Showing posts with label Frances Hatfield. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frances Hatfield. Show all posts

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Muse of Synchronicity: Part II

“My prayer is to be open to how I’m being led.”
—Charles Asher 

Part I tells the story of a thread of synchronicities that led to finding companions and publishers in poetry land.  In these synchronistic moments I’d see myself standing in the center of the kaleidoscope of my life, and suddenly it was as if all the fragments rearranged themselves into a new pattern, full of color and light.

Part II insisted on being written because more synchronicities kept revealing themselves, making new patterns, new meanings.

Wind Chimes in the Jung Journal
Any progress I have made, in becoming a vessel in which a greater
communion with all of life…is possible, is because of the great
network of immense old souls, reaching far into the heavens and
deep into the earth, sustaining me in my darkest times…for the sake
of a mystery to which we are bound and out of which we are made.
                                                                                      —Frances Hatfield
                                                                                      in The Jung Journal Fall, 2014

Frances Hatfield’s gorgeous image of immense old souls, who like trees, communicate over long distances through their roots, in her lovely meditation on her labyrinth, gives me another image of how I experience synchronicity. Waves of energy, happening below consciousness, deep in the roots of our being, connect us to earth, sky, ancestors and those souls who transform our lives. Synchronistic events are a wind chime in the breeze, noting the grace of connection.

How that wind chime chimed when I picked up the latest issue of the Jung Journal and saw the names, heard the voices, of so many souls who touched my life and opened my path. Here’s Charles Asher, writing on the “Good Enough Prayer,” in his wry self–effacing way. His one sentence prayer—which I take as epigraph for this offering—says it all: “My prayer is to be open to how I am being led.” Luckily I was open to how I was being led back in the early nineties, when Charles invited me to teach at Pacifica. I was in the throes of becoming an analyst, struggling to sort out what kind of Jungian I was going to be, when I was thrown into an unfamiliar culture of depth psychology. They spoke a different dialect at Pacifica. Under the influence of James Hillman and Joseph Campbell they used words like poetics, polytheism, imagination, soul. They talked like poets. Actually there was a creative ferment between the enthusiasts of mythopoeisis and iconoclastic critical thinkers like David Miller, now a retired Professor of Religion, who shows up in this issue asking penetrating and disturbing questions about the unconscious biases of mythological studies.

The poets are well represented by Dennis Slattery, who is core faculty in Mythological Studies at Pacifica and writes poetry. He has a beautiful essay on Revisioning Psychology, which he calls “Hillman’s Moby Dick.” He writes, “like the White Whale, soul itself in Hillman’s lexicon is the anima mundi, the world soul, which only the deepest philosophic and poetic meditations are capable of grasping through the intuitive grappling hooks of the imagination.” Wow. This kind of talk opened new windows and doors for me, and inspired me to teach my class on basic Jungian psychology using Goethe’s Faust. I remember the day Hillman came to visit my class. He looked surprised when I explained my approach and then said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I took that as a blessing.

Pacifica freed me to take seriously my own calling as a poet. Luckily I was open to where I was being led. I left Pacifica to pursue poetry. How synchronistic then, that this issue should include a review of my fourth book of poems, The Faust Woman Poems.

Dark Healing
Face the pain as an enemy
that you respect, that it may become a vessel
For what you love.

—Richard Messer

Those wind chimes began chiming again when I realized that Diane Deutsch’s profound review of my book, and Richard Sugg’s masterful review of my friend Richard Messer’s selected poems, Dark Healing, were published next to each other due to the intuitive sensitivity of the Review Editor, Helen Marlo. This is a synchronicity on a number of levels. Richard and I are poetry buddies. He is one of a few people I show new poems to for feedback. This happens by e-mail since Richard lives in Ohio. He gets my work and can mirror it back to me so I can get it at another level. He has an uncanny ability to sniff out just what doesn’t work in early drafts of my poems, and to explain it to me without getting my back up. He has had an extraordinarily difficult life path and his poems track his “dark healing.” Both our books are on that theme in different ways. Here is Richard Sugg’s eloquent summary:
Richard Messer’s extraordinary book of poetry and active imagination focuses on three decades-long parts of the poet’s life: the catastrophe for him and his two young children of his wife’s murder, followed by his conscious efforts to rebuild the family’s life on the new realities they are trying to assimilate, and finally the poet’s efforts to integrate the material following his wife’s murder into his entire birth–to–seventy–five–year–old life.
Using lines from the poems to make his points Sugg does an elegant job of demonstrating the power, breadth and depth of Messer’s poetic and psychological achievement. I believe Dark Healing should be required reading for depth psychologists interested in trauma.

Here is what Messer himself wrote when he was the Featured Poet in Psychological Perspectives:
Those who survive trauma and heal and go on to thrive reach out to those who are in the midst of their suffering.
Tragedy teaches what intuition always whispers—there is a realm in which we are all present to each other, we are one in the deep heart’s core. We mourn for those who die and we move on through the knowledge that what has happened to them, no matter how brutal or tragic, does not define them, or us. Our spirits and souls tell us who we are and give our lives their meaning.
Messer’s realm in which “we are all one in the deep heart’s core” resonates with that other fabulous poet’s realm, Frances Hatfield, of a “great network of immense old souls,” with which we began.

Faust in the Light of the Moon
The moon glows,…and calls out of the poet by the poet’s
attunement to the moon, an attunement to herself.

—Diane Deutsch
Diane Deutsch, who reviews The Faust Woman Poems, is another one of those souls who has touched my life in unexpected ways. I met her in a poetry workshop led by Diane di Prima, a brilliant and wild poet in the Beat tradition. Having returned to poetry I struggled to make peace between my analyst self and my poet self. They quarreled all the time. I suffered from a split in me, in my family of origin, and in the culture, between the values of those passionate souls, like Diane di Prima, like my father, who follow their muse, and those devoted souls, Jungian analysts, my mother, who support other people’s creativity. Could I get them both into one body, one life? Their quarrel became my book, The Sister from Below, but that’s another story. The story about Diane Deutsch is that one day she announced she was becoming a candidate at the San Francisco Jung Institute, and blew up my categories. To me she became a bridge figure between the wild realms of poetry and the contained realm of the consulting room. How appropriate that she would be the one to review my book of poems in the pages of our Institute Journal.

The catastrophe in Messer’s book and life came from outside him—a terrible visitation from pure evil. The catastrophe, in my case, came from the devil in me, who, as Deutsch notes, is female, “comes from the realm of the goddess…breaks things;…is a home wrecker.” Deutsch understands that it is the devil who ignites the individuation process, in Goethe’s Faust, and in my poetry. Healing requires destruction, especially of the “cultural accretion of constrained and repressed female sexuality.”

Deutsch and the editors of the Jung Journal went to the trouble of publishing a full color image of the cover of my book, a painting by Remedios Varo, Papilla Estelar, “depicting a wan moon being fed a concoction by spoon, ground by a pale artist.” I love what Deutsch does with this image:
Taking imagination and spirit, working it into poetry,
feeds the moon spirit, feeds the feminine moon energy,
feeds the poet. In the painting the moon looks weak,
anemic, and is held in a cage. She is being strengthened
by being fed the poetry that comes out of the hard work
of taking imagination, spirit and experience and turning it
until poetry comes.
My gratitude to the Jung Journal for this gathering of souls—like trees in the forest we are connected to each other through our roots, and for the spirit that moves the wind chimes of synchronicity.

To Be Continued.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Muse of Friendship

Musings on The Book of Now

[Cover Art by Bill Fulton]
There are times in a life when the threads of one’s tapestry are illuminated—one can see how one’s passions, obsessions and relationships are tied together. I had such a moment recently when I first held in my hands my friend Leah Shelleda’s beautiful anthology: The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide. The back of the book describes the contents: “Seven lyrical women poets, each accompanied by a study of their work…travel to the depths of the psyche, experience exile, rhapsodize on the beauty of our planet…write courageously about what threatens us: climate change, war, mountain–top removal, loss of species…” I am privileged to be one of them.

Leah and I have been friends and poetry buddies for over forty years. We met in an authentic movement class. What’s that, you wonder? It is an expressive art, a form of active imagination, a practice in which body and psyche are free to explore inner and outer worlds, to play with music, images, limits and wild permissions. Back in the 70s I was breaking out of my conventional identity as a wife and mother. Authentic movement was a great liberation for one who longed to move, who had taken a bit of ballet and a bit of modern dance and always felt too womanly, too voluptuous for the straight and narrows of dance.

Leah and I met each other playing on the dance floor, and soon became muses for one another. Our passions and obsessions overlapped—feminism and the feminine, psyche and the underworld, the mystic and the mysteries, poetry and prophesy, art and culture, the natural world and the world of the ancients. We became one another’s first readers, editors, consultants on all things creative. We supported one another’s authentic movement in words. We nourished, critiqued, deepened, broadened and enlivened one another’s work, listened to each other’s life stories unfold, held each other during times of suffering and loss, celebrated each others loves and accomplishments. To find myself among the amazing poets whose work Leah has gathered here is at once a harvest and an offering to the storm gods—the gods of the rising tide.

In a short essay introducing each section Leah engages eloquently with each poet’s work. Some of these poets are well known to me—Jane Downs, Frances Hatfield, and of course Leah herself. Some of them I’ve never read before and they are a wonderful discovery.

Anita Endrezee writes a poem about the “drunk on Main Avenue” who dreams “of pintos the color of wine/and ice, and drums that speak the names/of wind.” This is a deep cry from the lost world, lost music, lost authentic dance of the Native American Shaman.

Anita Endrezze

Another poet—also new to me—is Dunya Mikhail. She too has lost a world. As Leah writes she has “witnessed dictatorship and war in Iraq…[She] is a witness- and a Courier.” Mikhail’s biting irony and plain speech are sharp tools to carve memorials to the unbearable. Her poem “The War Works Hard” begins with these lines:

How magnificent the war is!

How eager

and efficient

Dunya Mikhail

Crystal Good, who writes from West Virginia—Land of Coal and Mountain Removal—is also a discovery for me. Her plain speech and irony about the world that is being lost as she writes comes in a different idiom, but she writes in a striking and compelling voice.

Crystal Good

Her poem “Boom Boom” is devastating on the subject of devastation:

Them boys come back ‘round after all the damage

is done. After all her long hair is gone. They grin/admire

what’s left of her hips–just

checkin’ on you.

Frances Hatfield

Hatfield’s first published book
of poems, Rudiments of Flight

Frances Hatfield is a colleague of mine at the San Francisco Jung Institute. She writes gorgeous, mind bending poems out of worlds much like the ones I inhabit—myth, dream, the underworld, strange happenings in the process of “The Talking Cure”:

the locked gate to the forbidden

room gapes open

the snarls of the guard dogs

hang like icicles in the air…

I’ve admired Jane Downs’ poetry for years, and have written about it in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Perspectives. She can evoke the sensual world of Now, while at the same time invoking the mythic world of Forever. Takes my breath away:

Marie Dern and Jane Downs

Our tender mouths,

our tender arms,

How could

we know that beneath

us a god roams

with dirt

in his mouth

Jane and book artist Marie Dern are the founders of Red Berry Editions where they create beautiful, often handmade, books. Jane’s collection of prose poems, Adirondack Dream, is forthcoming.

Leah’s poems continue to amaze and delight me. She can leap about in all the strata of being. She is inspired by dreams, travel, family, myth, art—all the wonder and grief of a deeply lived life. She understands shape shifting; she knows metamorphosis from the inside out:
Leah Shelleda

I saw a woman born of a doe

I saw a woman step out of the body of a wolf

There is return

Here’s some of what I wrote about Leah’s beautiful book of poems After the Jug Was Broken:

Shelleda's poems play at the edge of the wild and the forbidden; they dive down to the depths, bringing up treasure from the collective unconscious and the wisdom traditions; they enchant, seduce and bless…

I was especially pleased that Leah chose my poem Where the Buffalo Roam to be in this anthology. That’s because it’s so weird—a vision of the lost world of the Native Americans that came to me while driving on Highway 24. It’s been a long process of breaking the taboos of the conventional mind for me to own my visions and ghosts. This liberation began in that authentic movement class where Leah and I met, and of course, in years of the subversive practices of Jungian analysis and reading and writing poetry. We’ll need our visions, our weird other worldly experiences, our fierce love for the worlds of Now and the worlds of Forever— where the ghost dancers still stamp and beat their drums—if we are to navigate the Rising Tide.

Where the Buffalo Roam

A sky herd of buffalo stampeded the moon—I saw it
driving on 24. The radio said

the shadow of earth would steal the moon—
our only moon—but I tell you

It was a thundering ghost herd of buffalo
that shouldered the moon out of her sky

The moon disappeared in her deerskin dress
The ghost dancers stamped and beat their drums

They chanted the world before Highway 24
when earth was home to the buffalo

when the people followed the dance
of the sun, when they knew each story of rock

each spirit of mountain, of tree
what flowered, what died, what came back

as the moon came back in her deerskin dress—
our only moon—

in her radiant light
I looked at the sky over 24

but the buffalo were gone…