Michael Robbins’ latest book of poems and paintings is a gift to those who are nourished by the art of spirit. Like sunlight through the trees, this work shines, quietly beautiful and natural. A joy to read!
Sharon Salzberg, author of Loving-Kindness and Real Happiness
Yes! Is a full-throated celebration of Being. Michael’s poetry and painting are spiritual embodiment: presence recorded as whole beingness in the world — unsplit, unapologetic, and unabashed in their naked encounter with the fullness of human intimacy, boldness, sensuality, and freedom. Michael has expertly and deftly joined his twin muses in an open and flowing dialogue of depth and sensitivity, humor and candor, exuberance and light.
Jeff Perrot, Artist
These poems and images leap from the page to touch heart, mind, and soul. From mystic longing to earthy wit, the universe of this work is irreverent, passionate, and alive.
Bestselling author: The New Rules of Marriage
This book is a transmission of a consciousness that seamlessly holds both the deep stillness of luminous emptiness and the fully embodied vitality of a unique and colorful life. In words and images, Michael takes us from the arms of the Divine Beloved to the finite joys and difficulties of loving real people and places. A compelling celebration of the journey of Being and Becoming filled with wisdom, compassion and presence.
Thomas Hubl, author of Sharing the Presence
Making poems is an act of love, faith – unstinting beauty- and wild truth. Michael Robbins has done a brilliant job of it in YES! Robbins’ work fuses spiritual practice, boho artist, fathering and long married life into laser-light insights of clean, well-crafted language. These are poems of passionate, alert wisdom, deliciously rich in all the important questions. The paintings are juicy, alive…and complement the poems perfectly.
Judyth Hill, Poet
I have just published a new book of poems and paintings called “Yes! Poems and Paintings by Michael Robbins”. It is 248 pages long and contains more than 100 new poems as well as 31 paintings. If you would like to purchase a copy please follow this link: http://yes-poemsandpaintings.com/
Here is the foreword from the book to whet your apetite! Enjoy!
Entering the creative process is like diving into a rushing river. I have no idea where it will take me. I begin by throwing colors and textures onto the canvas to create a dynamic surface. Similarly, if I am writing, I allow the words and images to tumble out and trust that somewhere in my unconscious is the seed of a poem. Soon shapes emerge that swirl into a beginning organization. At this point I start to serve the innate intelligence of a creative process and listen acutely to what it has to say. Sometimes what emerges is literal, sometimes it is abstract. The important thing is that it has its own internal coherence and dynamism. Sometimes I lose the thread of a painting or poem and can’t find it again. These still-born creative journeys become materials for new adventures. A creative dialogue is a love relationship. Each piece is a conversation with the Muse that records our lovemaking, our fights and our repairs. If I force my image on her, I pay a price in a loss of vitality and spontaneity. This is like life. Whenever I think I know what my life should look like, God surprises me. It is only in this attitude of openness and discovery that I feel truly alive.
Good poetry is philosophy made vibrant, colorful, and alive. A poem is a reflection on a life’s journey that distills the wisdom, joy and hard won lessons of a unique pilgrimage. Every poem is a partial perception of a great diamond of human experience that conveys one aspect of a unity that is infinitely complex and ultimately ineffable.
Good painting is a sensual and direct response to the roller coaster of impressions that make up the fabric of our lives. A painting is a colorful, textured dialogue with the rhythm and vitality of the life force in all its myriad forms.
Both modalities are a record of consciousness stretching to contain the dynamic ground of our Being. This dynamic ground is a seamless unity of form and formlessness, stillness and movement, light and dark, connection and aloneness. The artistic sensibility must reach from the heights of spiritual ecstasy and communion with “All That Is”, to the cry of our lost selves that are stuck in disillusionment and alienation in a world that we cannot really understand.
Since the publication of my first book of poems, “Love Like This”, in 2005, life has brought me many lessons. My parents have gotten older. Medically, my father has fought himself back from the brink of dying more times than I can count. His indomitable will to live astounds me, as does my mothers unshakable love for him. Our daughter has grown up and is now living a successful life of her own in Ithaca, NY. Shepherding her through her adolescence and the struggles of young adulthood was both difficult and wonderful. Four years ago, the young man that she had fallen in love with in high school died suddenly and tragically. Unwinding the emotional earthquake of this was painful, difficult and ultimately led to tremendous growth for all of us. About two and a half years ago, my wife was in a severe car accident while she was teaching in Haiti. She is fully recovered, but it scared the dickens out of me and made me appreciate the fragility of our lives with great immediacy. I have also watched several close friends go through painful divorces that brought up questions about our relationship. We went through a rocky period as well, but thankfully we are now more stable and deeply connected than ever. Perhaps as a result of all of this, I experienced my own dark night that took a year to climb out of. Visiting the depths of despair and existential anxiety brought me to my knees and deeply humbled me in a way that no other experience has. Coming out of it has made me appreciate the resilience and truth of who we really are in a way that is bone deep.
On the spiritual side of things, I continue to be profoundly committed to my Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Taoist internal energy and sitting meditation practices. I have also joined a spiritual school based on the Diamond Heart approach of A.H. Almaas. Slowly, as I do this work, a certain restless itch seems to be leaving me. Sometimes I miss that restless guy, but I am pleased about the inner peace, self-acceptance and centeredness that I feel. The pressure to prove myself is gone and I feel that I am creating and working more from a sense of fullness, clarity and presence than ever before.
In the midst of all of these experiences, many of the understandings that I expressed in my first book of poetry continue to resonate. A lot of the themes in these poems are the same. I am still writing about my relationship with the Divine, about the paradox of our deep connection and dependency on each other and our existential aloneness, about the tension between love and grief, and about joy. And I am still writing about sexuality and my sensual connections with people and nature, about time, death and the limitations of living in a physical body, and about the struggle to live a life that is truly honest and authentic. I am still deeply committed to exploring the height and depth and breadth of everything that life and consciousness has to offer. And I am still deeply informed by Taoist, Sufi and Buddhist practice.
The paintings that I have included in this book are my visual responses to the pilgrimage of my life. Here the language is color, texture and the dynamic push and pull of a composition over a two dimensional plane. The surface records my visceral, juicy, mysterious, and dynamic dance with the creative muse. Painting is an emotionally evocative record of my journey in a modality that can never fully be captured in words. In some of the paintings I have collaged poetry directly into the painting. In others, I have deliberately paired the image with a short poem that I wrote while looking at the finished painting. In some cases the painting is only loosely associated with the poem that faces it. My hope is that the paintings give you a deeper and more complete entry into my creative world than the poems by themselves.
In many ways, these poems and paintings are a record of my personal answer to one simple and profound question: “What is true?” from moment to moment. The answer to this question is a constantly emerging kaleidoscope that reaches from the universal to the deeply personal. My intention is to let the rhythm of my unconscious guide my process rather then the narrative structures and already decided agendas of my linear mind. In this way “What is true?” is a constantly emerging, present-centered, and presence-filled process.
So these poems and paintings are about saying “Yes!” to “All of It”. Yes! to ecstasy, pain, love and grief, to the deep stillness of Buddha’s empty, quiet mind and to the Dionysian sensuality of sexual vitality. They are about saying yes! to celebrations and to sorrows. Yes! to the feast that life offers us and to the limitations and physical suffering that we have to endure. Yes! to understanding the cruelty of our minds and the cruel things that we do to each other and to ourselves. And yes! to the compassion and acceptance of the truly mature heart. And yes! to the continual courage it takes to stay open in the face of traumatic, stressful and painful experiences that fry our nervous systems and fragment our minds. And yes! to Spirit, and yes! to Heart and yes! to Body and yes! to Growing Older and yes! to Birth and yes! to Death. And perhaps most importantly, yes! to the continuous adventure of staying open to this very moment, Right Now.
I hope that these poems and paintings inspire you. I hope that they make you think, that they provoke you and make you cry and laugh and open you to experiences that perhaps you barely understand. If they do, please let me know. As the servant of the creative muse, it is important to know if I have served the creative spirit well enough that it has touched another human being. And sometimes, by understanding your experience, I understand the poem or painting better myself!
I wish you much inner peace on your journey. I wish you aliveness and engagement with whatever life is offering you right now. I wish you compassion and kindness for all parts of your experience. I wish you liberation and freedom from the suffering of grasping and trying to control your experience. And I wish you a deep inquiry into that fundamental question, “What is true?” from moment to moment in this great adventure called your life. I hope that these poems and paintings fill your sails with winds of encouragement. From one pilgrim to another, keep on truckin’, stay engaged, stay open and humble, and see if you can find some way to greet whatever life is offering with gratitude and wonder. I know that this is not an easy task, but in the words of Mary Oliver, what else could you possibly do “with your one wild and precious life?”
San Miguel De Allende, Mexico