Corie Feiner, Poet-Yogi
Let me introduce you...
Corie Feiner introduced herself to me on Substack a few months ago when I launched the Yoga Outside newsletter on this (new-to-me) writer-friendly website. She writes a newsletter called A Poem for Every Pose with weekly poems, thoughts, and reflections on yoga, writing, and life. Her archive is a treasure trove of one yogi’s journey into the wisdom and benefits of the practice. You’ll find three of her poems below followed by an interview with the poet. I have yet to meet Corie in person, but my life feels enriched by the offerings she makes available to the world.
Why practice yoga? Corie writes, “I keep practicing yoga as part of a slow and persistent transformation that began in May of 2020 when I woke up to my own thoughts. I saw clearly for the first time that I create my own reality. When I took up yoga in a steady at-home practice, it became part of my journey of transcending ancestral trauma and limitations. At 49 years old, I did a headstand for the first time and have done one every day since. To ask, why do I practice yoga is like asking, Why do I breathe? Why do I take walks? Why do I try to love more deeply every day. It is because yoga is now part of my life.”
Since I “met” Corie, I’ve discovered other newsletters that combine a love of yoga and writing, and more pop up every day. I’ve included a partial list at the end of this newsletter. If you love yoga and/or writing, you’ll love exploring them too.
Corie, on Headstand
I started my yoga journey in earnest in the first months of the Covid shutdown and decided soon after that I needed to strive for something that seemed impossible. Considering my background from a mostly non-athletic and physically limited family, headstand seemed like a perfect choice.
I practiced this pose every day for almost 6 months, learned how to fall, learned to ignore skeptical voices and warnings about being careful.
I had to do it.
My mantra was, If I can do a headstand, I can do anything.
I practice this asana daily and remind myself of this mantra when I feel scared or encounter self-limiting thoughts.
It is said that the redwood trees walk at night, softly, their roots stepping gently on the fertile soil we thought kept them in place.
It is said the headstand can turn
your world upside down, the feet
you once thought could only
walk on asphalt, concrete, and dirt,
could reach towards heaven
and tip toe through the air.
It is said it takes one woman to change
the course of history and although
I spent most of my life believing
that I was bottom heavy like my mothers
before me, I decided I had to turn the world
upside down, daily reciting, If I can do a headstand,
I can do anything.
I remember the day I first held
my legs above my heart and planted my feet
in the sky, my thoughts poured from my head
like rainwater drop by drop collecting
in the leaf mold gutter of my mind
and when they burst through and
cascaded away from me, I became
nothing and no one flowing
with the newborn words,
So you can do anything, huh?
Sanskrit Name: Salamba Sirsasana
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Corie, on Goddess Pose
There is so much I have worked to reclaim and restore throughout my life. I was a c-section birth and was not breastfed. My mother was among the first generation of feminists who had so much to prove that they left (what I consider) the most powerful aspects of being a woman behind. I believe we are in the midst of a massive rebirth and awakening.
In the following poem, I explore what it means to not only hold the pose, but to embody being a goddess.
When I squat into goddess pose there is so much to reclaim – starting with birth. My birth. Your birth and all the births before us that were full of squatting and bleeding and grunting and knowing that we can make it through most any pain. Next are our centers which we have been taught to either hide or give away. And next still are our breasts which were made to be shown, to be kissed, to be sucked, to be loved. I have to stand like this— hips, hands, and feet shining outwards as if I could become a goddess with nine heads and eight limbs, the sun as my crown, the moon as my core and dance a divine sexy mama dance that can create or destroy anything – this is the only way anything new has ever been born. Sanskrit Name: Utkata Konasana
Corie, on Cat-Cow Pose
When I sat down to write a poem for this pose, I went blank. How to write a poem for two positions in one pose? As I often do when I am stuck, I took a bike ride. I followed a route that took me over a large bridge because I literally wanted to ride “above” everything I was experiencing in my head.
Mid-bridge, it came to me… two haikus! I sat down and penned my first drafts (off the road, in case you were wondering). What I hope to give readers with this poem is a reminder to have fun on the mat, too.
Paws pressed down, back stretched high, Halloween cat scared of shadows, nothing, purr
Sacred cow, mother of milk, nourishing our spine, oh, aum, moo
Sanskrit Name: Bitilasana Marjaryasana
About the Author
Corie Feiner is the Poet Laureate Emeritus of Bucks County, PA and an award-winning author, performance poet and slam champion called "wonderful' by The New York Times and "absorbing" by Backstage Magazine. She obtained her MFA studying with some of the greats at NYU and her unique workshop style was featured on WNBC-TV. Her latest project, A Poem for Every Pose, combines her love of yoga with her craft. Enjoy her free weekly poems by subscribing below.
Interview with the Poet
LC: When did you start writing and what inspired you?
CF: I started to write when I was about nine years old. My friend, Iana (who later went on to found Yoga Love Magazine) gave me a writing journal that was black and fuzzy and had a silver unicorn on the cover. Around the same time an artist visited my third grade classroom to talk about poetry. One thing she said really struck me, “Poetry is not good or bad or right or wrong. The point of poetry is to touch someone’s heart.”
Now this may be arguable, but at nine-years old, in third grade when all of the school testing was starting, I was hooked. You mean I can do something that is not good or bad? This is for me!”
The only poet whose work was I familiar with at the time was Shel Silverstein, so my first few poems were knock offs. Later on, when my family made a sudden move from NYC to California, writing poetry in my journal became something like a companion and a refuge and the journey continues from there.
LC: Can you describe how you grew into the identity of a writer/poet?
CF: When I was about fifteen years-old the lunchroom in my high school felt unsafe. I spent the hour wandering around the halls looking for a quieter place to eat. One afternoon I saw a sign: “Poets House.” I was curious, entered the library, and met Lee Briccetti who gave me permission to hang out at Poets House during my lunch hour. I read what was then all of their small poetry library and found that reading poems was like having conversations with the writer, people who were deep and just, “got it.” Now that I think about it, it was less growing into an identity and more of a calling.
Years later, I became a writer-in-the-branches for Poets House and did many workshops with them.
LC: How has your writing/poetry changed over the years?
CF: No journey is cut and dry. I majored in English, French Studies, and Film in college and headed toward film making. While I worked in post-production, I spent my nights doing poetry readings and competitive slamming. I was also publishing my work here and there and came out with a limited-edition book with a small publisher. I decided to make a leap and applied to the MFA program at NYU. Studying with Sharon Olds, Philip Levine, and Galway Kinnell informed my poetic journey in so many ways, but also gave me permission to make my own way —just as they did.
In general, my poetry has always been an eclectic intersection of both academic and spoken word poetry. Recently, I have been fascinated by mystic poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Tagore, and Kabir and they also influence my writing as part of my spiritual journey and self-directed evolution.
LC: Who are some of your favorite poets/writers?
CF: Some of my favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Rumi, Taha Muhammad Ali, Yedhuda Amichai, Sharon Olds, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lucille Clifton, Ellen Bass, and William Carlos Williams.
LC: What are you reading / listening to these now?
LC: What’s the best advice someone has given you about writing?
CF: The best advice was by Marie Ponsot with whom I studied at NYU. She said that there is no such thing as writer’s block. When you are stuck, just lower your standards.
Also, Philip Levine once said something in a workshop that struck me. A student was talking about giving herself permission to write something that seemed forbidden about her family. He responded, “It’s a poem. Write it! Throw it out. It’s just a poem.” This helped me realize that we are what is getting in our own way.
LC: What are your sources of inspiration?
CF: One of my primary sources of inspiration is my yoga practice. My studies in non-violent communication and somatic healing are inspiring as well.
LC: Do you have a funny story or anecdote about being a writer?
CF: I don’t think of myself as a writer, really, but a being who finds that my main source of communicating comes through poetry. I don’t like to sit down for too long. I think that is funny because it is kind of a sedentary profession. This is why I write poetry and this is why my poems are short☺
LC: What advice would you give to aspiring writers/poets?
CF: My main advice for aspiring writers is to learn to get feedback without taking it personally. Just learn as much as possible but stay true to the essence of what you want to say. Also, that the editing can sometimes seem like it is never done. It is important to have readers and support and discipline yourself to stop.
LC: How often do you write? Do you have rituals or routines?
CF: I write in the mornings right after a short meditation practice. I wake up early before the family wakes up, put up tea, straighten up a bit, practice meditation, write, then meet with my yoga buddy to play a yoga video online and practice together. If I do not wake up early enough or still have time after yoga, I write then.
LC: What is your process for writing a poem?
CF: Some poems I research and research until the poem comes together. For example, I write and perform “occasional poems” for my town. When there is an art dedication, bridge or sidewalk dedication, I research, write the poem, and share it publicly. For other poems, I put in the intention to write the poem and they descend almost whole. I then go back and research and edit them to a certain extent. With the yoga poems, I set the intention to write a poem about every single pose, so this put my mind in a great deal of focus to either have the poems come through research, through practice…. or just come from the place where inspiration comes from.
LC: How has being a writer influenced the way you see the world?
CF: I think it is the opposite. How I see the world influences how I write. I see my writing as a gift that I want to share with others. I think in images and see things metaphorically. When others receive this, get present with the poem, and the moment, they feel. When they feel more, a connection is forged, and we become more together and more human.
LC: How do you know when a poem is finished?
CF: When I tell myself to stop being a perfectionist. I was a poetry editor for the Bellevue Literary Review for ten years so I can write as an editor. The poem is done when I can read it and actually get something out of it that is beyond me.
LC: Do you prefer pen and paper or keyboard for drafting?
CF: I use whatever I have. I am a Gen Xer so I span analog and digital. When I write, I prefer a simple ball point pen and a cheapo composition book. This helps me write and scribble as much as I want without worrying how many pages I am taking up. On the computer, I prefer Word. When I am just writing for writing, I use the composition book. When I am working on a book project, I use Word.
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Explore some of the many Substack Newsletters about yoga.
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