Welcome to the website of Toby Chown, a digital hub for the work of Toby Chown, author, dramatherapist and imaginal ecologist. Here you will find information about my work as dramatherapist, and as an imaginal ecologist, singer and poet.
What links my work and approach as a writer, imaginal ecologist and dramatherapist is “poesis” – a sense of the centrality of the creative process to understanding ourselves and the world around us
My trade is as a dramatherapist and a writer, a poet. To me these actitivities are strongly linked. What links them is the practice of what the ancient Greeks called poesis. Poesis means to create something new out of the old. It could be a pot from clay, a piece of art, or words that become a poem. Or it could be a new story about oneself, a new sense of purpose and identity, a new sense of – these too can form part of a creative process.
Poetry and therapy engage the creative -we take the raw materials of an experience or a story and re-shape it into something new.
This is a natural process, that we can find mirrored in nature. Our lives have a certain shape that they want to grow into. However, there are many ways that the direction and purpose of our life can get stunted, repressed, or our ability to flourish diminished.
Truama and addiction can damage our ability to relate, to ourselves to those we love and to the world that we live in. A distorted sense of self can be internalised in childhood, or any other key moment in our lives when we need to adapt.
My work has been for many years with families affected by alcohol or drug problems. The main organisation I work for Oasis Project, provides a safe, confidential space for young people to address the impact of the dysruption that alcohol or drug problems cause to families.
Yet the backdrop to this work is the ecological crisis. My approach is a creative one. Just as children and young people, in tending to their creativity, so do adults need to tend to our images, give them attention. In return, they invite us to follow a path through the tangled pathways, dark alleys and sunlit clearings of our lives.
My own creative process led to an explorations of the place where the mythic psyche meets the everyday, a book of poems called “Haunted Evaporations”
Haunted Evaporations is a book of poems. At it’s heart is the conviction that the process of art making is a process of coming to life, of finding a way through and of connecting deeper to other people and the world itself.
“Haunted Evaporations” is an invitation to retrieve the spark that animates words, myths, luminous moments and shadowed experiences. That spark may be present in the stillness of the trees at night or the psychogeography of an urban landscape.
“Haunted Evaporations” is an invitation to be haunted by the small blue flame we always carry with us – the story of our own life.
Praise for Haunted Evaporations
‘The path up is the path down… The way back is the way onward… Black is white and white is black… The great secret is no secret… Come closer and I will tell you…’ * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * New poems and writings where being haunted is shorthand for the poetics of memories and feelings. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * “I’ve loved Toby Chown’s sparse poetry for some time. This small collection is a gem, full of woven myths and deep imaginings. He goes to dark places to find small flowers growing and shines moonlight on our evaporating civilisation. And the deathly line at the heart of it could stand as the admonition for our age: ‘Learn to become haunted.’” – Steve Thorp, author of Soul Meditations and editor, Unpsychology Magazine
“Learn to become Haunted” (“from Haunted Evaporation”)
The Healing Poetics of Symbolic Action
Dramatherapists work from the premis that the dramatic act that can become therapeutic. Storymaking loosens the bonds of a fixed life script, allows a rehearsal of the possible. After all, the word “Drama” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “to act or do, or take action.” But the action in theatre is always on a stage – it is symbolic and poetic. Drama is always symbolic action.
The word “therapy” comes from the ancient greek therapia, which means to heal, to care for, to tend to. So dramatherapy is a healing poetics of symbolic action – where the troubles of life can be worked through in the theatre of the psyche.
Taking symbolic action can help us to make decisive change in the “real” world – this is the ancient truth of ritual theatre, where myth and personal narrative blend to allow an archtypal background to everyday problems.
Haunted by absent Gods
“Orpheus, I missed you at the poetry reading” (From “Blue Flowers)
The poems in the collection are not about being haunted by ghosts but by gods.
‘The God’s have become diseases,’ wrote Jung – a darker vision of gods, not as fantasies but pathologies. What does this mean?
It means that being haunted is a metaphor for the return of the banished forces that interfere with our lives. It is as if banished gods haunt us with those aspects of our lives that we refuse to face. They haunt us with our compulsion to unconciously repeat the same patterns in our lives.
In therapy with a young person, the confidentiality of the space and the mutuality of the relationship allows reflection and image making in. It is this that can allow some “time for a different story” – things that could not otherwise be bourne can return in new ways – anything can be bourne if it is a story…
In imaginal ecology with adults, this is to do with finding a “wild rose language” – the place that the creative comes from and it’s common source in nature. Traditional stories, embodiement, time alone in nature, ritual theatre, groupwork, voicework, journalling all can be part of the means by which we can find golden threads to lead us to the imaginal-ecological; that daydream state of mind from which visions and poems come to us, as if by magic.