Monday, 25 January 2010

THE HOPE OF THE WEST: Paintings for Jack Yeat's.

Following on from last weeks post i decided to go on bended knee to my own 'lofty companions' one of whom is Jack.B.Yeats, the brotherof mr W. B. Yeats-a man we frequently read and discuss over here at the School of Myth. Lesser known Jack has a fondess for wild horses, prussian blue and black trilbys which is good enough for me. So i am looking at his life, themes, turn of brush, movement between the abstract and figurative and trying to absorb some of his handling of everyday things and amplifying their resonance. So these paintings (terrible photos) are for Jack. The beginning of many of this study. My own paintings are almost never figurative, so i am just-very deliberately-trying to ground this study in the atmosphere of his 'canon'. Daily solo work (quite different) is not ready to show yet.

I would love to hear how any apprenticeships are going-maybe Sitting Bull, Charlie Parker (ignore his call for chemical refreshments), Marie Louise Von Franz, Big Bill Broonzy, Emily Dickinson.

Talking about Von Franz, i have been deep in her 'Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales' this week. My copy is a battered pulp of underlinings and nutty observations. I like her thought that loved domestic objects create a certain force field that protects an individual from subtle possession states (in mythic language this is the influence of THE WITCH or the GIANT-of course this does not refer to folks that use these phrases in the everyday). The Witch seeks to isolate you (they always catch you alone in some remote forest of thought), The Giant to exaggerate your emotions to a crazy condition-both hold a kind of manic introversion and extroversion.(remember that Giants are often keepers of Fire and Ice-mirrors of extreme emotion)

If you return to a house after 6 months away you re-animate and reclaim the area by the assembling of these precious objects-they are kind of talismanic. With this thinking, maybe very bland motels are dangerous places for the psyche-we risk a kind of trance. Many tribal folk believe that these energies move into a house when you move out. It's not as ominous as it sounds, it just requires some negociation. As a wilderness rites-of-passage guide this is all hugely interesting.

With this in mind i love Jack Yeat's use of everyday objects in his paintings-they anchor the magic somehow. So i am happy to bring the woodburning stove into the above
work as a deeply precious object to me. Time in a tent focuses the mind on what matters somewhat.

Oddly in synch with this Yeats facination is Mike Scott, groovy cat and singer with the WATERBOYS. Mike is adapting a large amount of W. B.'s poetry and adapting it to music (the very old Bardic tradition). A week of show's: 'An Audience with Mr. Yeats' showing the results
will be on at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin later this year-all tickets sold out. Can't help but feel a frisson of excitement. We should get him to the school to talk about his love of Pan and C. S. Lewis. That said-his record 'A Rock in the Weary Land' is just the most horrible, exhausted, flailing about sea of horror i can imagine. But balance that against the sublime 'This is the Sea', 'Fishermans Blues' and his first solo record, 'Bring Em All in' and he still resides in mercurial genius catagory. Maybe the schools 'hard but fair' policy to his back catalogue will
lure him over. Maybe not.

So with all this Yeat's among us, lets have some. I hold my very first book of poetry in my hand, a battered 'selected works' bought in Newcastle in the long summer of 91, i was a teenage loon staggering about, weeping and brawling in equal measure. Not much has changed.

You think it horrible that lust and rage
should dance upon my old age
They were not such a plague when i was young;
what else have i to spur me into song?

Thursday, 21 January 2010


A week in the painting studio (That's Francis Bacons by the way). Mixing oil paint and linseed by paraffin lamp as the woodburner splutters and crackles to keep the cold from entirely possessing me.The first two days were like being dragged through Hades with Ruby Wax as a companion. Horrible, cliched ideas, paint turning to mud, backache, frustration, clogged brushes and brain, completely deaf in left ear (a cold-also a good mythic mirror), all sorts of gargoyles abiding on my shoulder' whoever told you you could do this!!'A few hours troubled sleep then back out into the freezing hut, drunk on despair and the smell of white spirit. Headaches, trudging prussian blue back into the house. getting the picture?

Things slightly-i say slightly- improved. Will post some of them up when i have a moment.

The moment you have read this missive please run over to YouTube to view Robert Bly reading Pablo Neruda at the Westcountry School of Myth and story. Its at

or type in the above and you'll get it. Please work yourself up into some hysterical state and stay up day and night, wired on Coffee, Goethre and the music of Elgar sending the link on the vast e-mail lists i know you all have secretly stashed away.

A good response to last weeks Hillman piece by our very own Ben Dennis-i am going to post a little of it up. Ben would be too modest to tell you but he has just obtained a PhD in mythology from the Pacifica Institute in California. The subject was betrayal-and an extremely accomplished piece of work it is to.

Says Dr Dennis:

"I hear from some whom I have given Hillman's books that his writing is too difficult, why couldn't he have written in a more accessible way? My answer is this...Bullshit! The difficulty is a direct reflection of the complexity of Hillman's thoughts. His gift is to go deep, to travel the underworld in way's terrifying for most of humanity, and to bring back begrimed treasure for the rest of us. Once that is done and expressed, only then can it be polished up, translated, and prettied.

For me, I am interested in the subterranean realms and find the richness in Hillman to be in its most raw form, full strength and undiluted. I am not, in any way, more interested in the "lite" version. Give me the hard stuff!

Yet, Moore must also have an honored place. He brings us the treasure in a way we can absorb and work with. His role is a crucial one because without him, Hillman would have less of an audience...and the world would be a lesser and impoverished place without him. Moore also provides the hope that powerful and raw thoughts 'can' be digested by mortals. After all, what Moore does for Hillman is much the same thing any of us would do--take it in as best we can.

Every time I dive into Hillman I am acutely reminded that I am NOT educated! I am a student."


There is a joy in reading a writer who is not designed to reasure, but to push, cajole and challenge-even if that headache i just mentioned comes back. Words can hold complicated nets of association that catch the very deepest fishes in the psyche. If the words are too simple, the net holds too many holes and the fish/thought simply swims away. I don't believe that simplicity is always best.

For me the impoverishment in some academic writing (not Hillman)is the scarcity of image led thinking-the very thing that myth is so brilliant at. I will suffer almost any level of tortured prose providing it feels connected to image and metaphor, without that i start losing the will to live. So i guess the above fish illustration is how an image can hold an idea (you already knew that of course).

I think that societally we are not fond of clear teachers these days. Hillman is scary because he's didatic, he's not just 'facillitating your reponse'he's actually laying something out-like it or not. Having gone through a teacher training a few years ago i remember the endless efforts the staff tried to instill in us duckling teachers never to lecture, overtly challenge or criticise. All Saturn,Hag,Cronos or stern father/Mother must be banished entirely from the chamber. Do i say chamber? i mean 'collective, sharing-learning experience.'Whatever you do-never appear to know more than the student. Heaven forbid they may feel uncomfortable.

There are many ways of learning to be sure-but i gravitate as a student to a little of the above-i like some salt in the meal. We should think about this subject more-what are its cultural implications?


Find a 'Lofty Campanion'-a character that has lived in the last 500 years. There must be plenty of information about them and their work. Ritually make yourself an apprentice for a finite amount of time.Take them as a teacher. Study their work (could be a boatmaker, artist, tramp, or surgeon-anyone). Work with a theme or interest that they worked with-allow yourself to copy and study (a travesty to the Puer thought of continual originality). Don't think of growing but deepening into their work (very Hillman). This will help slow your relationship to time-it's a reaching back, a very soulful, introspective move away from how speedy everything has become. So, a 'lofty companion'-maybe in an area you know nothing about. Find out some biography.What mythic figures do they remind you of? bring what you know about your companions to the next gatherings-get us nice and crowded. You can make it a ritual by attending to their/your work at the same time everyday-even for 30 mins. Would love to hear about this-the best bit of 1,500 wrds writing on the experience gets a book from the School of Myth Library. Something off the beaten track.


I am frequently asked about fairy tale commentaries specifically for women, so...drum roll is a list. Some better than others, but thats for you to have the pleasure of finding out! Lots of heat and differing thoughts.

Auerbach, Nina, and U. C. Knoepflmacher, editors. Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Bernheimer, Kate. Mirror, Mirror On The Wall: Women Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.

Birkhauser-Oeri, Sibylle. The Mother: Archetypal Image in Fairy Tales. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1988.

Chervin, Ronda. The Woman's Tale: A Journal of Inner Exploration. New York: Seabury Press, 1980.

Chinen, Allan B. Waking the World : Classic Tales of Women and the Heroic Feminine. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1996.

Douglas, Susan J. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Crown, 1994.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. The Dangerous Old Woman: Myths and Stories of the Wise Old Woman Archetype. New York: Random House Large Print, 1996.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Gonzenbach, Laura. Beautiful Angiola: The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Collected by Laura Gonzenbach. Jack Zipes, translator and editor. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Haase, Donald. Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004.

Harries, Elizabeth Wanning. Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale. Princeton: Princeton University, 2001.

Jurich, Marilyn. Scheherazade's Sisters : Trickster Heroines and Their Stories in World Literature (Contributions in Women's Studies). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Lederer, Wolfgang. The Kiss of the Snow Queen: Hans Christian Andersen and Man's Redemption by Woman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Levorato, Alessandra. Language and Gender in the Fairy Tale Tradition: A Linguistic Analysis of Old and New Story-telling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Lundell, Torborg. Fairy Tale Mothers. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Minard, Rosemary. Womenfolk and Fairy Tales. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975.

Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Paradiz, Valerie. Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Rusch-Feja, Diann D. The Portrayal of the Maturation Process of Girl Figures in Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

Schectman, Jacqueline M. The Stepmother in Fairy Tales : Bereavement and the Feminine Shadow. Boston: Sigo Press, 1993.

Sellers, Susan. Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women's Fiction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

Tatar, Maria M. The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Princeton: Princeton University, 1987.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Feminine in Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala, 2001. Revised edition.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise. Problems of the Feminine in Fairytales. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1986.

Waelti-Walters, Jennifer R. Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination. Montreal, Canada: Eden Press, 1982.

Warner, Marina. From Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. London: Chatto & Windus, 1994.

Zipes, Jack. Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: New American Library, 1989.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hillman, Intellectual property and the big S word.

I wanted to drop in part of an article from the New York Times in the mid-nineties to do with the work of James Hillman and Thomas Moore. To be clear-i think both are terrific in different ways, and i think some of Moore's more spacious prose style influences Hillman's later work (which DID prove to be bestsellers-something that happened post this article.)

I'm very interested in Hillmans essay 'Pink Madness' on porn, and Moore's 'Dark Eros'(a book i think i have recommended before) and what happens to all our lusty, sectioned off, libidinous, howlingy indecent impulses that rear up at the most inappropiate moments. Wonderful stuff.This article touches on some delicate areas i think. Just google Hillman New York Times and i'm sure you could find the whole thing.

To really descend into the shaggy flanks and hot moons of panting chaos you may want to sample his 'Pan and the Nightmare' book. Thats our Jim of course, by the time you read this he will already of been up for six hours cooling his terrible intelligence with icepacks of lesser mortals like Spengler and Goethre. We weep in the dark at his remorseless train of horrible ideas. He says we won't get into Arcadia if we don't study and, by the way, the much maligned brain is full of BLOOD.

Thank you for the great responses and poems from last weeks post.
More soon on that x.


Thomas Moore, author of the unexpected best seller "Care of the Soul" and the subsequent and much expected best seller "Soul Mates," opens the workshop with a story about a call he got from someone at "Oprah" after his appearance on the TV show. "She wanted the names of people whose lives had been changed by my book," he says. "I said no. She said, 'Don't you want to change people's lives?' I said no. They won't be changed anyway. The person who says they're the most changed is the least changed."

For any of the 200 people in attendance who want to give it a shot anyway, at a table in the back is a display of the ways Moore is selling his souls. There is the handsomely boxed set of the two books, and separate hardcover, paperback and audio versions. For people who need a more specific approach on how not to change their lives, there is the $58, six-volume set of tapes titled "Soul Life," with cassettes on topics like "Introduction to Soul Life" and "Soul and the Family."

Moore finds it an exhausting business, this hawking of one's ideas to groups of people searching for an answer to -- well, searching for an answer. "Some people get energized by this," he says at the lunch break. "It wipes me out." Still, such events, this one held in a Manhattan church, are the price Moore pays to get his name before the kinds of people who will buy his books and tell their friends. A lot of friends. Since its publication in 1992, "Care of the Soul" has sold more than a million copies. And as people stream up to him during the breaks, he autographs his books with unfailing grace.

Events like this are also wearing for his collaborator at today's workshop, the psychoanalyst James Hillman. Hillman complains of a headache during the lunch break and after eating a sandwich, naps on the floor in a sleeping bag. For him, such workshops are not a means to propel himself onto the best-seller list. Though he is Moore's inspiration, the wellspring of the younger man's ideas, these workshops are the primary way he makes his living.

This Saturday's joint lecture, sponsored by the New York Open Center ($85 for members; $95 for nonmembers) is called "Aphrodite's Revenge: Dark Eros and Pink Madness." Over the course of the day the two men contemplate where to find the Greek goddess of love and sex in today's world, and how she retaliates for attempts to repress her. It is an abstruse topic, but Moore and Hillman, in their very different ways, make it vivid, perhaps even pertinent to those attending.

But there is something larger at work here than a meditation on a Greek goddess. It is a demonstration of how to package ideas. It is the difference between selling a million copies of a book and 35,000 (the total sales, after 19 years in print, of Hillman's major work, "Re-Visioning Psychology). It is why Moore is at ease on "Oprah" and Hillman will never be invited.

There is almost no distinction between Moore's ideas and Hillman's. Moore himself freely acknowledges his intellectual debt to Hillman. And he should. "Care of the Soul" can be seen in part as a gloss on Hillman's work, a clearer, more direct translation of Hillman's ideas. Call it Hillman Lite.

Hillman Heavy asks no less than to replace the governing beliefs of psychoanalysis. In Hillman's view psychology should be about depth, not growth. "After a certain age you do not grow," he has said. "If you start growing after that age, it's cancer." He has devoted decades to dethroning our culture's faith in the ego, to deflating our worship of heroic action and to deprecating our certainty in the concept of self. Hillman wants society to turn away from its obsession with the unanchored altitudes of spirit, and come back down to earth, to the soul. He also asks us to reject the judgmental thinking of monotheism and return our psyches to the polytheism exemplified by ancient Greece.

Hugh Van Dusen, who edits both Moore's and Hillman's books at HarperCollins, while celebrating the success of the former, regrets the obscurity of the latter. "It's sad but relevant that Hillman's books never sold very well. . . . It does seem that Tom has been able to take many of Jim's ideas and his own ideas and put them in a literary form that is widely accessible."

Their differences in style are no better illustrated than here at St. Peter's Lutheran Church. Moore, a former seminarian and therapist, has the gentle, reassuring manner of someone trained in gentleness and reassurance. He is 54 but is preternaturally young looking, his skin glowing and unlined. He doesn't so much lecture as evoke images of Aphrodite that seem to have just floated through his mind. These images suggest that each of us, in some of our most trifling moments, is in service to the goddess. He mentions associations with Aphrodite: flowers, smiles, gold. "Let's say you're walking down Madison Avenue and you're caught by a gold object -- that's so easy here. One of the great means we have of contemplation today is the store window."

When it is Hillman's turn to speak he doesn't evoke, he provokes. He is tall, thin, ascetic-looking at 69, with cropped white hair, a hawklike nose and deep creases across his temple which point like arrows to his penetrating sea-colored eyes. On stage, he is on the attack, working himself into a sweat, pacing, as he flips through a stack of stapled bits of paper. Hillman's subject is not beauty but pornography. His speech is about Aphrodite's reviled son, Priapus, the god best known for his grotesquely enlarged phallus, the god of exposure.

In his rat-tat-tat style Hillman leaps from politics, to personal addresses to the gods, to psychological analysis of current films, to etymological elaborations, to just plain talking dirty. Listening to him is like riding a great wave; just when you think you have caught the rhythm, you find yourself dumped gasping on the shore.

He scorns society's attempts to repress pornography, explaining that the imagination is more powerful than our rational beliefs. No matter what laws we enact ("Law is the myth of America. Lawyers are our priests") he says, the truths of human nature embodied in the myths will be played out over and over again, never losing their ability to shock. He cites an example: "The most recent case of Priapus, who was stocky, middle-aged, swarthy, was Clarence Thomas. There he was, uncovered on TV. It was an exposure. That whole myth reappeared."

At the end of Hillman's performance, Moore rejoins him on stage. Like a good student, he praises his master. Yet in his praise, there is an edge. (As the Greeks knew, sons are prone to knife their fathers.) "I've been doing this for 20 years, listening to this man speak," Moore says. "I remember having to respond to a talk so far beyond me, I didn't know what to do. I get so caught up, so mesmerized . . . I had a blank piece of paper for taking notes. But it stayed blank the whole time."

"THESE ARE THE THINGS I'VE written," James Hillman says, sweeping a hand across a long shelf of books in the office of his Connecticut house. There are nearly 20 books that he wrote or co-wrote, with titles like "The Myth of Analysis" and "We've Had a Hundred Years of Therapy and the World's Getting Worse." It seems an ironic monument to someone intent on dismantling ego, hero and self. After all, what is such a shelf if not a tribute to an ego-driven, heroic self-image? His answer is typically Hillmanesque, mixing metaphor and myth: He gets possessed by demons. "The demonic is something that is a taskmaster to do these things or say these things or produce these things," he explains. "It's the slave driver. You spend your life making it, then it tortures you: 'What are you doing now? We want more. You didn't finish that.' "

He may never finish. This month Doubleday published "Kinds of Power: An Intelligent Guide to Its Uses," of which he says proudly, "There's not one practical idea in the whole book." Under way is a book for Random House that looks at individual destiny and re-examines the importance of childhood experiences.

All the books provide intoxicating bursts of illumination, but they are also dense, allusive, complex. Hillman's writing style suggests that he will not be drawn into the delusion of the logically laid-out argument. "It requires a lot of culture," he says of his oeuvre. "It's work to read it." He offers almost no case histories, anecdotes or biography to help anchor the reader or show how to apply his ideas to one's own life.

Though Thomas Moore insists, like his mentor, on the fallacy of helping people, his books belie this. They are full of examples from his therapeutic practice, homiletic advice on finding soul: wash your dishes by hand as a household ritual, share your dreams with your loved one. The pervasive implicit message is that you can make your life better.

Hillman offers no recommendations; he doesn't try to fix things: "My suggestion is that there's no way out of the human condition," he says. "Sex, death, marriage, children, parents, illness. There's no way out. They're a misery, all of them. You can spend 10 years in therapy and it will still be sex, death, marriage . . . "

Thursday, 7 January 2010


It will be a thick missive this week. High Heathercombe-seat of this weekends gathering is snowed in, and so to my regret we have had to postphone till the first weekend in February. Gazooks-i hate to cancel man, hate to cancel. So i am throwing in various poems and questions to keep some mythic thread to these few days.

For students:
First challenge: Read below poem and write a five minute poem in response to it-any aspect-write at the edge of your understanding. There will be another at the end. They are two of mine i am tinkering with-a little overfull, but hopefully evidence that i'm joining in the tussle of all this poetry writing we do. This one is to do with the idea that desire needs some third element to arrive for it to truly activate, an old god or goddess to appear in some un-scripted manner.

The Gods of Hay and Love

Two wait alone for the rambunctious commander,
To glue all desire into the bees of their bodies
In tiny rooms they séance for
The smile-foxed awakener
He that lays tracks in the sullen valley,
He that threshes timber and holds mountains apart

No gentle crooner,
But leathered, rounded, unbending.
Some strong trunk of focus
an unrepentant arrow
that spits out the trembling centuries

As berry-large rain twists
In a cup of strength,
As a wash of salt
Licks the harbours fiery maidens
This charging wheel fractures its consorts

He will not leave the low places
But coax smoke from the anxious kindling
Tranced always by the girl
of appetite, of her thatch of memory, of her ghost
family, her animal flanks.

All the lights in this house are out,
Late afternoon
The empty rooms lean in an inch
To catch some word-butter from
The boney caves of love.

Dust moves a fraction on the sill
Water pours from an old jug
And for a second the world is
full of magicians.

Second challenge: What do you think the differences between a myth, folk-tale, legend and fairy tale are?
Please consult NO book for this-work through your own feelings-think of their connections to time, history and geography. responses can be sent to and will be read with interest.

Here is some of the essay-following on from the 'pastoral and prophetic' and 'a Culture of Wildness' sections in previous blogs.


The beautiful thing about traditional tales, the thing that makes them interesting, and endlessly adaptable, is that they do not speak their truths directly. Traditional tales use the hidden language of metaphor…you could say there are as many hidden stories within a narrative as there are tellers and listeners.

Sally Pomm Clayton, Into the Hidden Country (Society for Storytelling Press, 2008) p.7

My concern with much contemporary storytelling is a hesitancy to explore metaphor, that a superstitious code prevents any deeper implications being explored. In a society that largely ignores depth and metaphor in favour of the shallow and literal, Pomm Clayton’s ‘hidden stories’ are not always accessed. The folk-tale sits rather like a wedding cake- we scrape off the icing but never dig our spoon into its fruity depths.

As a storyteller I am fascinated by this language of place, by place-names and their
etymology-the Thwaites, Thorpes, Duns, Bournes, Combes-and all the mysterious composites: Hetty Peglars Tump, Grimes Graves, Wookey Hole, the Gog Magog
Hills…(i) encircle myself with a personal poetry of place

Hugh Lupton, (The Dreaming of Place, Daylight Press, 2001) p.6

I like the direction that the great storyteller Hugh Lupton hints at.The imagination of Lupton is now, fired by language, moving downwards into associations of both localised history and folklore, and, as a storyteller, makes an assumption that this is a natural point of enquiry. Ted Hughes invokes the element of the wind;

Almost every poet, when he mentions the wind, touches one of his good moments
of poetry…the Old Testament prophets were often carried off to their visions in a great wind, or heard extraordinary things out of unnatural stillness.

Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making (faber and faber, 1967) p.33

Hughes’s quote is grandiose, but maybe, I wonder, not inflated enough! In a de-constructed, irony infused environment, does the aspiration of a personal, visceral relationship to landscape both inner and outer invoke derision? Probably. But I contend that Lupton and Hughes haven’t gone far enough in their ruminations, that they should have allowed more lunacy into their wonderings, created more trouble with the intelligentsia. As this essay continually suggests, the doors towards that archaic relationship with nature are far from bolted. However, a dialogue like that could create a character that is as introverted as the stillness of mid-winter, or as ridiculously abundant as spring- both imply an excess of feeling or sensation.

In the following quote from William James we detect an advocacy for such grandiosity, Blakes’s ‘road of excess leads to the place of wisdom’; that a place for desire in the centre of ones life creates just the necessary tensions that make it truly engaging. In the language of the essay this involves concerted attention on both the Village and the Forest.

Man's chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective
propensities his pre-eminence over them simply and solely in the number and in the
fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic,and
intellectual. Had his whole life not been a quest for the superfluous, he would never
have established himself as inexpugnably as he has done in the necessary. And from
the consciousness of this he should draw the lesson that his wants are to be trusted; that even when their gratification seems furthest off, the uneasiness they occasion is still the best guide of his life, and will lead him to issues entirely beyond his present power of reckoning. Prune down his extravagance, sober him, and you undo him.

William James, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, (Harper Perennial, edt Bly, Hillman, Meade, 1992) p14

This quote from Francis Ponge i love completely and is probably the great summation that these strange chunks of essay writing have been moving towards.

Hope therefore lies in a poetry through which the world so invades the spirit of man that he becomes almost speechless, and later reinvents a language…true poetry is what does not pretend to be poetry. It is in the dogged drafts of a few maniacs seeking the new encounter.

Francis Ponge, News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, Edt Robert Bly, (Sierra Club Books, 1980) p214

Here's to our dogged drafts!

So here is the next poem to take five minutes from. If the other one is about love in the afternoon (as it were), this is about the stresses all artists feel when presenting their work, whatever that may be. Have fun with this-let your darkish self wander the lines!

My Whip Hand (At the End of a Week of Curating)

Sitting by an open door is an insult to many important things
A prolonged, deliberate, attack on myself
It’s been a weak harvest-
And my fingers hold the tension
My spiderish bone-tangle
crackles weaker skulls from its counting- tips

I have signed up to depletion,
to never see gold bears at the stream anymore
Or great pyramids that lurch from a child's jaw
The urchins of night have leapt back into the crescent
Its twenty years since an oar troubled the vines

This disdain of mine is a vineragy gate
That the old shelter in for a second while shopping,
But, eager to be pulled back to the laughter
They don’t take my eye for long

My whip hand wheezes in dismay
keen for instruction from the ailing General
The urge to flail
Or better to strike
A bruise could be a dark pool we could both bathe in.

I can’t wait to hand the keys in
To trade my damage
For the milky walk home

All this disappointment is really not as satisfying
As i had hoped it would be
I thought I’d somehow settle into its wry horror
But no, I’m an exhausted lunatic,
eating horse tails and choking on sunlight

My good friend Rebecca had been interested in the relationship between arts-painting, sculpture,installation etc and the mythic world. I am sure many of you
could write huge lists of individuals involved. Painting links could be:


Few of the connections are overt as such, just something i sense and respond to.

I have something of an allergy to art that is clearly and entirely devotional work to the natural world, i like to see some tension, complexity and im-purity creep in-us humans are good at that. That might sound weird, judging from my position on many things, but i don't respond to work that is purely banging some eco-message over my head. Just ain't cool-i'm looking for a more subtle, unique response to being alive at this point in time.

My big guy for years was JOSEPH BEUYS. so here's a few lines on him (some of this i put in a few months ago)on this story-theme....

It is not the role of this essay to make a sweeping denotation that the role of storyteller inevitably carries with it the role of Witch or Cunning Man; our societal conception of what story offers is to wide for that, but does seek to re-emphasise its primary function-as an intermediary between societies shared language and an invitation to ‘otherness’ to present itself, imagistically, to the group, and, in doing so, expand our capacity for knowledge. The largesse of the role I describe is certainly problematic and ripe for inflation-it is a call for something to burst open in the individual. It requires a certain shamelessness. However, when you become an eagle you attract the hunter.

The German artist Joseph Beuys embodied this shamelessness, and was suitably attacked;

'He was a bullshit artist of unrivalled ambition and stamina…pure hokum,and yet we readily succumb to its lyricism.'

Robert Storr, Joseph Beuys: Diverging Critiques, (Liverpool University Press)

‘We readily succumb to its lyricism’ indicates Storrs awareness of the desire for enchanters, even in the late twentieth century. His wider essay on Beuys is appropriately conflicted; “he was able to inject energy into outmoded roles and replenish a poetically bankrupt mysticism” Storrs opens the controversial ground of Shaman and Showman, acknowledging a cultural desire for the former and the reality of receiving the latter.

We know of Beuy’s being shot down as a Luftwaffe pilot, ruptured with shrapnel, and then being rescued by a nomadic people, the Tartars, and brought back to health by being wrapped in felt. This conspicuously mirrors elements of the descent, rupture and renewal process we locate in myth and rites-of-passage. Rather too well, claims Storr.
In certain shamanic initiations young Shamans are invested with 'medicine bones' that are placed into the reshaping of the initiate’s body; items such as rock crystals replace the previous body part-the anatomy now containing information from the mineral world, a wrenching and distortion bringing life into a new, expanded harmonic. One account from the Unamatatjera recalls the climax of this process:

"In the morning the old man came and looked at him and placed some more atnongara
stones inside his body, and in the joints of his arms and legs and covered his face with leaves. Then he sang over him till his body was all swollen up. When this was over he provided him with a complete set of new inside parts, placed a lot more atnongara stones in him, and patted him on the head, which caused him to jump up and live."

B. Spencer and F. J. Gillian, The Northern Tribes of Western Australia, 1904, p457

A positive appraisal could suggest that Beuy’s "Medicine Bones" were the shrapnel lodged in his physical form, elements that collided biology and machinery, colluding in his descent into illness and the rapture of his renewal. The breaching of the skin also perforates ideas of unequivocal containment. In shamanism these new attachments to the body are seen to contain distilled consciousness of the arena they originate from: mineral, plant, animal etc, so we encounter Beuys receiving concentrated knowledge of the atmospheric of war, the shadow of his own people’s psyche, appalling in its intensity. In one infinite moment Beuys is suspended in the death space, is split open by the projected violence of combat and is left changed, holding through experience a key to the expanding possibilities of the community.

Beuys is an exceptional figure for bringing an explicit ritual sensibility to modern art that didn't feel hackneyed and clumsy. He refused the one -sided, tribalised myth of thirties Germany and became a Grief Man for some of the distorted and poisoned mythology of that era. The rawness of his work but also the Apollian intelligence and ambition he presented has caused him to become a totemic figure in a very confused field. Of course, distorted myth is not purely a German problem, but an international dilemma of how a society subverts and distorts its mythologies-no one has clean hands.

It is interesting to note Stoor’s use of the word ‘bullshit’-we see Trickster entering the picture with the controversy around Beuys,all sorts of shadowy, scatalogical, half-formed suspicions form a noose for his heretical neck. It is appalling for the enlightened mind to feel that compulsion towards the murky, spell- like atmosphere of the story-man arise yet again, as if Descarte never happened.
But Beuys was nothing if not cunning (a very Tricksterish quality) and understood that controversy will always accompany true art-maybe his scar tissue toughened his skin.
Of course, cunning derives from cunnen-to know.

FINAL CHALLENGE: Which characters, or energies, or mythic archetypes do you draw on most in your life? (Wolfish Lover, Gregarious Queen etc) Where would you see their influence? (mostly unconscious).
How is mainlining a particular force causing an imbalance?

Write about their atmosphere-scent, smell, color, mood. When and why did they appear in your life? How are they related to your families influence?

Answers the back of a one-legged, boozy crow and sent to Tregonning House.

OK-more soon.