Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ramadan Sonnets | Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Ramadan SonnetsJEALOUS LOVER

The fast is also like
being so wracked with love
you can't eat. Tossed and
wrenched and high and dry with
single-minded devotion and expectation that no single

bite or sip can pass our lips, our
eyes are parched, throat dry,
head gone elsewhere almost entirely, and

only with extreme concentration can we
perform our usual tasks with anything
like normality.

It sweeps us off our feet. It's
bigger than we are. It goes
off with all our thoughts.

It's a jealous lover.
HIS GENEROUS PLEASURE

... Passion is a gift
we return to the Giver
in full enjoyment
of His generous
pleasure.

1.
"Ramadan Sonnets" is one of the most cited work of poetry of contemporary American poet and essayist Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore (born 1940), who is also referred as "American Islam's poet laureate."

About the HISTORY AND BACKDROPS of the Ramadan Sonnets, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore mentions: "At the beginning of Ramadan 1406 (May, 1986), living in California by the Pacific Ocean, having experienced about sixteen Ramadans up to that point (in such remote places as England, Morocco, Spain and Nigeria), I made a prayer and intention to open myself to inspiration to write at least one poem every day or night of the fast as a poetic record, no matter what my state.

The title "Ramadan Sonnets" came to me, and I liked the clash and melding of cultural meanings in the pairing of the words "Ramadan" and "sonnets," there being no sonnet form as we know it in Arabic, nor in any of the usual Muslim languages such as Urdu or Farsi – their own strict, traditional forms being even more exacting than most of those for English in regards to rhyme and meter, though their languages offer more possibilities for rhyme than English. The undertaking was meant as an artful focus for meditation, a way of establishing a heart-space for the very personal experience of Ramadan itself, charting my own ups and downs, as the month progressed.

Daniel Abdal Hayy MooreAt the end of the month I had a poem for almost each day with a few lapses, and in many cases two or three, some long, some short (one only three lines long), and only a scattering of poems in traditional western sonnet form – although I hasten to point out that "sonnet" really just means "little song." Most of these poems were written in the Open Form of contemporary American poetics, punctuated by occasional formal sonnets that have rhyme and meter and thus act almost as sung refrains.

Not always a spiritual meditation, nor often even what should be felt and achieved in the fast (I was striving for some reality of feeling and experience), the resulting Ramadan Sonnets are a poetic record of the month, its small epiphanies and grim endurances, heading out from its physical constraints to contemplate a vast panorama, or focusing in on particulars, those embryos of explosive meaning, to evoke the blessed month of Ramadan’s intertwining flavors of asceticism and sensual gratitude, its palatable and palpable Light." (text credit)

2.
In many ways the collection of poems in Ramadan Sonnets is a treasure house of sweet embrace of the most holy month in Islamic calendar. These poems comes from the depth of someone who has arrived at the understanding of what it really means about the spiritual practice of fasting. In the introduction of the book its evident also when he says, "... For the fast locates us in time and space, on earth, among phenomena, in order to free us from phenomena altogether so that our hearts and souls might concentrate more fully on the Unseen Reality of God. It is truly a wonder, full of mystery - that such a seemingly little thing as not eating or drinking can have such a deep inner resonance, and that, though physiological, it should be a shared spiritual experience by all the Muslims on earth, an existential, objective task that is meant to bring about a Humanity of Light."

Some of the poems are exalted praise of the Most High in his beautiful poetic expressions where 'the theme of Ramadan' sounds like just an excuse for the exaltation. The poem His Audible Silence is one such remembrance poem.

God from First to Last is always the same.
Volcanoes erupt, tidal waves flash, cities disappear.
Each thing that happens is an appearance of His Name
rotating into action in this visible sphere.

... No thing that's added adds to Him a thing
He in His audible silence makes all life sing.

Daniel's personal experiences around the experience of Ramadan comes vivid in these poems. I loved the fact that he mentioned (Half-Day's Delight) how his 9 years old son fast for half a day.

Some of his poems in this collection are so rich that one needs to sip very slowly to adjust with their gravity. Apprehension is one such poem. Moore is also very successful in converting sufi metaphors and stories into poetic expression, almost like magic. Inestimable Water is a poem that takes world tour of Ramadan experiences. Poet's personal experience of fasting from Morocco to Berkeley California to Nigeria to Cordoba Spain, all fragrance comes alive in here.

Ramadan House Guest is an excellent example of Daniel's poetic genius, creative imagination and like many of his other poems it is infused with terms that reminds of Quranic passages and life of Prophet. Its worth mentioning that The Private Apartments is the 49th chapter of Quran (Al-Hujurat).

Ramadan has come to live with us.
It is God's private apartments
moved into our house
and taking over.
Where the doors were
are now entranceways into His Garden.
Where windows were are
continuous waterfalls.

... Our house is His. Its guests
belong to Him. The
repast is His, the
withholding and giving is
He alone.

Moses and the Saint is a very powerful sufi tale transformed into a magical work of poetry. A personal favorite. The audio of its recitation is available via IslamiCity. An Explanation of the Reason for the Fast is like a sufi metaphor of the genesis of fasting. The famous saying of the Prophet, "Die before you Die" a beloved hadith to sufis of all ages is given a whole new dimension of meaning, a new poetic interpretation if you like, in the poem titled with the same heading. The poem ends like this:

If we could see our real deaths we might die.
To die while still alive wakes up the eye.

Overall 'Ramadan Sonnets' by Daniel Moore has 63 plus 1, total 64 sonnets. A rich, nourishing supplement for Ramadan fasting for those who wish to dive into the sweetness of it. These are poems, and more that poems; these are litanies, these are remembrance and these are ecstatic exaltation in the realm of the Presence.

3.
PRAISE FOR 'RAMADAN SONNETS'

To read Moore is to journey. Going with him we ask, "Where are we? What world? What America? Who is a Muslim? Who am I?" Strange places, but Moore is a sure hand on the reins, making the Ramadan Sonnets a pilgrim's guide to exploration of intercultural, traditional and ultra-postmodern transpersonal space. - Professor Alan 'Abdal-Haqq Godlas

Poet's pen soar when they are free but disappear when they are effective. Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore's poems soar long after the ink has dried and the pen lifted. From feasts in Fez to desserts in the desert, Abdal-Hayy takes us on a trip of which the best guide happens to be a consummate poet. He is that guide. - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson

Anyone who dives into the essence of religion gets sweetness from it. That's what I feel in this poetry. Daniel Moore has combined the strong and spontaneous strain of American free verse that flows up through Whitman, Williams and Ginsberg with the deep well of his Islamic devotion. The blending is a unique and very tasty series of fasting poems! He's definitely located the water table. - Coleman Barks

4.
SPECIAL RAMADAN OFFER

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore’s Ramadan Sonnets, are available with a CD with 29 of the poems read by the author (plus a bonus Ramadan poem not from the book), at a special Ramadan price of $15.00 + postage, via PayPal, check or money order. Also during this Ramadan, you may obtain any of Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore’s books at a special offer directly from the poet. Visit here for details.

[>] You may listen to sample readings from the Ramadan Sonnets here. Also a video recitation of the poet from Ramadan Sonnets: titled Love.

[>] Daniel Abdal-Hayy publishes his poem and video recitation @ his blog: Ecstatic Exchange

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