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February 18, 2011

Poetry, Yoga and Inner City Youth: An Interview with HawaH.

Bob: Hi, HawaH. Welcome to Elephant Journal. Tell our readers about this exciting new Poetry of Yoga project you’re working on. What’s it all about?

HawaH: I am searching for poetry from the far reaches of the globe… I’m searching for the modern day Rumis’ and Hafizs’. I want them to breathe life into this book anthology and I want this collection of poetry to be evidence and testament to the growing movement of yoga around the world.

One of my goals is to encourage yoga teachers and students to step out of their comfort zones, and write poetry even if they have not done so in the past.  They can submit their poems at The Poetry of Yoga. I will then weave the book together with the words of influential personalities in the world of yoga, as well as participants who attended one of my Poetry of Yoga workshops.

Most importantly, we will donate 30% of the proceeds from the book to support the programs and initiatives of the non-profit organization One Common Unity.

Bob: What was the inspiration for this idea? How did it come about?

HawaH: I love both poetry and yoga. Often when I´m not practicing yoga, I can be found with a pencil in my hand scribbling down a poem, or my nose in a book reading ancient poetic verses. The two seem rather inseparable to me. Many sacred texts were communicated through poetry, including the Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, and the Holy Quran.

I feel a great affinity to the power of poetry to transform lives and I have witnessed my own life transformed by yoga. The inspiration for this book came over the past year, during which I have been developing and teaching a workshop called, “The Poetry of Yoga,” which brings two of my greatest passions together.

In this workshop, I fused these two art forms and offer participants a series of flowing asana sequences that are balanced by writing prompts and questions that encourage them to write poetry in their journals. By the end of the first two hours we have completed a dynamic asana sequence and the participants have written 2 – 3 poems about what they’ve been feeling and experiencing during their practice. The next hour we spend in a circle, sharing what we have written. In the final thirty minutes, I do a spoken word poetry performance that frames service, love, peace, healing, suffering, sustainability, and freedom.

Bob: What are the most important things you’ve learned from your work on this project so far?

HawaH: The yoga community around the world is so rooted in service and making the world a better place. It has been great confirmation working on this project and dialoguing with people from around the world who are so supportive of the cause and the idea.

I’ve also been biting my nails over how difficult it has been to find a publisher for this book. I thought I knew this before, but still after all the work that´s gone into this project, we haven´t received any warm replies from publishers. Our team here at One Common Unity has sent over 50 book proposals out and still can´t get a nibble. That´s not going to stop the project of course, but I never realized how difficult it is to crack into the publishing industry. The dismay with finding a publisher however, is providing lots of avenues for exploration and considering e-books and self publishing.

Bob: What has surprised you most?

HawaH: I’ve been struck by the awesome response from the big name yoga teachers around the country who have said yes to contributing poetry to the book. The only time I have had someone say no to my request is when they are adamant that they don’t write poetry. Otherwise, every teacher that I’ve asked in person has met me with a warm and sacred positive reply to helping.

Bob: Who are some of the yoga teachers that have already said yes to being in the book?

HawaH: Hemalayaa Behl, Santi Devi, Zaccai Free, John Friend, Jean-Jacques Gabriel, Sharon Gannon, Joseph Goldstein, Dr. James Gordon, Faith Hunter, Alanna Kaivalya, Gurmukh Kaur Kalsa, Gary Kraftsow, Leza Lowitz, Chuck Miller, Jason Nemer, Aadil Palkhivala, JJ Semple, Gina Sharp, Sianna Sherman, Rod Stryker, Doug Swenson, and Shiva Rea.

Bob: What else would you like people to know?

HawaH: I need help getting the word out and I need more poetry to really make this book a success. It’s been unbelievable because we’ve had poetry come in from countries around the world such as Australia, Japan, Mexico, England, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States, but I still don’t have enough work to compile a complete book yet.

Bob: How does this fit into all the other work you’re doing?

HawaH: To give you more background on my life and work, I am a peace educator, social worker, non-profit leader, and yoga teacher. For the past 12 years I have been teaching alternatives to violence and yoga in inner-city public schools, youth prisons and conflict zones as far as Kashmir. I am also an artist and spoken word poet who works under the name Everlutionary.

I have independently published three books (Trails: Trust before Suspicion, Escape Extinction, and zerONEss) so this book, The Poetry of Yoga is a natural extension to this body of work.

Bob: What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?

HawaH: I want you to know more about the cause that proceeds of this book will be used to support. One Common Unity is a tremendous grassroots non-profit organization located in Washington, DC that facilitates arts-based health and wellness, conflict resolution and non-violence education to inner-city children. The organization just finished it’s first decade of incredible service, and this book, if it sells well, could serve to really help them expand and increase the amount of work they are doing to restore and heal individual lives and community.

Bob: Thanks for being here, HawaH, and best wishes for all of your ambitious projects.

Submit your poetry for the book at
The Poetry of Yoga

HawaH

Hawah is an artist, author, educator, yoga instructor and community organizer.  He has dedicated his life to teaching about solutions to violence and ways to peace, and has traveled to over 28 countries in the past 10 years to facilitate interactive workshops, dialogues, perform poetry, teach yoga, and speak with those interested in creating a caring, sustainable, and equitable world.  He has worked as an Americorps big brother in one of D.C.’s most under-resourced neighborhoods, and also as an R.F.K. Memorial Foundation fellow as a special representative to the United Nations and the World Conference Against Racism.

Hawah is co-founder/ executive director of One Common Unity, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.  For 3 years he directed the Peaceable Schools Program in D.C.’s largest public high school—specifically developing leadership skills of youth and assisting them in dealing with trauma through Alternatives to Violence, Deep Breathing & Yoga classes. Over the years, Hawah has trained thousands of teachers in the principles of peace education and regularly featured as a speaker, performer and workshop presenter for People to People International, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools.  A spoken word poet known as Everlutionary and an artist of a diverse collection of paintings and photographs, Hawah has authored three books and released two CD’s.

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