‘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
Haunted Evaporations was inspired by a dream, in which an important message was being given by a figure crackling with numinosity “Learn to become a haunted evaporation….”
The book takes this instruction at it’s word, seeing haunted evaporations as a metaphor for the soul. The message seems to point to the idea that we must become ancestors to our future children – what would we leave behind if not works of art? Inspirations?
The book interweaves fragments of myth with fragments from daily life to make a weave of the numinous and the everyday, of loss, joy, and above all beauty, the beauty that arises from the strange encounter with something beyond the self, the imaginal realm.
In that way it is more about being haunted by gods than by ghosts, haunted by the absence of an numonous metaphor…
Inanna and the Descent into Images
A note: Gods do not offer solutions to problems, they offer the problems reimagined. This is not a call for a return to the worship of old gods. It is rather a call for a perceptual shift that allows their realm to be seen. This realm is the imaginal world that holds together soil to stone, root and branch, clould to sky. Between thought and world lies a perception of the heart that sees, feels and imagines.
Perhaps, as Martin Shaw says, myth is not meant to enchant us, but to wake us up, to remind us of what we have forgotten to call our attention to where:
from the crack
in a broken guitar” (from The Bridge)
Whether the denial is of death, of depression, of ecology, or the feminine, the gods continue to haunt us, existing in the mythic patterns enfolded in our mundane experiences.
They do this, because in each of our problems we can locate the
absence of a god – the absence of a numinous metaphor that
connects our problems to our culture. In the absence of the numinous, we may wait forever, like the mythic goddess Innana, suspended in the underworld, expectant of something to bring us to life:
“the taste of seed cake in her mouth,
the kisses memory
on her expectant lips”
(On A Hook (Re-membering Innana))
Gods, then may not be a matter of faith, they may not care if you believe in them.
They are away of seeing through to the archetypal dimensions
of the everyday, the patterns in the deep narrative. ‘The soul will fall sick again and again, until it gets what it needs,’ writes Hillman. In the same way, we find ourselves returning to the same haunts, and the same problems return in new ways, until we see through the details to the root of the issue, and discover what they really want to tell us.
So these poems act as markers of hauntings, things unseen that yet have power – the return of the gods through writing. They are metaphors for something half-known and half-felt, yet they are vital and filled with power to transform. Through this kind of writing we can learn to haunt ourselves,
“the flesh of a ghost
stiched into a heart” (from Retrieval)
These disowned forces can reclaim their birthright, both within the realm of our own haunted selves and the wider reality of our beautiful, haunted world.
As the title poem says
“in the ripe red heart,
in the green dance of ecstasy,
in the yellow moon of sorrow
learn to become haunted“