Monday, September 29, 2008

Follow Your Bliss

It has become a popular catch phrase, follow your bliss (I first heard this advice when I was graduating high school), so I was interested to learn where it originated. Joseph Campbell, whose writing and teaching have been on my mind of late, said:
I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.
I've found it's pretty easy to fall off the track of the life one ought to be living (or never get on the track for those who start from less than desirable circumstances or can't imagine their bliss). And I do suspect that when I'm not following my bliss I'm more susceptible to getting off track. Still part of me believes there is no one right track, no wrong track either, maybe no limitation to a single bliss. The entire journey informs us; it's how we use what we learn, how we make corrections, in order to live to our fullest potential. But maybe these are just different sides of the same gem stone. Read more about following your bliss.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The New York Quarterly - Issue 64

Issue 64 of The New York Quarterly is now available, and I'm pleased to report that my poem "Running at Daybreak" is included.

The issue, aside from being chock full of poems, features craft interviews with Marge Piercy and and David Lehman as well as essays on the present state of American poetry.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Joseph Campbell and Myth

This weekend I watched the remainder of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. It took me quite a while to get through this two-disc program, partly because it's hard to find six hours to devote to anything, partly because when I did make time, I found myself frequently pausing and replaying sections so I could write notes. I remember wondering how Campbell could clearly articulate so many thoughts and ideas wordlessly residing inside me. Even the ideas contradictory to my own helped me to understand my own reasoning. He also raised many new concepts, which I want to think and read about further.

Some random paraphrased snippets from the program:
  • The influence of a vital person vitalizes.
  • One should seek the experience of being alive, not seek the meaning of life.
  • Consider intention (aesthetic) versus nature (expressive)...the beauty of a spider's web comes out of the spider's nature.
  • Myths and dreams come from realizations, find expression in symbolic form.
  • Myths need to change as the world changes. The world is changing too fast for new mythology.
  • Art reveals through the object the radiance, speaks to the order in one's own life.
  • There could be no relationship with that which is absolute other (lots in the program about dualities...male/female, man/god, good/evil, man/nature, love/pain).
  • Images/symbols of myth are reflections and potentialities of all of us.
  • Myth, like poetry, attempts to say what cannot be said with words.
  • Poetry is a language that has to be opens, doesn't shut you is the precise choosing of words that has implications past the words.
  • Your (image of) god is your ultimate barrier to the transcendent experience.
  • This moment now is the heavenly moment.
  • One must have a sacred place.
  • Myths are basically the same all over the world, in separate cultures and separate time periods...two possibilities for this are diffusion (mythology travels with traditions that travel through cultures) and the human psyche is essentially the same all over the world.
As I reread these and my other notes, I realize the effect has been diminished, the meaning blurred. It's like eating just the cherry off the top of a sundae. So if you're curious after this post, read Campbell's work or watch the PBS program, listen to these ideas directly from the source, devour the whole dessert. I ate and am more ravenous for it.

The First of Autumn

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How I See It

Check out my Mr. Picassohead, site created by Ruder Finn Interactive, which I came across by way of Sherry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A thought that inevitably surfaces when you are a poet is why...that is, why write poetry? With so many people who write poetry and so few who read it, I sometimes wonder why should I add to the surplus of this medium?

Sherry Chandler wrote a post related to this recently and what struck me most was this:

If, like the monks who pray at Gethsemane to restore balance to the world, I choose to spend my life as an obscure poet, nourishing my own human spirit and with luck a few readers’, then who is to say that is not a worthy thing to do, whether or not I leave an individual mark on the world at large.

Of course! Why I never thought of it this way before, I don't know, given my Catholic upbringing and its orders of secluded nuns. Absolutely, the world needs the sisters (and the secular) who live and work within our communities, but as much of a critic as I can be, I also (need to) believe that the world also needs those secluded nuns sending forth their silent prayers.

On a related note, this weekend my Netflix adventure was disc one of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, the long-ago PBS series where Bill Moyers interviewed Campbell, the now-late legendary thinker and teacher. I'm still digesting their discussion and hope to write more about it, but for now I'll focus on the part related to this post. Campbell suggests the artist's function is the mythologization of her environment. This turns everything upside-down for me, in a very good way. For far too long, I've looked at myth as something of the past, something unchangeable. But here's a directive that I, as an artist, am responsible for creating new myths. And, as Campbell points out, the world is in desperate need of new myths that meet the needs of our contemporary society.

Campbell also likens the poet to the shaman of primitive societies, for both share a unique connection to the universe and act as intermediary between the visible world and its invisible plane.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not suggesting I have shaman-esque capabilities or the sanctity of secluded nuns, but Campbell's message and Sherry's post came at one of those times when I was feeling frustrated with the limitations of a poet, the only real role I've felt "called" to do. I guess I'm saying I take my messages of affirmation any way I can get them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Poem for the Season

Linda Pastan's "The Months" on the Poetry Foundation web site.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Signs of Autumn

While I haven't actually caught the scent of the imminent season in the air yet, I'm taking note of its first indications.

It looks like the hummingbirds have left the area. I'm always caught surprised by their departure, wishing I could give them a proper send-off with hearty thanks for being such pleasant summer guests. Berries are ripening on the beautyberry and winterberry bushes, flushing with color. I can almost see the winterberry's blush deepen every time I look upon it. The bees and butterflies have lighted in a frenzy upon the rose-colored flowers of the aptly named Autumn Joy sedum.

Indoors, it's time again for watching football. And for a renewed desire for learning, for reading and for becoming more informed, for words, resplendent words. Yes, all signs that autumn is about to make its entrance.