The Border of Ecstasy: Whitman & Kabir

MARK HEINLEIN and PRANITA PATEL will present The Border of Ecstasy: The Human Spirit in Kabir and Whitman at the San José Poetry Festival 2016: Breaking Borders, from 5:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José.

These poets, Kabir and Whitman, stir our emotions even today and fill the empty spaces of modern life with their undeniable achievement of spirit, language and longing. Their work fulfills our soulful desire to connect with ourselves, the divine and the world around us. While Kabir’s work speaks of and to a divine presence, Whitman’s earthy concerns reveal a holiness of our bodily life. By coupling them, this presentation gives voice to the timeless struggle and celebration of the human spirit.

Artist and poet Pranita Patel will share insights into the 15th century mystic artist, Kabir, whose ever-seeking quest for salvation parallels her contemporary search for insight through her own paintings and illuminated poetry. Ever since Mark Heinlein read Whitman, the great poet has spoken to him directly influencing his aesthetics, his bardic style of reading poetry, and helped unveil the mystery and ecstasy in nature, camaraderie, and contemplation.  whitman_kabirkabir-quote



Mark Heinlein is the author of the poetry collection Everything We Call Ordinary. His awards include the 2009 American Academy of Poets/Virginia de Arujo Award and the Bonita M. Cox Award for creative nonfiction. In 2014, with Myles Foreman, Mark performed “Beautiful Music” at TEDx Santa Cruz. In 2015 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Independent Best American Poetry Prize. He is a fishmonger and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

[From Everything We Call Ordinary]


I collected jars when I was unemployed and didn’t have money for anything
except laundry and groceries and rent. What a waste to throw away, to throw out glass containers which could be used for something. I didn’t know what I’d use them for, but I’d paid for those jars: salsa, pasta sauce, peanut butter, jellies, relish. I saved anything glass. Then set them in steaming water fifteen minutes, peeled the dampened paper with an unnamable delight. I scrubbed with a sponge the gum from the label and used a butter knife to jab the sponge in hard-to-reach spots.

I’d rinse with hot water, as hot as I could get it, wearing yellow rubber gloves. Then snap them off, grab a dishtowel to dry every spot. I’d lift them to the kitchen lights to behold perfectly clear glass, a specimen saved from the trash. It was as if I’d blown them myself, the excitement I felt as I set them on the window sill. But I never filled them with anything, rocks or seashells or homemade honey, things themselves of wonder. Instead, they contained their own beauty, glass jars lined up, filled with nothing else besides light and, more light.



Pranita Patel, M.A., is an educational specialist, artist and poet. The purpose of her work is to heal, transform and strengthen individuals and communities. Her poetry has appeared in Solo Novo, her photography has appeared in Two: An Anthology of Flash Nonfiction and she is currently at work on a creative nonfiction manuscript entitled Creating With Spirit and a novel called Nandini. Her paintings have been shown at Stone Griffin Gallery, and her art exhibit and poetry reading was the inaugural event at Healing The Zebra Arts Center. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


In the morning light, the orange tabby sits atop a chair and waits,
diurnally, like the birdsong arising from the pit of this small valley
after my boyfriend goes down 22 steps to his sun- fire red truck and
drives off to work.

What awakens the birds from slumber? Is it the fading light from
the last star in the sky, or the regurgitating sound of the truck’s engine.

The morning sky is gray, yet a patch of blue so light and luminescent
is quilted in the western sky, an ethereal note that this day will be good.
How many times in our lives have we needed a whisper of beauty
to make it through, after the alarm clock goes off once again, and
another day begins, similar to yesterday, yet different.

Did the ancients experience routine in their lives?
Or did they live in the mystery enough.
So that each day they woke up,
thrilled to see another sunrise,
thrilled to be alive.


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