Fillet of Soul With a Dark Night Glaze

This video, from Wainwright House in Rye, NY, is a recent presentation of the poem, preceded by about 4 minutes of the story behind the poem.

If you’d like to read the poem on the page, the best way (for both of us) is for you to purchase a copy of And Now, Still: Grave and Goofy Poemswhich is available on Amazon, and also available here, at a 30% discount if you use this code when you check out: ADXSKKVR.

Buy the book and you’ll get 44 additional poems and help feed me. Great deal!

Enjoy!

 

If, of course, you’d like to read the poem without supporting the arts by buying a book that helps feed a poet, you can click on the right sidebar photo of me dressed in black and talking with my hands. A PDF will appear. And I’ll still need to be fed.

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Narrative ‘Tradecraft’ #2 – Image(ry)

This post originally appeared at http://www.teleosis.org.

While it may be true that an image or picture can be worth a thousand words, in our less quantitative approach to narrative healing, an image is that which the words bring to mind – the picture that the words conjure for a reader or listener – which we’ll say more about below.

Woman DanceImagery – the presence and function of images in a narrative is at the heart of the “show, don’t tell” directive for writers and it beckons us to write “Heart pounding, palms sweating, I slowly turned the doorknob…” as opposed to “I was really, really scared.” Imagery in writing allows us to feel in our bodies what we might otherwise only be able to understand with our minds. It takes our abstract notions of fear, joy, love, anger, confusion, rage, empathy, bliss, anxiety, doubt, contentment, certainty – any and all of the emotions or states of mind with which we may be familiar, and translates them into concrete, sensory language.

While the abstraction gets us into the vicinity of what we’re trying to express, the image drops us into its essence – we can see, feel, taste, touch or smell what the idea itself suggests. Anger becomes a clenched fist; love appears as the young woman cradling her newborn. And just to be clear, in this particular context, we are not even considering the prospect of the image as metaphor – used to represent one thing as or through another (stay tuned for metaphor in future narrative tradecraft writings). Continue reading

Narrative Tradecraft #1 – Perspective

This post originally appeared at http://www.teleosis.org.

Perspective, or point of view – which I’ll use synonymously here, colors how we experience everything, and in many ways is the foundational element with which we work in our Living Poems, Writing Lives course. We engage various “tools” as both literary devices and as strategies for living our healing narratives in an intentional way. These devices include, and are not limited to, point of view/perspective, imagery, metaphor, diction, ‘music’, drama/conflict, theme, texture, revision and completion.

P1030093The point of view through which any one of us experiences and assesses his or her life emerges through a variety of factors that includes development within specific intelligences or developmental lines (e.g. cognitive, moral, spiritual, kinesthetic, emotional), personality, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, childhood (and adult) experiences, religious affiliation or lack thereof, health – in the broadest meaning of the word, and political affiliation – just to name a few, and also what we might call the center of gravity or general worldview that is the cumulative effect of these factors.  Trusting, for the sake of argument, that there are objective events in the world – the tree falls, the car starts, he drops the glass, the heart skips a beat, the train is late, the flower blooms – it is our point of view, the perspective through which we experience the event, that determines what meaning we give it and how we respond.

Continue reading

The Healing Narrative – Choosing a Story that Heals

This post is an initial reflection of my collaboration at Teleosis Institute with my good friend, Dr. Joel Kreisberg, who’s also a fellow Integral Master Coach™. I hope you’ll stay tuned as we work to bring the strengths of “integral” in the world of and “health coaching.”

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Faced with the grief that inevitably accompanies loss – whether due to illness, injury, death or departure of a loved one or any other trauma, what is the story we choose to tell, and how and why do we tell it? Do we tell a story of resistance, victimhood, blame and guilt that relentlessly revisits the trauma – what we might call an illness, injury or victim narrative? Or do we tell a story of acceptance, awareness, connection, gratitude and presence – what we’ll call here a healing narrative?

reggie pic1The choices we make and the stories we tell emerge from how we see our lives, and have a powerful impact on what we’ll be able to see and do next. We learn our earliest storytelling predispositions from the narratives our parents, guardians and teachers tell when we’re very young. Having just fallen from the tree and broken our 8-year-old arm, are we confronted with an inquisitorial scolding about carelessness, danger and fear, or are we enveloped in a loving embrace that connects with our pain, creates awareness around the risks of exploring while still accepting the inherent value therein, and expresses gratitude that we are, in fact, all right – albeit with a broken arm. These earliest narratives set a thematic undertone that we may not be aware of for years, if ever. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Writing and Healing

Following my interview on Grief and Healing with Dr. Robert Wright and Christine Wright of Stress-Free Now, I’d like to share a bit about my earliest personal experience with the role of writing as a vehicle toward healing. My own “healing narrative,” in addition to writing, includes meditation, physical exercise, wandering in nature and conversation/relationship as practices that nurture healing. An earlier post and the interview are available here, and what’s below makes most sense in the context of the interview.

My earliest memory of intentionally engaging writing as a healing practice (that language emerges through hindsight – at the time I was simply venting my frustration at a perceived injustice) occurred when a Vice-principal told me he would throw me out of school if I didn’t get my hair cut. This was 1970-’71, my junior year in a Catholic High School in New York. I wrote for several weeks in a notebook about how, in light of everything I did at the school (which I’ll spare you here), a focus on my hair was horribly unjust. Today I can embrace both the superficiality of the length-of-hair issue and the developmentally necessary self-expression it represented for the naively obedient-to-authority sixteen-year-old I was.

I learned that expressing my feelings in writing allowed me to vent without fear of repercussion. It also, over time, gave me some distance from what and how I was feeling – what I now understand as the subject-to-object move that is necessary for development. The writing allowed me to look at what I had previously been looking through. I was, over time, gradually able to more clearly see myself, how I felt, the Vice-principal, and our respective roles in a rapidly changing culture. I know now that he was struggling to keep his head above a rising tide of longer hair and loosening ties for the boys and shorter skirts for the girls.

My next significant writing/healing experience began as I attempted to reconcile my athletic and academic experiences – more specifically, doing well academically and getting cut from basketball teams in high school and college while working hard at both, and then being moved by the experiences of the high school student-athletes I coached and taught for 13 years. My notes and scribblings evolved into a book manuscript, The Quality of Effort: Integrity in Sport and Life for Student-Athletes, Parents and Coaches, which was published in 1991, and then revised and re-released in 2013.

When first engaged, the writing often intensifies difficult feelings – we become sadder, or more frustrated or more angry as we re-experience through the written word what needs to be healed. Over time however, writing that reflects and broadens perspectives, as opposed to writing that persistently and only revisits the details of the transgression, illness or injury, leads more often than not to a sense of increased well-being.

I’ll bring this piece to a close with a bow to James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the essential researcher on the role of writing and better health.

Pennebaker, James, W. Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions. New York: Guilford, 1990/1997.

Pennebaker, James, W. and John F. Evans. Expressive Writing: Words That Heal.
Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, 2014.

See Dr. Pennebaker’s site for more.