Posts tagged #literature

How to Desire

Dear Reader,

Let’s work on getting in touch with what we want. It’s our first step in the March Adventure. Write “Stuff I Really, Really Want” and list 25 items, everything from grand abstract achievements to the most paltry of household goods. Got it? Good, now if you have a mind whose automatic setting is anything like mine, you will now be thinking “I won’t do that, it’s pointless.”

The Depths of Disbelieving

My mind tells me it’s pointless to bring to the forefront of my mind all the things that I long for because, as it reports, “I won’t get them anyway.”  This automatic setting of pessimism is a strategy I learned in childhood to protect myself from the wrenching disappointment of missing out on things I really, really wanted. This was a great strategy when I was five and my acknowledgment of my impotence was actually spot on— back then I couldn’t read or write, I was 3 feet tall with limited motor skills, and I didn’t even have the right to vote! Yes, I was an illiterate, disenfranchised little person. Things were bleak back then. But look how far I’ve come!

I’m now (like you, if you’re reading this) in full possession of literacy, motor skills, and voting rights. You’re no longer limited by your parents’ arbitrary and tyrannical decisions regarding bedtime and dessert.

The Power of Innocent Longing

Frankly, you’re empowered and it’s time to start recognizing that. The “I won’t get them anyway” belief that your mind espouses is outdated. Since you’re big and literate now your odds of attaining most of your desires are pretty darn good.

Even if your life does indeed turn out to be one long dreary European film, if you go through it holding the belief all the while that you “won’t get them anyway” (your desires) your life will be a completely unwatchable long dreary European film.  Why? Because heroes and heroines desire stuff.  They go out and pursue their desires through various means. They learn stuff along the way.  Even if they completely fail to get what they set out to attain at the outset, the very act of valiantly, innocently, even somewhat stupidly, reaching to fulfill their desire puts forces in motion that show them valuable things and connect them to fascinating people.

Yes, that’s right. I’m getting all Joseph Campbell on your ass. This March Adventure is a hero / heroine’s journey.  I know, it’s terribly unoriginal of me. But that’s because it’s also just plain true.  I think Joseph Campbell may have missed some of the finer points regarding the heroine’s journey (I’ll be happy to discuss this at some point) but all in all, he was really right about the underlying mythic structures that span across time and culture, and which have things to tell us (Poetic Truths!) about the magic ways that life works.

The Call to Adventure

The first leg of the hero / heroine’s journey is the Call to Adventure.  Maybe you have not lately had a recurring prophetic dream calling you to travel to a strange land in search of hidden treasure.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have a Call to Adventure! Our longings and desires are our Call to Adventure.  They’re the stirrings that prompt us to undertake a course of action that will change us and our understanding of the world for the better. Some of them more so than others. And of course, it matters how we go about pursuing those desires. And also, there are certainly dragons to slay along the way. But we’ll worry about sorting all that out later. For now, get started with your list!

My List

To encourage you in coming up with your List of 25 Things you Desire, I figured I’d show you mine in all its random, jumbled glory:

1. A fireplace

2. A claw foot bath tub.

3. To publish an awesome self-help book.

4. To record a freak folk album.

5. To perform a stand-up act.

6. To be rich, having absolutely gazillions of gold coins to swim in.

7. To be struck enlightened like Byron KatieEckhart Tolle, and Jan Frazier.

8. To be very very glittery, like David Bowie circa the Ziggy Stardust era.

9. To finish my PhD.

10. To learn to play the guitar and write songs.

11. A super-flashy glam rock wedding.

12. New clothes for spring and summer.

13. Speaking engagements around town.

14. To make some videos for youtube, like my friend Kevin, who is super-cool.

15. The Nobel Prize in Literature

16. A lot of rainbow colored silk scarves.

17. An awesome house in the woods somewhere with giant fireplaces and clawfoot tubs.

18. A pug puppy.

19. My poetry books published.

20. A mind-blowing flower garden.

21. A gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it.

22. To make and sell incredibly awesome tote bags.

23. To write a didactic novel like The Alchemist.

24. To make meditation cds / podcasts.

25. A house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way.

Poetic Inquiry - from my diss

Dear Reader, What follows is an exciting preview-- the first two pages of my in-progress dissertation!

Love,

Carolyn

Poetic Inquiry

Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the polestar for a thousand years?Emerson, “The American Scholar”

The long way leading to the poetry is itself one that inquires poetically. – Heidegger commenting on Rilke, “What Are Poets For?”

By Way of Introduction

Very simply, poetic inquiry is a process of contemplative truth-seeking followed by creative expression of the truth discovered. This dissertation explores poetic inquiry as a potential avenue of literary education.

Like philosophic and scientific inquiry, poetic inquiry seeks to discover and communicate truth. But while both philosophic and scientific inquiry deploy systematic and rational approaches to their projects and largely emphasize objectivity, poetic inquiry is nonsystematic and intuitive in its approach and  emphasizes subjectivity rather than objectivity. In other words, poetic inquiry attends primarily to the existential and subjective dimension of truth.[1]

Expression in poetic inquiry is “creative” in that through the use of poetic strategies it creates for the reader or audience an extra-rational experience of the author-inquirer’s discovered truth (i.e., it does not communicate the discovered truth via rational argument or proof.  Somewhat perplexingly and confusingly, there is also a sense in which the actual act of expressing truth via poetic strategies creates such truth or brings it into being – as in the case of an intuition which is at first only dimly realized by the author-inquirer but becomes clear as she articulates it. In this sense we might say that poetic inquiry can not only discover but can also “make” truths. “Making” is of course the original meaning of the Greek word “poiesis” from which our English word “poetry” derives.  In the context of poetic inquiry we would say that what poetry “makes” is the experience of extra-rational truth.

Because poetic inquiry is an essentially intuitive and extra-rational process, it resists being articulated in any systematic way.  There are very many fantastic examples of the fruit of poetic inquiry. There are far fewer fantastic explanations of the process.  I have attempted to articulate and champion the process of poetic inquiry in this prosaic dissertation form because I have desired to teach it to myself and to others, and because many people (including myself) resist doing something when they cannot understand just why and how it should be done. Thus the following work attempts to reasonably explain the detailed application and essential value of an endeavor which exceeds reason. I have sought to do this rather difficult task because I believe poetic inquiry to be very important work indeed, work which we have perhaps been neglecting for the very reason that it is difficult to rationally or systematically explain and justify.


[1] There are figures who are hailed as philosophers—Nietzsche, Emerson, and Kierkegaard come prominently to mind—whose work may be said to rely more heavily on poetic strategy (gesture, fiction, drama, trope—see the discussion of these later in this dissertation) than on rational argument and who value existential and subjective truth. I would count these figures as poetic inquirers rather than philosophers.

Posted on February 28, 2011 and filed under Poetic Inquiry.