It feels a bit strange to introduce my collection of poetry to a group that’s all about Jungian psychology rather than poems, especially because though it’s perfectly true I’m a psychologist by profession and owe my livelihood to practicing analysis, while pursuing my literary avocation I identify myself exclusively as a poet—and most emphatically not as a Jungian analyst who writes verse, i.e. a hobbyist. I share with the poets I admire a loyalty to language as king, within whose domain craft rules and rhythm stokes the furnace.
Does my poet identity at all overlap the Jungian? Yes, in several crucial ways: my commitment to the primacy of personal experience and emotion, the drive for self-expression, the need for meaning, an awareness of the unconscious, recognition of the potency of images, and a tendency to exploit the cumulative effects of overlapping and interpenetrating associations.
Thanks for posting this, Paul. I look forward to attending and hope several of us can meet up there to support you and connect in community.
Meanwhile, this morning I read your poem "Big Museum" on p. 31 of the book and absolutely loved it. I can't profess to understand all the poetry I read (when I read it!)--but this particularly poem struck me. It's very concrete, but with such a unique flavor due to the topic and the very humorous and interesting way you've conveyed what must have been a remarkable experience working in the museum with the birds. I don't know if you have more to say about it--either the poem or the experience itself--but would love to hear if you do!....
I'm glad you like "Big Museum," Bonnie. I'm fond of that poem myself, since it was one of my first large-scale efforts, and the way it came about kind of underscores the subversive aspect of my psyche.
I'd run across a magazine ad for an eco-poetry contest sponsored by an environmental organization, and I thought to myself, "I can do that." It seemed pretty plain to me they wanted something Mary Oliverish, what I think of as a good-natured, earnest, "Let's all cherish and preserve the fuzzy bunnies" kind of effort. So that's what I tried to write, 'cause I wanted that prize.
Well I sat and sat, and started to get depressed because I was blocked. And then I stopped pressing and just sat there, and started thinking about my years hanging out at the natural history museum in New York, and working with Dr. James Chapin, who was an incredible character, and once took me to a formal dinner at the Explorers' Club nearby, to which he belonged (by dint of having made important contributions to filling in blanks on the map, a group which included our first astronauts), where back in the 1920's the members once were served thawed out mammoth meat from a specimen unearthed in Siberia. Chapin was an old-style naturalist,a collector and adventurer, a colonialist. Shockingly politically incorrect but a significant scientist.
As I suggest in the poem, our relationship was complicated, on his side by the fact that he needed a son and intellectual heir, but I, his final even vaguely plausible shot, was temperamentally unsuitable. And for my part, he was just one more admirable older man to whom I was a disappointment. This tragi-comic impasse played itself out in a vast repository of embalmed creatures, many of whom were extinct or hurrying towards extinction.
That's where my heart was, and that's what I wrote about. I knew such a poem wouldn't win no eco-prizes, so I never entered it.
Our family was vacationing in the Sierras for the past week-and-a-half, where I had limited online access. I took your book and a couple others for contemplative reading, which I practice like Jung's synchronicity. It happens that I open a book to a synchronistic page; in this case to your pages 66 & 67, poems "For Y: Worry-free Day," and "For Zoe." Both capture my experience . . . the transcendent beauty of woods, mountains, expansive vistas, and silence.
I didn't open any other books those ten days, which is quite unusual for me.
Thank you, Kathryn.
Those two poems are among the earliest-written in the collection. "Worry-free Day" is simply the rendering of an affect-charged image that came to me spontaneously during a session with my analyst. And "For Zoe" was written for someone very much an anima figure who introduced me to cross-country skiing, first in the Owens Valley, a bit south of Mammoth, then in Yosemite. Those winter landscapes are etched deep, and I'm honored you brought my book along for company when you visited that territory.
Hi Paul. Wow! I can't believe how fast the month has gone. Thank you SO much for your thoughtful reflection in tending the book club this month. I have really enjoyed the pace and the depth of comments and replies. Of course, I had the benefit of attending your poetry in person in Oakland mid-month and am still basking in the richness of what we saw. I hope to get some video up for the community shortly so all can have the same advantage.
Meanwhile, to close out the month, I opened "Telling the Difference" at random this morning to see what pearls of wisdom lay in store for me. I opened to tow stunning works--on page 54 and 55 of the book. The first, titled "Who Knows" seems to be a commentary on the afterlife, and specifically while seeming to focus on those of the Islamic faith, carried such profound meaning for me in causing me to question what I believe and what my purpose here is. Specifically, your last lines:
on earth, this haven
of belief, there's always something worth
fighting for, something
to sink your teeth into
---Aaahhh. Such a powerful call home to really assess why I'm here.
Meanwhile, the second poem, "The Annual So-Called 'Hunting Trip' sent me straight back to young adulthood when my Dad always took my brothers hunting for deer and elk while I stayed behind only to hear their stories after the fact. No cell phones then, of course--and likely a good thing. I didn't need to hear their stories twice :)
Thank you so much again, Paul, or your wonderful tending here in the Book Club this month. I will continue to enjoy your poems for years to come, I am sure.
My thanks to you, Bonnie, for your generous comments, for the opportunity to participate in the book club, and all your help in making this happen.
It's been a pleasure conversing with you and other club members, especially because feedback, let alone dialogue, is so rare in my sector of the poetry world—outside academia. Even when poems get published it's no guarantee of any response, no more than can be expected from throwing bottles containing messages into the sea.
All the best with your upcoming endeavors.