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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

fallow periods

We live in such a doing-based culture. And this spills over into the poetry-making process – so many people, students and friends (or both) lament the fallow periods in writing, in which, they fear, the muse has deserted them, possibly forever.

I used to fear those absence-of-inspiration times, too. But one of the advantages of getting older – and it took illness to show me this, as so often happens – is that I'm wiser, at last, about taking 'being' time; and, in relation to poetry, recognising that not only do we need time for the well to fill up again before we can expect to draw water from it, but also and most crucially time for simply being receptive to – well, anything and everything. This is a critical part of the creative process; it's not all about transmission.

Printing out course materials for a new participant, I came across this quote from William Stafford.

‘A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir; instead, he engages in an activity that brings to him a whole succession of unforeseen stories, poems, essays, plays, laws, philosophies, religions, or …

‘One implication is the importance of just plain receptivity. When I write, I like to have an interval before me when I am not likely to be interrupted. For me, this usually means the early morning, before others are awake. I get pen and paper, take a glance out of the window (often it is dark out there), and wait. It is like fishing. But I do not wait very long, for there is always a nibble - and this is where receptivity comes in. To get started I will accept anything that occurs to me. Something always occurs, of course, to any of us. We can't keep from thinking. Maybe I have to settle for an immediate impression: it's cold, or hot, or dark, or bright, or in between! Or – well, the possibilities are endless. If I put down something, that thing will help the next thing come, and I'm off. If I let the process go on, things will occur to me that were not at all in my mind when I started. These things, odd or trivial as they maybe, are somehow connected. And if I let them string out, surprising things will happen.’

This is from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart; in my view, one of the most inspiring anthologies out there. It's edited by that wonderful vital and insightful trio of wild men: Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade.

And – should you not know – the anthology title comes from  poem by W B Yeats: 'The Circus Animals' Desertion' finishes with these lines:

'...Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.'


I hope to be back on the blog before I leave for France; or if not, from there.

Meantime, enjoy the last of the summer, wherever you are...

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