Beloved, a term one usually reserves for the ultimate love of one’s life, is often used in Sufi poetry to refer to God. I learned this recently when I met Asheville poet Tracey Schmidt. I had the luxury of not only hearing Tracy read her work (from memory, mind you), but I also learned from her about the Sufi poet Hafiz. If you are not familiar with Hafiz, he is worth a google search for sure. I will let you do you own search, but the one thing that I want to relay, which appeals to me personally as a poet who often attempts to merge the sublime with the mundane, is that Hafiz and I have something in common. In his work, Hafiz attempts to bring both the spiritual and physical world together. He wants to take that which often seems so very far away — the spiritual — and intermingle it with the physical, everyday things of life. What a wonderful idea and what a task.
Tracey’s book, …..I have fallen in love with the world… is a lovely book not only for its poetry but also for its overall aesthetic. Tracey, a photographer, has included photographs along with a mix of paper types that gives this Spirit-motivated book of poems an ethereal feel. The poem that speaks to me the most, and ironically one that has an image in it that I would suggest be removed in any other setting, is “It’s Me.” The poem is a very short narrative, and the images include a crying Beloved, “love jewels,” a “memory box,” and a “rock split in two.” What does not seem to fit initially, but what makes the poem embody both the spiritual and physical, is the image of a coffee break.
I almost laughed when I came to the coffee break image, which follows a rather serious opening of the Beloved crying over the speaker of the poem who refuses to relent to the great love about to be poured out upon her. The reason I stifled a chuckle is that Tracey was always the one to make sure the coffee was on at the event we attended together. But, and more importantly, this poem speaks a great truth to me: we are spiritual beings given the gift of living in the physical world, which is often a challenge. Even so, the first thing I want each day after I pull myself from the bed is a good cup of coffee (well, it doesn’t really have to be good — just hot). So the fact that a poem with God in it about to unleash amazing amounts of goodness and light has a coffee break is incredibly comforting to me. It means I can experience the Divine even as I go about mundane aspects of my daily life. Wow.
Another poem that brings in the very real challenge of the everyday is “It’s In the Silence.” This poem reminds me of the challenges of meditation — that how sitting still in silence often begins with a million thoughts that create “Our mystical need to / Run like hell / From ourselves.” Once again, the poet has interrupted an almost-mystical moment to insert the real-ness of life, and then leads the reader back to a spiritual calm.
I look forward to reading more of Tracey’s work. ….I have fallen in love with the world… is a lovely collection of poems that I will keep by my bed to accompany my morning coffee. The Irish saying, “All poetry is prayer,” is one of the opening quotes in Tracey’s book, and reading her work is like having both a sip of coffee and offering up a prayer.
If you’d like to contact Tracey Schmidt, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.