Author Archives: Lupine Collides

About Lupine Collides

Poetry, theatre, music, gardens. What binds these things is a love of images and sound, and the desire to make a doorway between the imaginal world and everyday.

find a thread of soul and follow it.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was 17 at least.  (I’ve written about that here) It seemed like more of a necessity than a choice.  However reading poetry has always been a little harder.  Somehow easier to write it than read it.  The first poet that really lit me up was ee cummings.  The deep fuse of joy seemed so wired up in his words.  Later I found Ted Huges’s blunt shamanic poetics, Neruda’s humane sensual cosmology, Lorca’s startling imagetics.  I wouldn’t say that I was a scholar of poetry.  It’s always been more something that burst out in the feel of certain phrases, a kind of threat of meaning that coils out of the words into the nervous system and world.

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Love of words spilled out into lyrics, the WuTang Clan’s dense adrenalised flows, Anthony Keidis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers mix of eros, brotherhood and wordplay, of course Dylan’s ever open road, of wheeling images and mercurial love.  Recently I’ve loved Cat Power’s feeling soaked threads, where each word becomes a small bird that could lead you to a promised freedom.

But poetry like any art form has often been encased in hard shells of intellectualisation and high culture.  It’s not always easy to read poems, and sometimes it can be hard to work out if that’s the readers problem or the poet’s.  Not all poetry might be worth the time or effort,  perhaps because the point at the end is not “poetry” but more a the experience of a feeling that connects.  It could be there in a car manual or a work of fiction as a poem.  Stephen Harrod Buhner speaks well to this.  Connects what to what? Well, that’s the question.  Connects our life to our soul, to something that binds our nervous system to a deeper tangled world beyond the merely human. It’s definately out there in the woods after sunset.

I prefer the idea of poetics to poetry, because poetics reaches out from the page to that tangle of bird song, vine and branch. I don’t want a pastoral fantasy of poetics; an imaginal ecology lives in small flowers that crack pavements, or at crossroads where dark winds blow traffic lights at midnight. 



It feels important to guard against too pastoral a fantasy of nature, because it’s another way of drawing a line around the city and saying the wild is “out there”.  It’s either a redeemer or it’s savage.  It’s another way of reducing the mystery of nature and life down to a safe landscape or a blind set of jaws.

It reminds me of the general problems of idealisation, that has comes up more intensely in romantic entanglements.  Idealisation is the killer of romance, it replaces real people with statues, and invites harsh judges to the wedding of person to that statue. 

Even when i fell in love at the age of 20 I could feel the idealisation within it of the woman I was attracted to.  Now, having been steeped in Jungian psychology a while, and practiced as a therapist I might call it “projection.”  The projected image is not human, but it is irresistable and imbues itself into who you think the Other is.  It blends with your unconscious, and take the form of people you know at night in your dreams.  Projections needs to be treated with care and respect, as they are full of intense feelings, often related to something that feels impossibly absent to your ego. Something it feels it desparately needs.

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If projections are “withdrawn” then some of the feelings and needs that they consist of need to be placed somewhere else, as they don’t fully belong in the ego.  One way of doing this is art making, writing, painting, transforming intense affect into metaphor – these become containers for archetypal forces, ways of being moved without having to play the whole drama out in real life.

It’s worth remembering that we don’t only project “outward” onto others, we can also project “inward” into parts of our selves, onto our sense of nature, subpersonalities or of spirituality, powerful ideas or gods.  Our sense of what’s within can be as distorted as what we see in others, often more so.  It’s very easy to idealise inner forces and to put ourselves down. These projections can be persecutory as well as idealised; Jung wrote of them as “everything the subject refuses to acknowledge about herself” (CW 9i p284)

Perhaps that’s where an imaginal ecology comes in, as it offers a direct experience of how the imaginal flows from what we call nature, and links to the soul.  Jung thought of soul as the deeper parts of  “personality,” not accessible to the ego.  Bill Plotkin in his new book “Journey into Soul Initiation” re-visions this as the finding within your personality of something highly specific to you that connects you to the deep dream of nature, yet that ultimately serves both your human community and nature itself.  As a stage of soul to be found when you have been able to heal your initial wounds well enough, to estalish a good enough sense of who you are in relation to others. Plotkin suggests that this transformation requires a deep knowledge of self, wild nature and an ability to self heal well enough to face the depths.

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Poetry can aid this retreival of soul, because it renews the awful shackles language can place on us.  “Man is half angel because he can speak” wrote James Hillman.  He noticed the word “angel” means “messanger” and how words themselves can be angels, as they carry messanges.  An illuminating idea, that words themselves may not be just tools, but also have a kind of life to them, a reality of a different order. Words have a particular kind of power. “We need to remember that we do not just make words up or learn them in school, or ever have them under our control. words like angels are powers that have an invisible power over us.” (Hillman a Blue Fire p 28) He goes on to make the curious statement :”words are persons”

Yet written words are far more often used defensively to neuter feelings, or shut down dialogue, to give orders, defend ourselves from attack.  If words are persons we employ them as bodyguards, lawyers or PR men too often. The use of written language in legal matters, in advertising, and  on social media show all this.  Iain McGlichrist writes about how the use of language very easily falls into the kind of attention of that part of our brain concerned about power and control. 


This is especially true of writing, which keeps the immediacy of others at a distance.  It is as if there are two forms of attention, woven into the very fabric of our brain that are engaged in a continual, subtle struggle. One  monitors for threats, splits things into parts and processes, attacks, or defends the self.  The other form of attention has no form, it simply opens up to a deeper and deeper world, filled with feelings and images.  It is this second form of attention we need to be in touch with if we are to become able to revive our ability to nourish the living Earth we have abused and neglected.

The first kind of attention often arises as a response to trauma, that sends us “into our heads” where we find a rolling spoken narrative, that will make comment on anything coming in from the more open forms of perception.  Poetics (noticing the existing poetics in the world) and poetry (writing this down) can help to break through to the felt sense, that allows us to re-connect to the experience of nature and the body as mind.  The heart, the elbow, the kidney.

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To demonstrate this, I’m going to share a poem I wrote as part of workshop I helped run.  The workshop was called “the taste of a wild red rose: soul retrieval through story and myth.” I ran it with Serena Mitchell, poet and storyteller. We worked with a couple of stories that Martin Shaw tells well – the Lindworm and Tatterhood.  Do check out his excellent tellings if you haven’t.

However, we began with a poem.  So, here’s an exercise for you adpated from Stephen Harrod Buhner,  to do if you so please, to help find one of those golden threads between your self, the imaginal and nature. 

Firstly read the poem below. 

Secondly, listen to the recording of it. 

Notice the difference between the reading and the listening, the differences that each mode of delivery has on your body, your nervous system, your mood. 

Pay attention to any limages that reverberate with you.  Allow yourself to linger with them.

Let any images from turn over in your mind, see what they engender in you, what feelings they bring.  The aim here is not to critique the poem, but to allow it to breathe a little, to have a little life.  (If you want, pick a poem that you know you love)

Poems like to talk to each other. Images pool together in a common source in the psyche.  Remember that if you like a certain line, if it sparks a feeling in you, you can write a line youreself the same way, follow the same feeling.

Then, when the time is right, go for a walk into nature,  to the place nearest you that you like best, where you will see the least people. Go alone if you can. Find a place away from others, where there are an abundance of plants or trees and you feel safe.

Take a pen and a notebook and go our for a walk, taking whatever image reverberated in you with you. Just turn it over, don’t analyse it.  Go find a spot you can sit.  It must be a spot that feels right for you today.  Don’t take too long over this, but do pay attention to your feeling for the place you are in. 

How does the place feel, not so much how do you feel about it, but how does it feel?  Now sit and write down what comes to you in response to the poem and your feeling for this place.  Write the feel of the images.  Remember, images don’t have to be visual , they can be felt, smelled, half known, heard, intuited. Don’t take too long about, set limits,  give yourself 5 or 10  minutes.

Be obvious, direct, simple. Say what is there for you.

Limit your writing to 3 pages of your notebook.

When you get home speak the poem into your phone if it has a recording device.  Listen back to it Send it to someone who you trust to recieve such a valuable gift.  Make sure you send it to the right person.  (if the poem is about another person, it might not be that person! or maybe it is.  But send the recording to someone whose opinion you value and who will recieve your work in the spirit it is intended, and not someone who wishes to edit it.  If you don’t have someone you can send it to me.  But do think about who would recieve your poem in the right way)

Here is the recording:

https://soundcloud.com/tobychown/wild-red-rose

and the same poem written:

The Wild Red Rose.

Ah! the Wild Red Rose….

It’s fragrance stretches all the way
from Sussex gardens
to London,  Sheffield,  Kenya,
It might reach you wherever you are…

It whispers in your ear
That you can slow the restless mind
into the same dream state as  holly or yew;

You can sway all night with the wild owl’s cry
amongst a tangle of roots,
Ferment your soul within the dark cauldron sky.

I yearned for a tongue
as articulate as hawthorn.

For that eyes that flash silver as
coins under the full moon at midnight
In the telling of my story.

The wild rose longs to make your hair as wild as clematis
your skin as smooth as a young beech tree,
Longs for your speech at stretch it’s  gentle vines
beyond whatever masks, shields, gates or locks you placed
to keep trespassers out,

It yearns to transform the shame and the dark abyss they protect
into a temple of roots, leaves and simplicity.

Wild rose kindles a fire that seemed dead, 
blows sweet smoke onto the heart’s embers,
You know, even after all these years, something smoulders in those embers.

I waited for years for the return of it’s scent,
never realising that the padlock to it’s secret garden
Had been locked only by myself.

I turned the key, heard the shackle release
pushed open the iron gate,
Walked through the garden and on into the forest.

On the edge of the trees, I found a wild rose
entwined into brickwork of a ruined castle wall.
Her structure as intricate as blood vessels,
petals proud as a flag,

I recognise her traces in the architecture of my heart,
Her twin my every breath

I had to drop my book and pen
to describe her,
Had to become speechless to speak of her,

I had to put down the black sack on my back
I’d carried twenty years to register her in my body;

I poured it’s contents out at her roots to nourish her.

She asked me to surrender romantic fantasies,
About what I though love should be
To learn how to really love her wild honey.

She takes the form of a panther, a deer,
A wandering light, a child.
She came to me in the form of a woman I love one night,  and said

“Come a little closer, let me touch your blue heart,
with the promise of a rose;

Let me nourish you.

Let the soul’s story be your story”

Even now, especially now,
As the ragged world,
Flagellated by electricity and pollution
Crumbles back into
The unknowable matrix of it’s own wild soul,

As the oceans choke and coral bleaches,
And the people cry out in seasons of desert, fire, flood
As the stability of the seasons
breaks from it’s tether into a new unknown,

A wild rose clings to the brickwork of a secret garden.

Intricate as the structure of a heart,
As deep a breath,
As wild as a rainstorm

A wild rose still grows, still waits,

still repeats it’s mantra:

“Let the soul’s story be your story”

Enjoy the exercise!

find me on instagram https://www.instagram.com/tobyjoelc/


 

The Wound and the Eye

I’ll say a word: “sadness”
and give you a thorn in bloom,

the world and you seem tinted blue
and filled with bitter perfume.

Sadness is a world you see,
“the wound and the eye are the same”

reaching down to the chalky ground
where the bones and the dust remain.

But sadness is only a word you see
the world overspills the eye,

a dull warm ache, a need to relate,
confusion persists as to why.

So I’ll say a word: “sadness”
but sadness is only a word

beneath cement, a deep lament
above it, the song of a bird.

Recognition – the problem of integration

Here’s a thing. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the perfect way to share my artwork. I spent a lot of time trying to work out how it all fitted together – how the dramatherapy fitted with the poetry, how that fitted with the ecopsychology, how that fitted with the music, how the different types of music fitted together. There was kind of wild rock music, sweeter accoustic stuff, hip hop like stuff. There were long lyrical poems, short strange ones. Then there was the desire to link it all to ecology, to nature, to the wild, the archetypal the imaginal. How that fitted to my practice as a creative arts therapist, how that fitted to my practice as a writer, how that fitted to my guitar, how my guitar fitted to my loop station, how that fitted to my pen…how that fitted to the mycelial networks of trees, how that fitted to my own neural network…I think you get the drift…

I think there is a good deal of pain in this desire to “integrate” the different parts and activities of the self, to make it all fit into a perfect whole. To try and squeeze into the skin of a raven and fly when you need to be more down to earth, as Martin Shaw puts it nicely in one of his stories. It’s nothing other than a denial of the mutiplicity of being human. James Hillman’s writings suggest that a secret violence can underly attempts at integration, and that in the depths of oneself, multiplicity always continues:

“For even while one part of me knows the soul goes to death in tragedy, another is living a picaresque fantasy, and a third is engaged in the heroic fantasy of improvement” Hillman, A Blue Fire.

There are ways of linking together these activities, and all these different selves. I feel it can be worthwhile thing, creative in it’s own right. I have been preparing an essay called “what can imaginal ecology become for you?” which is a way of explaining how poesis can become an extension of the experience of nature, of how as the experience continues, it becomes poetic, because within the ever shifting tapestry of root, soil, bird, spider, rain, Sun, night, owl, moon, death, holly, chick, worm, skull and child lies a poetry that is not human and which human language draws upon to say anything at all but is not the container for.

However, the attempt to make all parts of the self perfectly presentable, to “fit” exactly together can be a dangerous thing psychologically. It builds an empire of the self under the stamp of the single image of the emperor. It feels like the worship of an empty mask, the persona that faces the world rather than the soul that lights it up from whatever mysterious depth that soul light comes from. Because the self is more like a theatre than a king’s head on a coin, and more like a wood even than a theatre, a living shifting ecosystem of dream and body.

So here’s another thing that links the creative to the wild; it’s always the poems that I really feel strongest that I want other people to read, yet it’s often the explanations of them that I end up sharing first. It is the pieces with the strongest feelings and images that I want to read when I dive into my notebook. These are visits to the wild, more satisfying than visits to the museum, yet less easy to understand.

Yet they often feel the hardest to share. Safer to give an explanation. Safer, yes, but no one ever gets to go to that place that poured from you like water from a rock, at the behest of some unknown power.

Some things do need explanation; and I am working on something I think will be helpful to you – I want to share ways to approach the imaginal ecology as a practice, as a perspective, and as a realm or place to visit. I want to share how all these things are all aspects of the same thing, how practice means the practice of perspective, how developing an imaginal perspective is also visting an imaginal place.

It’s been a long hard winter, and it’s clear that all is still not well in the world. I think we need more than ever the kind of art, fiction, storytelling, poetics, music and philosophy that know in their heart that we tumble the world around us, anew and somehow changed when we venture to create. That help us to carry our story, and to dive with it into the deep roots that sustain it.

Sharing art seems inevitabley linked to a desire for recognition. The desire for that recognition can bring a similar pain to the desire to “integrate.” Which part of the self gets the recognition? It seems we wish for and fear recognition, as the warm glow of knowing we have been heard can become the harsh searchlight eyes of a judge. Recognition itself has archetypal qualities, – re- cognition – thinking again. Thinking again about what you created with the feeling of having been read or heard. In this way it opens up the dilemma about our need for and fear of others. Yet to be recognised, truly recognised, itself speaks to a doorway in the soul’s wall that leads to a garden. The heart that imagines, and knows it may judged, and is able to turn around and accept that as the price for it’s dreaming, and it’s connection to others.

With that in mind, I want to share a poem called “Recognition”.

Recognition

My heart sees mountains in clouds
Watches dead temples
Come to life on
A tree crowned hilltops
Gazes at the deepsigh sunset
Watches the ghosts of pilgrims
Circle the anticlockwise hill
Seven times for a bowl of soup.

My heart follows you
Into the serpent Sun you speak
To free yourself from the iron cage
You constructed to keep yourself safe;

It wants to witness your unshakeable Blakean spear
And know you in your moments of nakedness and confusion

My heart sees you run,
Electric as a white hart in flight
Hears the hosanna you sang
When you fell to your knees and wept
Before a solitary tree

My heart sees you in two places at once
Doesn’t seem inclined to care which is which
Or for the reason why you ran,
Or the reason why you sang

And if you saw God in the grassy bank
Or Satan in the medication, the corporations,
The glass and metal banks,

My heart slips like a shadow through each door to follow

I do not come to flatter to the heart,
To coat it with a baste of praise
Swollen and bloated
Boiled like mutton in an witch’s dark cottage

I want to bear witness
Not to it’s power or capacity for salvation
But it’s tenacity and fortitude in the face of
How little it knows

I do not want to crown the heart in gold
Or swathe it in purple as a smug emperor of an inner kingdom,
I know my heart can cling too long,
To ghost of past loves it would do better to release,

That it madly chases archons and demons through labyrinths of world
through intricacies of the nervous system
I know my heart can be scheming, deluded, complacent and strange;
That it’s not a god but a process,
That it must weigh less than a feather
When it crosses the last threshold.

I know the heart is not it’s own kingdom
It needs an eye, a hand, a core,
It needs language, landscape, companions,
Doorways, guitars and the sudden scent of cherries

It needs to blacken in the embers of fires that it started
Peel off the charred ashes flecked white as a crazy moonbeam
Blue as a whale in the song of it’s solitude
Red as that shade blood becomes when lust’s consumed by love

I know most of all, it needs the promise of a beloved.

Well, forget all that.
Today, I just want to praise
the simplicity of it’s perceptions,
It’s capacity for regeneration,
To garland it with wild flowers
Like a girl at her first dance
Who doesn’t know she is pretty

I want my heart’s angel to
Whisper leaves, friendships and the secret language of dusk
Into the folds of my heart’s loneliness.

And I want your heart to know
What it means to be called by name
That you’d turn, in a garden
On a startled heel’s pivot
And know in your heart’s chamber
The warm shock of recognition.

Recognition


My heart sees mountains in clouds
Watches dead temples
Come to life on
A tree crowned hilltops
Gazes at the deepsigh sunset
Watches the ghosts of pilgrims
Circle the anticlockwise hill
Seven times for a bowl of soup.

My heart follows you
Into the serpent Sun you speak
To free yourself from the iron cage
You constructed to keep yourself safe;

It wants to witness your unshakeable Blakean spear
And know you in your moments of nakedness and confusion

My heart sees you run,
Electric as a white hart in flight
Hears the hosanna you sang
When you fell to your knees and wept
Before a solitary tree

My heart sees you in two places at once
Doesn’t seem inclined to care which is which
Or for the reason why you ran,
Or the reason why you sang

And if you saw God in the grassy bank
Or Satan in the medication, the corporations,
The glass and metal banks,

My heart slips like a shadow through each door to follow

I do not come to flatter to the heart,
To coat it with a baste of praise
Swollen and bloated
Boiled like mutton in an witch’s dark cottage

I want to bear witness
Not to it’s power or capacity for salvation
But it’s tenacity and fortitude in the face of
How little it knows

I do not want to crown the heart in gold
Or swathe it in purple as a smug emperor of an inner kingdom,
I know my heart can cling too long,
To ghost of past loves it would do better to release,

That it madly chases archons and demons through labyrinths of world
through intricacies of the nervous system
I know my heart can be scheming, deluded, complacent and strange;
That it’s not a god but a process,
That it must weigh less than a feather
When it crosses the last threshold.

I know the heart is not it’s own kingdom
It needs an eye, a hand, a gut,
It needs language, landscape, companions,
Doorways, guitars and the sudden scent of cherries

It needs to blacken in the embers of fires that it started
Peel off the charred ashes flecked white as a crazy moonbeam
Blue as a whale in the song of it’s solitude
Red as that shade blood becomes when lust’s consumed by love

I know most of all, it needs the promise of a beloved.

Well, forget all that.
Today, I just want to praise
the simplicity of it’s perceptions,
It’s capacity for regeneration,
To garland it with wild flowers
Like a girl at her first dance
Who doesn’t know she is pretty

I want my heart’s angel to
Whisper leaves, friendships and the secret language of dusk
Into the folds of my heart’s loneliness.

And I want your heart to know
What it means to be called by name
That you’d turn, in a garden
On a startled heel’s pivot
And know in your heart’s chamber
The warm shock of recognition.

https://soundcloud.com/tobychown/recognition