“Some poems are good medicine. and some “good medicine poems” are mindfulness poems.”
So say Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson, both members of the South Dakota State Poetry Society, who are celebrating the recent publication of Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems. Cole-Dai, a resident of Brookings, and Wilson, who lives in Bruce, co-edited the anthology for Grayson Books. It was released on September 5th.
“Mindfulness poems,” the editors explain, “invite us to bring our whole self to whatever moment we’re in, and truly live it. They encourage us to be more present, more attentive and compassionate, in the living of our days. They grant us a taste of being good enough, just as we are, in this world, just as it is.”
Poetry of Presence is a collection of more than 150 mindfulness poems, mostly by contemporary or recent poets, including Yehuda Amichai, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Bass, Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Billy Collins, Mahmoud Darwish, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joy Harjo, Tony Hoagland, Miroslav Holub, Marie Howe, Erica Jong, Kabir, Galway Kinnell, Ted Kooser, Howard Nemerov, Kathleen Norris, Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, May Sarton, William Stafford, David Wagoner, Alice Walker and many more.
“We’re also delighted to feature the work of a few South Dakota poets,” Wilson says, citing Linda Hasselstrom, Lydia Whirlwind Soldier and former state poet laureate David Allan Evans.
The origins of Poetry of Presence lie in Cole-Dai’s mindfulness practice. “I’ve practiced meditation for more than half my life. Over the years, without intending to, I collected a pile of poems that were particularly `mindful’ in content. That stash became the seed for a daily blog of mindfulness poetry. The blog grew rapidly, taking on a life of its own. Eventually I invited Ruby to help manage it. The project enjoyed a tremendous three-year run, with thousands of followers. Their feedback convinced us that mindfulness poetry can help change lives. Indeed, we believe it can help change the world—one poem, one reader, at a time. Yet, to our knowledge, no anthology of mindfulness poetry by a traditional publisher existed. This book was begging to be done.”
“I also had collected a large file of my favorite poems over the years,” Wilson says. “When Phyllis and I compared our favorites, we were surprised at how many we had in common. Being fellow writers and great friends, we knew we would enjoy working together to create a collection like this. Besides that, we have complementary strengths and felt that we would make an excellent team. Phyllis brought her experience with mindfulness practice to the project. I brought my experience as a poet, including the habit of attentiveness and a love for language. We were united by our firm conviction that poetry—mindfulness poetry especially—has the power to unify all of us in community and transform our world.”
Initial sales of the book have been brisk, with orders coming from across the country as well as nations like Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain and Belgium. The publisher, Grayson Books, will soon do a second printing.
“We believe this is a book for the times we live in,” Cole-Dai says. “You don’t need to know anything about mindfulness to be inspired by its beautiful, accessible poetry. Plus, it’s a valuable resource for many professionals, from literature teachers to interfaith clergy, counselors to medical personnel.”
One of the significant challenges of creating this anthology was paying the incredibly high cost of permissions to reprint previously published poems. Cole-Dai and Wilson are responsible for covering those fees, not the publisher. With each new printing, they must renegotiate many of the permission licenses and pay additional costs. So while the book is distributed through Ingram and available from all major retailers, they like to encourage customers to buy it through their website.
“The math is simple,” Wilson says. “We make more money through direct sales. The more money we make, the more money we can reinvest in permissions and help this anthology stay in print.”
Cole-Dai and Wilson invite you to join them for a “Book Bash” celebrating the publication of their anthology on Saturday, October 21, 3-5pm, at the newly renovated Brookings Arts Council Building, 524 4th Street, Brookings. Enjoy door prizes, delicious food, live music by Green & Snow, readings from the book, and more at this festive open house.
To help them prepare for the Bash, please RSVP by October 14th through either Eventbrite or Facebook. If you can’t attend but would like to purchase the book, please either visit the Buy page at the book’s website for details or contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.