I used to think of myself as a desert man, tramping the hot dry places of the world and relishing the whispering sands of the Sahara and the Mojave. It took the beauty of the valley of Hyampom in Trinity County, California, and especially the wild South Fork River, to soften me up and turn me into a mountain man. Of course we don't normally think of mountain men as soft; but the sound of rivers and the mountain mist have ways of penetrating a lot deeper than sun, sand and wind.

Some of the Beasts and Beloveds poems grew out of life in Hyampom. Other places I have lived and explored also make their appearance: Lake and Mendocino Counties - so much beauty and emptiness there! And beautiful on a gentler and more human level, Sonoma County. All in Northern California.


Some of my most memorable experiences, events that demanded verbal expression, were encounters with animals - when I was face to face with the sudden unknown of nature. It is not just the thrill of meeting bear and mountain lion . . . coyote, fox, eagle, peregrine - and phantom orchid - have all been catalysts for stopping and seeing clearly.


Music, particularly classical music, has always been an inspiration and a refuge. I am most in awe when listening to great music, and hold Mozart to be one awesome example of human creativity. In my writing I often make connections between music and everyday life and landscape; this planet is home to an amazing outpouring of creativity. I don't consider my own attempts to add soundtracks to my poems as musical. They are just mood setters. I have worked with real musicians once or twice, and look forward to more.

You are listening
to the music of
Silvia Nakkach.


Talking of which, I want to acknowledge the part that the music of Peter Makena has played in my life. Quite apart from the heart-easing beauty of his melodies and the sing-along happiness it has brought me so many times, his music is a demonstration of the principle that there really is no point in doing anything unless it comes from the heart. Peter has helped me make this a mantra of mine: without passion, it's worthless.

A couple of the poems refer indirectly to Pamela Wilson, a dear friend and guide who appeared when I was ready for a new way of seeing the world - one in which we may have our hands on the wheel, but someone else is steering the vehicle. She provided the setting and the encouragement to accept the implications of this view, and I am deeply grateful for her appearance and continuing presence.

But the man born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan, whom I knew as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and is now called Osho, was by far the most influential catalyst for my understanding and appreciation of the world. The depth of his understanding and expression was breathtaking, and the transformations that happened around him profound and lasting. (He also encouraged me to write poetry!) The mud of controversy surrounding his name is beginning to settle, but it could take a few more generations to see him clearly.


There is a restaurant in Graton in Sonoma County called the Willow Wood Market and Cafe. In the mid-nineties the proprietor, a lover of the word blessed with the name Lulu Spittles, graciously opened her place once a month on Sunday evenings for gatherings of writers and poets to read and listen. It was there I cut my poetic teeth. I nearly always came away amazed at the outpouring of local talent. Greg, for example, would pull a folded piece of paper from his back pocket and make jaws drop round the room. The WillowWood gathering has moved to Sebastopol Center for the Arts and morphed into Westword, but still meets once a month.

(Around that time I was a keen disciple of Natalie Goldberg's wildmind technique, and would meet with friends to write at café tables. One or two of the Beasts and Beloveds poems arose directly from ideas and images that flowed from those sessions.)

Another awesome unknown poet and multi-talented revolutionary of the heart, whom I think of as the Hafiz of our times, is Jeannie Zandi.

I have read and enjoyed many poems from the pool of published poets past and present, but it would be pretentious to list their names. It would give the idea that I have read enough of their poems to know them in the way I have listened to enough Bach or Mozart to know them. I haven't. So I am only going to mention Dylan Thomas, whose love of sound and rhythm, and whose Welsh sentimentality, I return to again and again, and the English nature poets . . .

. . . and T.S. Eliot. When I reread T.S. Eliot I am embarrassed to realize how much of him there is in my poems, almost to the point of plagiarism. There was a time when he was 'it' for me. These days I see him very much as a man of his time, unable to break free from the habits of church and intellect, and have less reverence for his classical obscurity and gloomy style.

The Beloved

It is clear to me that the source of inspiration is a mystery - the Beloved of Rumi and Hafiz - and I don't have much patience for writers who don't acknowledge this, who think they are the authors of their work, or whose ambition is literary or academic - for whom it is enough to write a poem or a novel that compares favorably to their literary heroes or heroines. I am not a writer in that sense, and therefore perhaps not a writer at all. There is of course poetry of such beauty that it invokes that mystery - and then there is poetry just for fun, and children's poetry, and humorous poetry, and political poetry, each with its role to play. But I am most deeply satisfied by writing that points to the ineffable outside itself. That's the Beloved.

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