Books About Passion

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    A Natural History of Love
    –Diane Ackerman

    The Course of Love
    –Alain de Botton

    The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Excitement
    –Michael Apter

    The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History
    –Leo Braudy

    Daring Greatly
    –Brene Brown

    Eros and Pathos: Shades of Love and Suffering
    –Aldo Carotenuto

    The Sense of Wonder
    –Rachel Carson

    The Anatomy of Restlessness
    –Bruce Chatwin

    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
    –Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

    Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
    –Barbara Ehrenreich

    Open to Desire: The Truth About What the Buddha Taught
    –Mark Epstein

    Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
    –Helen Fisher

    The Passionate Learner: How Teachers and Parents Can Help Children Reclaim the Joy of Discovery
    –Robert L. Fried

    The Art of Loving
    –Erich Fromm

    New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change
    –Winifred Gallagher

    Stumbling on Happiness
    –Daniel Gilbert

    Wild: An Elemental Journey
    –Jay Griffiths

    The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
    –Chris Guillebeau

    Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime
    –Patricia Hampl

    Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day
    –Todd Henry

    Narcissus and Goldmund
    –Herman Hesse

    –Herman Hesse

    Exuberance: The Passion for Life
    –Kay Redfield Jamison

    Ecstasy: Understanding the Psychology of Joy
    –Robert Johnson

    Zorba the Greek
    –Nikos Kazantzakis

    Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
    –Anne Lamott

    The Call of the Wild
    –Jack London

    The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life
    –Mark Nepo

    Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence
    –Esther Perel

    Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships
    –David Schnarch

    The Death of Ivan Ilyich
    –Leo Tolstoy

    Yes Man
    –Danny Wallace

    The Holy Longing: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Yearning
    –Connie Zweig

    The Adventurer: the Fate of Adventure in the Western World
    –Paul Zweig

    –John Gardner

Poetry About Passion

     Carl Dennis
    “Warning Signs”

    Neatness isn’t a virtue to be disparaged.
    But if you note that your ten-year-old
    Prints her address in her storybooks,
    As well as her name, and locks her toys
    In her toy chest at bedtime,
    You may have a problem. Can you think
    Of something you’ve done to suggest
    That the world beyond the door of her bedroom
    Is a wilderness of swirling eddies
    Where anything left untended goes missing?
    Has a remark of yours about thieves
    Filling high places left her concerned
    About thieves filling the low as well?
    When she wakes before dawn with a dream
    Of finding the house pulled down,
    Do you tell her that everyone feels that way,
    Given the gang of wreckers in Washington,
    Or do you remind her that the house she lives in
    Is made of bricks and mortar, not straw?
    As for the virtue of thrift, it too
    Is commendable. But if your daughter
    Is saving half her dollar-a-day allowance
    So as not to be penniless in old age,
    You may want to ask what part you’ve played
    In making the future appear less promising
    Than the past. Maybe you’ve lectured her
    Once too often on the long-term effect
    Of nitrogen run-off on lakes and rivers,
    Or on the threat to the Norway maple
    Shading the house if warmer winters
    Smooth the way for weevils to creep north.
    Other fathers might use the tree as a fine example
    Of what a maple can be when it makes the most
    Of an average portion of sun and rain falling on average soil.
    Caution should be preferred, of course, to recklessness.
    But confidence too is a trait to be encouraged,
    So when she’s old she can look back on her life
    As an adventure. So she has a story to tell
    Of how once, instead of hugging the shore,
    She sailed out where the waves
    Crashed over her sloop and broke it open;
    How the coast she floated to on a spar
    Proved rougher than the coast she’s been steering for,
    Less settled, less civil. And then the story
    Of how far she’d progressed in her efforts
    At closing the gap between them
    And how big a job is left to do.

     Carl Dennis

    When we’re tired of adventure, there’s always Chekhov,
    The challenge of a story like “A Journey by Cart,”
    Where nothing happens that hasn’t happened
    Hundreds of times to the heroine,

    A school teacher for thirty years.

    She’s made the monthly trip to the city in the provinces
    And collected her salary, twenty rubles,
    And now she’s on her way back.
    Twenty pages without incident

    On a long day’s bumpy journey by horse cart
    To the ramshackle school, in the meager village,
    Over a muddy road she knows too well.
    Nothing happens to show her she’s wrong
    For wishing she could have lived instead in Moscow,
    City of her childhood, and never become a teacher.
    Need forced her, not faith in the calling.
    And what faith could have lasted anyway
    Out here, where schools are forgotten?

    Are we supposed to notice something she’s missing?
    Is this a story where the heroine,
    Preoccupied with her losses,
    Fails to detect the delights available?

    It’s spring, after all.
    The snow has almost melted.
    The woods smell piny and the air is clear.
    Can spring be a substitute for a friend,
    For someone who listens?

    The landowner splashing by on his horse,
    Handsome and smiling, slows down to chat
    But he isn’t going to propose to her.
    Their lives are too different, she sees,
    And she’s too old. He seems to like things
    Just as they are, unmended.
    He could have had the swampy road
    If he’d wanted to.

    The cart bumps along again and nobody’s different.
    Even if we send her a hundred handbooks on charm
    And she memorizes each one,
    She’ll remain where she is, in the cart with the driver,
    Stubborn Semyon, who refuses to keep to the road,
    Despite her urgings, in his quest for shortcuts.

    And again the cart bogs down and fills with water.
    Again the sugar and flour she’s bought are ruined,
    Her socks soaked and her feet numbed
    By the time the roofs of the village edge into view.

    “Don’t plod on like this. Start over again

    In a city with real choices,” we’d call from our chairs
    If we thought our voices could reach so far.

    Now as she waits in the cart for a train to pass,
    We want to believe she’s resigned and hardened.
    Too bad she glimpses in a flashing window a face
    With her mother’s high forehead and glossy hair.
    That’s all it takes for Moscow to flood back,

    The easy talk in the bright parlor,
    The piano and the goldfish bowl,
    The girl she was, still young and gaily dressed,
    Awakened from a dream of thirty years.

    And then the vision’s gone and the train.
    And here’s the village. The story’s over.
    Do we leave her there?
    Do we let her go in alone

    To light the stove in her frosty bedroom,
    Our sister, who’s growing old with us,
    Whose crossroads are all behind her?
    We have to get back to Moscow,

    To our family, to our friends who miss us.

    From the window of the train we glimpse her
    Huddled in the cart back at the crossing.
    Any words of advice we think of shouting
    She’s thought of long ago on her own.

    Just time enough for a nod and a wave.

    Then we sit back with the wish
    She could read the story we’ve read
    And see her life carried over into art,
    Generous art where she’s the heroine.

     Billy Collins
    “Introduction to Poetry”

    I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide
    or press an ear against its hive.
    I say drop a mouse into a poem

    and watch him probe his way out,

    or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch.

    I want them to waterski
    across the surface of a poem
    waving at the author’s name on the shore.

    But all they want to do
    is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.

    They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

     Derek Walcott

    Let the day grow on you upward through your feet,
    the vegetal knuckles,
    to your knees of stone,
    until by evening you are a black tree;
    feel, with evening,
    the swifts thicken your hair,
    the new moon rising out of your forehead,
    and the moonlit veins of silver
    running from your armpits
    like rivulets under white leaves. Sleep, as ants
    cross over your eyelids.
    You have never possessed anything as deeply as this.
    This is all you have owned
    from the first outcry
    through forever;
    you can never be dispossessed.

     Pattianne Rogers
    “The Hummingbird: A Seduction”

    If I were a female hummingbird perched still
    And quiet on an upper myrtle branch
    In the spring afternoon and if you were a male
    Alone in the whole heavens before me, having parted
    Yourself, for me, from cedar top and honeysuckle stem
    And earth-down, your body hovering in mid-air
    Far away from jewelweed, thistle and beebalm;
    And if I watched how you fell, plummeting before me,
    And how you rose again and fell, with such mastery
    That I believed for a moment you were the sky
    And the red-marked bird diving inside your circumference
    Was just the physical revelation of the light’s
    Most perfect desire;
    And if I saw your sweeping and sucking
    Performance of swirling egg and semen in the air,
    The weaving, twisting vision of red petal
    And nectar and soaring rump, the rush of your wing
    In its grand confusion of arcing and splitting
    Created completely out of nothing just for me,
    Then when you came down to me, I would call you
    My own spinning bloom of ruby sage, my funneling
    Storm of sunlit sperm and pollen, my only breathless
    Piece of scarlet sky, and I would bless the base
    Of each of your feathers and touch the tine
    Of string muscles binding your wings and taste
    The odor of your glistening oils and hunt
    The honey in your crimson flare
    And I would take you and take you and take you
    Deep into any kind of nest you ever wanted.

     Dylan Thomas
    “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
    “The Panther”

    His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
    has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else.
    It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
    and behind the bars, no world.

    As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
    the movement of his powerful soft strides
    is like a ritual dance around a center
    in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

    Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
    lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,
    rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
    plunges into the heart and is gone.

     John O'Donohue
    “Blessing for a New Beginning”

    In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
    Where your thoughts never think to wander,
    This beginning has been quietly forming,
    Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

    For a long time it has watched your desire
    Feeling the emptiness growing inside you
    Noticing how you willed yourself on
    Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

    It watched you play with the seduction of safety
    And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
    Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
    Wondered would you always live like this.

    Then the delight, when your courage kindled
    And out you stepped onto new ground,
    Your eyes young again with energy and dream
    A path of plenitude opening before you.

    Though your destination is not yet clear
    You can trust the promise of this opening
    Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
    That is at one with your life's desire.

    Awaken your spirit to adventure;
    Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; 
    Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
    For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

     Maya Angelou
    “Still I Rise”

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may trod me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
    Weakened by my soulful cries?

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don’t you take it awful hard
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
    Diggin’ in my own backyard.

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I’ll rise.

    Does my sexiness upset you?
    Does it come as a surprise
    That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
    At the meeting of my thighs?

    Out of the huts of history’s shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
    I rise
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.

     Jenny Joseph

    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    And run my stick along the public railings
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick flowers in other people's gardens
    And learn to spit.

    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
    And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
    Or only bread and pickle for a week
    And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
    And pay our rent and not swear in the street
    And set a good example for the children.
    We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

    But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
    So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
    When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

     Kaylin Haught
    “God Says Yes To Me”

    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
    and she said yes
    I asked her if it was okay to be short
    and she said it sure is
    I asked her if I could wear nail polish
    or not wear nail polish
    and she said honey
    she calls me that sometimes
    she said you can do just exactly
    what you want to
    Thank God I said
    And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
    my letters
    Sweetcakes God said
    who knows where she picked that up
    what I’m telling you is
    Yes Yes Yes

     Billy Collins
    “The Mortal Coil”

    One minute you are playing the fool,
    strumming a tennis racquet as if it were a guitar
    for the amusement of a few ladies
    and the next minute you are lying on your deathbed,
    arms stiff under the covers,
    the counterpane tucked tight across your chest.

    Or so seemed the progress of life
    as I was flipping through the photographs
    in Proust: The Later Years by George Painter.

    Here he is at a tennis party, larking for the camera,
    and 150 pages later, nothing but rictus on a pillow,
    and in between; a confection dipped
    into a cup of lime tea and brought to the mouth.

    Which is why, instead of waiting
    for our date this coming weekend,
    I am now speeding to your house at 7:45 in the morning
    where I hope to catch you half dressed--

    and I am wondering which half
    as I change lanes without looking --

    with the result that we will be lifted
    by the urgent pull of the flesh
    into a state of ecstatic fusion, and you will be late for work.

    And as we lie there
    in the early, latticed light,
    I will suggest that you take George Painter's
    biography of Proust
    to the office so you can show your boss
    the pictures that caused you to arrive shortly before lunch
    and he will understand perfectly,

    for I imagine him to be a man of letters,
    maybe even a devoted Proustian,
    but at the very least a fellow creature,
    ensnared with the rest of us in the same mortal coil,

    or so it would appear from the wishful
    vantage point of your warm and rumpled bed.

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