongst my senses
Evoke memories
And bring presence

Fruit and flower buds
Delicate scents fill my mind
Sweet and intricate

Grandmother’s cupboard
collected years of bits and bobs
missing Montana

Apricot blossoms
wind kicks up a flurry
first spring berry crisp

In a cave the water rushes
all the muddy prints dry
in the hot bonfire
under the foggy moon

Listening to the incense, with just a few minutes, a conducive atmosphere, appreciative guests, it is a great inspiration for poetry.


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    • admin on March 12, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Thank you for your comment. It was lovely and inspirational. Next time you come to visit we can do it together.

    • Holly on March 11, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Lovely! And very inspirational.

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