Remembering poet Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Thursday, April 21st, 2016
by Omar Tufayl
We were introduced by Imam Al-Busiri. That’s where I first saw his name, on the back cover of The Burda of Al-Busiri, the famous Poem of the Cloak. A new publishing of the poem had been undertaken by well-known scholars and artists and I recognised all the names except one. “Daniel Moore” it said, credited with the “English text editing” of the work.
Intrigued, I searched for his name online and came up with his website, The Ecstatic Exchange. It was full of imagery and words arranged in a way I’d never seen before, and all cantered around Islam. Utterly excited, I emailed him to ask if he’d like to be involved in a website I was working on launching at the time called DeenPort.
He emailed back and we started corresponding. We discussed everything under the sun and soon we were Skyping each other regularly to chat and talk about all sorts of things, things of the heart and the mind, big cosmic things and sometimes silly and trivial things. But always ended with a big alhamdulillah feeling at the end. Such was my interaction with him that I was always left enriched by my interaction with him.
With each and every one of those conversations I always felt uplifted, better than I had been. I could pour my heart out to him and tell him the truth of who I was without fear of judgement, or scorn, or pity, or anything like that. He had travelled and seen the world, grew up in the 60s when everyone was popping acid and spending countless hours on Zen cushions trying to find enlightenment. Nothing shocked him, he’d been there, done that, and was now floating in the lotus position deeply content and at peace.
It was from this position that he spoke to me and made me feel, and I deeply felt, that he understood what I was saying. I’d talk to him about the world, and the internet, and Muslims, about being born in Scotland to immigrant Pakistani parents, issues of identity and belonging, about Islam, about this and that and everything. I’d just pour it all out and he’d listen and engage me, and we’d have discussions that’d go on for hours. He’d scaled heights higher than me and travelled further than I ever would, he lived a life fuller than mine could ever be, and yet when we spoke, he made me feel like we were equals.
I was brown, he was white. I was in Scotland, he was in the States. I was from a Pakistani background, he was American. I was into digital and he was into analogue. The differences went on and on and on, and yet there was something deeper that he was able to do and that was to connect with you at a level most people don’t even know exists. Right there, where you are in your state, that he would comfort you, and you knew all was well with the world and you would make it.
What else is there to say, other people can tell you more about the countless books he wrote, the adventures he had across the world, the people he met, the things he did.
But for me, I miss him, I miss being able to phone him up and hear his voice. I lost touch with him in the last few years and it is my deepest regret. But I will always cherish the years we spent intensely communicating ideas and thoughts and feelings.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf sums up best the role of poets and poetry in his translation of the Burda:
“Humanity’s common experience, finding expression in language, enables poets to speak to others across millennia, to transcend time even place and produce not only for their time, but posterity’s, meaningful words whose relevance continues to resonate in the hearts of attentive listeners long after their authors’ bones have been interred in their graves. For this, great poetry, impregnated with perennial truths and powerful ways of expressing them, lives long after the poet has died.”
May Allah allow Abdal-Hayy’s benefit to spread far beyond today, give him an eternal cosmically beautiful, mind-blowing reality in the hereafter just as his poetry was. May Allah fill the void he has left behind in the hearts of people all over the world with light, and enable us to carry forward and become the positive energy that he embodied and emanated always in his being and in his smile and in his voice and in his laughter and in his radiant face. Ameen.
Omar Tufayl is the founder of online discussion portal DeenPort.com, he lives in Glasgow and has a keen interest in technology.
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, born in 1940 in Oakland, California, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore had his first book of poems, Dawn Visions, published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books, San Francisco, in 1964, and the second in 1972, Burnt Heart/Ode to the War Dead. He created and directed The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company in Berkeley, California in the late 60s, and presented two major productions, The Walls Are Running Blood, and Bliss Apocalypse. He became Muslim in 1970 and performed the Hajj in 1972, and lived and travelled throughout Morocco, Spain, Algeria and Nigeria, landing in California and publishing The Desert is the Only Way Out, and Chronicles of Akhira in the early 80s (Zilzal Press). Residing in Philadelphia since 1990, in 1996 he published The Ramadan Sonnets (Jusoor/City Lights), and in 2002, The Blind Beekeeper (Jusoor/ Syracuse University Press). He has been the major editor for a number of works, including The Burdah of Shaykh Busiri, translated by Hamza Yusuf, and the poetry of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Munir Akash. He is also widely published on the worldwide web: The American Muslim, DeenPort, and his own website and poetry blog, among others: www.danielmoorepoetry.com,
In 2011 and 2012 he was a winner of the Nazim Hikmet Prize for Poetry. The Ecstatic Exchange Series is bringing out the extensive body of his works of poetry, of which there are forty titles as of 2013, July, alhamdulillah. Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, may Allah show him mercy, died on Monday 18th April 2016/11th Rajab 1437 in the month in which Muslims traditionally commemorate the Night Journey and Ascent of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to the nearness of his Lord. He was a frequent visitor to the UK having family links and many, many friends and fans.
Last Poem written by Daniel AbdalHayy Moore on March 13th 2016
A pearlescent papyrus appeared out of
held over an abyss of brilliance
whose writing was lightning
and whose speech was an ocean of
silence articulate to the last
wave dissolve against a sizzling
night of deepest blackness
innermostly and outermostly
manifest as light in our
eyes and hearts in Allah’s
Perfect sight for ever
Excerpt from the first Poem published by Daniel AbdalHayy Moore in his ‘Dawn Vision’ book published by City Lights in 1964
THE PLACE OF ALL POSSIBLE
DARKNESS/ALL POSSIBLE LIGHT
A hole the size of a pupil
Opens out in a spiral, O fanning out! Let us go
Thru it into the wood that bares its teeth and roars silent
narrow path of deeper insight / hold a lighted
match our guide will try to extinguish
and let it be extinguished!
What other people are saying.
Long time friend Michael Haroon Sugich
Quoted from Seeker’s Guidance – OBITUARY: Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore
“I knew Abdal Hayy, not as a poet but as a man of the path. We had many adventures together, in various parts of America, in England (even in Iceland) and in Morocco. We laughed our heads off at some of the absurdities we went through in our younger days. I loved spending time with him, not only for his wonderful wit, but because of his deep sincerity. He was one of the most sincere seekers I have ever known. He was one of the Salihin. ”
Long time friend Ian Abdal-Lateef Whiteman
Quoted from Daniel Moore, Poet
“He was a night bird poet who invariably wrote in the early hours. Like a nightingale his song was only heard by a few but fortunately was recorded in all the many books he self-published over a fifteen year period till the time of his death. It is said that when a poem is recited the spirit of its author appears in some way and it’s in his poetry that you can still meet with him. There is a huge volume of his work but it is hoped an anthology can be assembled soon to present the essence of his work to a bigger audience. He was well known as a beat poet in the 1960s in the USA and was brought to a large audience by the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, and his name was always linked with Alan Ginsberg and Laurence Ferlinghetti. But it was a world of poetry that I had little to do with. I only knew him as a fellow traveller through the wild and rocky roads of a Sufi brotherhood over a period of around 45 years…..His poetry was always God conscious poetry and it came from from an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. He really knew poetry inside out, and poets too whether from the Caucasian or Hispanic universes. Where he is now only God knows, but I’m sure he is writing a poem about it.”
Andalusian Blogger “Cavemum”
Quoted from In Joyful Memory of Daniel ‘Abdal-Hayy Moore
“His influence for meek, toe-deep writers like me was to show that in poetry anything is possible. A paperclip could be the metaphor for union with the Divine, or it could be used to pick the lock to another realm in which cups of coffee sang songs and a snore told fathomless secrets. Or it could just be a paperclip, and isn’t that just the best thing for it to be?….Though his passing is sad, his memory is one of zany humour and enlightening frankness, which is a pretty wonderful legacy to have bequeathed.”
Please leave your memories of Abdal Hayy Moore in the comments below.