Preface: Selected Poems 2016

Arup Biswas, Awestruck (2015)
The Main Gallery, Redwood City

    Two poems written in late December 2015 are included here— "The Cow & The Milky Way" (12-16-2015) was inspired by Stephen Ippolito's photo (9-11-2015) of the Milky Way on a New Hampshire farm. As a herd of cows trotted by, he caught one of them right under the Milky Way. This image triggered a 30-years old memory of my 8-year-old niece Elisa asking me "Why is our galaxy called Milky Way?" My guess that "There's a cow up in heaven making milk" may not be so far fetched as I learned more of the myths and legends leading to our galaxy's name.

    The second poem "In Nature's Realm" (12-22-2015) was inspired by Awestruck, a photo by Arup Biswas exhibited at Redwood City's Main Gallery, and reported in San Jose Mercury News, Art Notes, November 21, 2015. The Gallery's thumbnail was too small, and the original newspaper photo was scanned to produce a clearer image. Such serenity in this scene reminds me of similar spots on many hikes in the Bay Area. The poem's title came from Dvorak's In Nature's Realm.

    The poem "The Letter C: Short Autobiography" (1-1-2016) was composed mostly in my head during a 50-minutes walk around my neighborhood on New Year's Day before sunset. It dawned upon me that my name, birthplace, work place, friends, chemistry courses at Columbia & Cornell are all connected to the letter "C". After dinner, I continued writing until 126 "C" words were included in this poem.

    A photo in Palo Alto Daily News, December 25, 2015, page 41 Tree at Versailles by David Massolo made me go to Gallery 9 to meet the photographer. I gave David my poem "Trees at Versailles" (1-2-2016), and he thanked me for introducing him to the Platonic Lambda Λ image. He has this photo on his business card. I asked whether he waited a long time to capture this image without visitors walking around. He said there was a chain preventing people roaming around the trees.

    The alphabet poem "The Letter Z" (1-14-2016) popped up during my 45-minutes walk from Mountain View to Palo Alto's Cubberley Pavilion for ballroom dancing on Saturday, January 9. Insight from Robert M. Hoffstein's A Mystical Key to the English Language (1992)— Z is derived from Hebrew Zayin (arrow), so the onomatopoetic sound of weapons cleaving the air— zap, zing, zip, zoom. 68 "z words" were woven into this poem. (Google Books)

    When David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, I read his New York Times obituary, and was impressed at his creative innovations in music, art, and fashion. Bowie turned down knighthood in 2003, preferring to champion the underprivileged. I watched videos of David Bowie singing "Heroes", "Let's Dance", "Star Man", and am amazed at his energy and versatility. After finding a list of over 200 David Bowie songs, the poem "55 David Bowie Songs" was composed (1-16-2016).

    On Sunday, September 6, 2015, Rudy, Al Guzman, and I visited San Jose Municipal Rose Garden with 3500 shrubs and 189 varieties of roses. AARS named it "America's Best Rose Garden" in 2010 (wikipedia). Took photos of Dee-Lish, Fragrant Cloud, Gold Struck, Home Run, Love, Neptune, Secret, Shockwave, and Twilight Zone. Instead of writing a poem on this short list of roses, I checked out three books on roses at Los Altos Library— The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Roses, Botanica's Roses: Encyclopedia of Roses, The Ultimate Rose Book. Looked through all the photos, I made a list of some 300 roses with interesting names. From this list, the poem "108 Roses" was composed (1-20-2016).

    A long-time friend didn't mind when I nicknamed her a shrimp, a snail, and a sloth. But when I called her a cow for eating too much, all hell broke loose. This poem "I've Learned My Lesson Well" (2-1-2016) tells my epiphany of making her a friend again.

    Coming out of the Los Altos Library on August 10, 2014, took photos of "Angel Clouds" above and "Auburn Auto" below. This poem "Angel Clouds Above Auburn Auto" (2-10-2016) was written a year and half later on the experience of that day.

    The Auburn 851 Speedster is a luxury car for royalty, and I went to see Roman Holiday and Queen Christina afterwards. I realized that Audrey Hepburn playing Princess Ann & Greta Garbo playing Queen Christina were both royal and spiritual. That's how "Royalty Spirituality" was written (2-11-2016).

    I met Coleman Barks at his Stanford talk "Three Poems of Rumi" (5-13-2009), and was fascinated by his story of Cappadocia. When I saw the Platonic Lambda Λ shape in the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia and that Coleman Barks was born in Chattanooga (etymology: "rock rising to a point"), this poem "Coleman Barks & Cappadocia" was born (2-16-2016).

    Used interlocking rhyming triplets as Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"aba bcb cdc ded ee. Dante was the first to use this interlocking 3-line rhyme scheme, terza rima in his Commedia. My love of Dante inspired this terza rima poem for Lilly's 3rd birthday— The Number 3 (3-5-2016).

    Art (Alex Grey's painting Wonder: Zena Gazing at the Moon), music (Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata) and photography (Ansel Adam's Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico) plus a 40--years old memory of a mystery moment inspired this poem "Wonder" (3-11-2016).

    My Columbia friend Richard Hanauer's simple email on March 14, 2016: "Pi Day— 3.14.16", learning that the mirror image of "314" looks like the word "PIE", and realizing it's Einstein's 137th Birthday relating to the fine-structure constant, α = 1/137 inspired this poem (3-14-2016).

    Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics of March 15, 2016 and March 17, 2016 with Lucy asking "What's the meaning of life?", and Linus says "FIVE" and Schroder shouts "BEETHOVEN" inspired this poem Peanuts: Meaning of Life (3-17-2016).

    Science & Poetry (3-23-2016) was written in response to ornothologist Hans Peeters' Stanford talk "Discovering Raptors" (2-10-2016) saying "J.A. Baker's The Peregrine is poetic but all wrong." I like Werner Herzog telling his film students that Baker's book is not about bird watching but "seeing". Since I've done both scientific research and have written poetry with renowned mentors, this poem came easily. It took seven hours to find 16 postage stamps illustrating this poem. While scientific achievements are well known (1st line of couplet), their mystical poetic sides (2nd line of couplet) are less known.

    A bookmark "Escape the Ordinary" from the Los Altos Library showing a superhero flying and reading prompted "The Letter E" (4-4-2016), where 80 "E words" appeared in this alphabet poem.

    Bach's Joy of Man's Desiring made me ponder on "Which Came First: Joy or Desire?" (4-9-2016).

    If truth is defined as that which cannot be contradicted, scientific truth is on shaky grounds as it has changed throughout time. This poem "The Way to Truth: Science or Poetry?" (4-11-2016) hints that poetic truth fared better as views on the human condition have remained the same for thousands of years.

    Werner Herzog's Of Walking in Ice (1978) inspired "Walking Pilgrimages" (4-18-2016). I admire Herzog's walking 521 miles in three weeks from Munich to Paris to prolong his mentor Lotte Eisner's life. She died at age 87, almost exactly 9 years after Herzog began his pilgrimage. Recalled Descartes walking 800 miles from Paris to Loreto to thank the Virgin Mary for his dreams of discovery. Shivapuri Baba's 40-years walk around the world and living to 137-years old was another inspiration. While I've not undertaken such long pilgrimages, some walks I've taken were done as part of my philosophical quest for enlightenment. This poem honors my spiritual mentors who have brought me much illuminations and blessings.

    There was a sign "Psychic Cleaners $2.50" at the corner of Bay Street & El Camino Real, a block away from where I lived at 225 Pamela Drive Apartments for two years (2012-2014). I never visited the Psychic that moved away in 2013. The $2.50 Dry Cleaners next door also moved in 2016. I restored the signs in Photoshop to write this fantasy poem "Psychic Cleaners" (5-16-2016).

    While walking to my apartment (5-24-2016), a "Lovely Leaf from the Sky" fell at my feet. The woman behind me said "Beautiful! the wind brought you a gift." Couldn't find the tree or bush in my courtyard where this leaf came from. When I showed it to a friend, she said "It's plastic!" Found this plastic leaf house plant on the web. Last lines referred to Dustin Hoffman's film The Graduate: "One Word: Plastics" and Seung Sahn's Zen talk "Plastic Flowers".

    "Memories of a Best Friend for 26 Years" (9-10-2016) was written a day after Connie died on September 9, after a week in Kaiser Hospital from dehydration and malnutrition. These 16 stanzas are fond memories of my "Girl Friday, big sister, Mom-like, best friend".

    A friend's "Mindfulness" class had an assignment of listing their happy and sad moments. She said "You lost your 12 GB USB containing 16 months of work without backup. Then you lost your best friend Connie passing away. These must be tragic sad moments. Have you had any happy moments recently? I pondered awhile, recalling a dozen happy moments during the last three months, that led to this poem "Moments to Cherish" (12-9-2016).

                                                      Peter Y. Chou
                                                      Mountain View, December 12, 2016

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (12-12-2016)