Mike Parker is a poet whose published works include Don’t Fall off the Mountain, Wallflower Sutra (book and audio CD) and Mike Parker Live (audio CD). His poetry is published by D’Spare Press in Boulder, Colorado, and edited by lifelong friend Phil Dubitsky. Mike has also recorded two music albums, Total Access and Wet Moments and appeared in two films, Crossover Dreams and AC-DC. In his spare time, he is a painter and mountain climber who has scaled peaks such as Mount Audubon, Sawtooth Mountain, and St. Mary’s Glacier. In 1979, he was the Artist in Residence in Ward, Colorado, where he held the nation’s first weeklong poetry and kickboxing event. Currently, he lives in Ward with his wife and daughter at an altitude of 9,250 feet.
Q. What do you think of the concept that my enemy is my lover?
A: I think it’s a great title because it is really easy to be loving, kind, and compassionate towards people who like you. But to love someone who is your enemy takes a lot more work. If there is one message that the Dalai Lama has on his lips at all times, it would be your book title. The people who are hard to love need compassion from us, from life, from nature, from everything. The other way is really easy and, on the surface, looks more holy and enlightened. But if love has not been tested, then it does not have legs. It’ll never go anywhere except in your own space. Being able to reach out, find common ground, and love things in opposition to you is what will change the world.
Q. Anything else?
A: I didn’t talk about Buddhism but a lot of my sentiments are there. I think it’s a wonderful path. It’s a religious path without God and that always makes it interesting. I used to teach at the Boulder County Jail. If you wanted to study with Allen Ginsberg in the early days of Naropa University, you had to go to the workshop at the jail. All his students and friends, the beats, came and read there. Being at the jail was part of my political vision. I was a judge at the time, so it was a way of balancing that out. Allen was a very political guy and he knew it was good for poets to see people on the inside and experience them as creative human beings. He also knew that poetry fed something that was different than what got people into jail in the first place. The guy was ethical, a great poet and human being, and a staunch Buddhist in his dealings with people.
When I was working at the Boulder County Jail, a kid was incarcerated for slapping Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Naropa. The kid was a Buddhist who thought he had done the right thing in reaction to Trungpa Rinpoche’s drinking. I spoke with Allen Ginsberg, who was influential in the Buddhist community, and said, “It’s not right that this kid is in here.” But Allen felt his hands were tied as the Karmapa was coming to town and there was pressure to keep the kid locked up. When the Karmapa arrived, Allen hosted a poetry reading to which over 2,000 people came. Allen said I could read anything I wanted so I read a poem called, Om, Money, Money, Money, which I had written about this kid’s plight. In the poem, I compared the Karmapa to Idi Amin. Some of the crowd clapped while the rest wanted to attack me. My friend actually got up to defend me holding a clog in one hand and his son in the other. Anne Waldman, a fellow poet, leaned over and said, “That was a career limiting move.” In my eyes, that was the only move. Being an artist means telling the truth, no matter how edgy. Anything, even Buddhism, can be corrupted by money, power, and fame. A Buddha doesn’t need bodyguards.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.