from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

the mandorla and poetry

To expand a little on yesterday's theme, here's Jungian Robert Johnson: 'The mandorla is the place of poetry. It is the duty of a true poet to take the fragmented world that we find ourselves in and to make unity of it. In the Four Quartets, T S Eliot writes "The fire and the rose are one." By overlapping the two elements of fire and a flower, he makes a mandorla. We are pleased to the depth of our soul to be told that the fire of transformation and the flower of rebirth are one and the same. All poetry is based on the assertion that this is that' (metaphor being central to poetry). 'When the images overlap' he continues, 'we have a mystical statement of unity. We feel there is safety and sureness in our fractured world, and the poet has given us the gift of synthesis.

'Great poetry makes these leaps and unites the beauty and terror of existence. It has the ability to surprise and shock–to remind us that there are links between the things we have always thought of as opposites.'

For me (this is me, not Johnson), a poem has done its work if it allows or persuades us to see or meet the world, however fleetingly, in a new way. Sometimes there is a collision that is shattering, and illuminating at the same time. Part of the effect may be a renewed realisation of how disparate individuals, things, cultures, experiences all contain too something of the Other; and how the whole is reflected in each part, if we look with the right eyes.

Johnson goes on so eloquently to express something I too focus on in my courses: the power of the verb. A verb is almost alive, a germ, a seed; it's like those Japanese paper water-flowers – you know? The ones where you drop a tiny screw of paper into water and it blossoms...

Johnson says 'Languages rich in verbs are more powerful than those relying mostly on nouns. Human speech is more effective if it relies mainly on verbs. If you build mainly on nouns it will be weak; if you rely on adjectives and adverbs you have lost your way. The verb is holy ground, the place of the mandorla.'

Robert A Johnson,  Owning your own Shadow.

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