The mountain as muse…poetry classes at The Ranch through the ages
By Peter Jensen
The Ranch inspires many to put pen to paper, or in this day and age, fingertips to keyboard (or fingerTIP to smartphone screen).
There’s something that brings out the poet in guests. Is it the blue-jean-colored mountain above us? The sycamores marking the seasons with the colors of their big palmate leaves, spring-green to autumn-rust ? The towhees working the ground beneath the ceanothus, heads bobbing along like little sewing machines, working working working? Such industry. Such timeless beauty.
More so than the natural setting, perhaps, is the effect of taking a week-long pause to reflect. Memories of friends, families, travels, tragedies, and triumphs bubble back to the surface. And so we write. We observe. We write some more.
Along with journaling-class instructors, the Ranch often welcomes a guest poetry teacher. One of the teachers over the years has been the brilliant Myra Klahr. Her gentle techniques and wise encouragement have left hundreds of Ranch guests with the thought, “I CAN write poetry. Wonderful poetry.” Along with words on paper, the emotions arrive: laughter, tears, sentimentality, insights, and real breakthroughs of understanding.
Another noted guest teacher was the late Galway Kinnel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1982, along with the National Book Award. He once said, “That’s the way it is with poetry: When it is incomprehensible it seems profound, and when you understand it, it is only ridiculous.” But oh, how his “ridiculousness” could move us when he visited Tecate each year.
Recently we found this small spiral bound poetry collection (pictured) in the archives. It must have been published by Rancho La Puerta’s communications office at least 25 years ago. Perhaps more. The “Voices of Rancho La Puerta” is a sampling of poems written by our guests, under the tutelage—in this case—of Mr. Kinnel. Here are but a few.
By Sandy Mendelson
from cracks in the rock
The rock surrounded
by soft fragrant rosemary
and tall eucalyptus
centered in the landscape
cactus arms erect
against the moving sky
in barren landscapes
juicy flower of spirit straining
down for food
and up for sky
This juice in me
straining to get out
Wet Bathing Suit
By Stephanie Rose
There’s nothing like getting into a wet bathing suit, she said.
Like climbing into wet skin, I thought
How did my soul feel when it climbed inside my skin?
As I swam
Inside my mother’s belly
skin under skin
The Grape Trees
By Meredith Light
Black widow trees of gnarled, twisted limbs.
With ashen loins giving birth to ruby orbs
Whose ancestors created the vintage of the Rothschilds,
The nectar of children, the swill of bowery bums.
Black widow trees outside the gym.
By Stephanie Rose
The persimmon tastes orange, he said
Like an orange?
the way blueberries taste blue
Brown eyes into green eyes
send sparkles across a silent arc.
the way bananas taste yellow,
and mint tastes green,
and chocolate brown
and filet of sole white
and lips pink
magenta the longer you taste them