Online Poetry Professor with Dr. Christopher Bursk
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2015 Workshop:
"You are only a troubled guest on this dark earth" -- Goethe

Week 6 - March 11
Field Guide to the Soul
The child is father [mother, uncle, aunt} of the Man --trailing clouds of glory

For Rachel, Just Before Speech

We are the body, moving toward demise;
we are the soul, remnant of another life. Epistle

And always, rain tapping on a zinc roof But there is wisdom
is the sound of fingers, thrumming flesh. in the hour in which a boy
sits in his room listening
Always I return
to the things of this world, tethered. to the sound of weeping
coming from other room…
You have come to me
from something, somewhere, I cannot name; …it is what I know
and so able to tell.
you who have a voice that does not speak Li Young Lee
any language I know, yet unfurls its wings,

alighting in each corner of this house;
you who are mine and not mine,

tell me the answers
while there is time.
Shara McCallum


a. What does the child you were have to teach you about the soul.
Do not condemn that child to being a generic boy or girl

b. McNiff: Art Heals - group art therapy

i. "The challenge, then, is first to free our creativity and then to sustain it in a disciplined
ii. "In 'Letting in a Safe Place" (1997) I elaborate…on the medicines of the studio, the importance of safety in establishing creative and healing environments."
iii. "The process of making art and healing by it is absolutely consistent
iv. "Art's medicines are based on surprises, unlikely twists, and the infusion of fresh content into our lives. Years of working in studios have repeatedly shown me that these
contents come upon us when we least expect then and frequently against our wills."(19)
v. "…resistance, doubt, and even annoyance can contribute to the overall
chemistry of the creative process" (19)
vi. "Art does not profess to rid the world of suffering and wounds. It does something with them, realizing that the soul is truly lost when afflictions cannot be put to use." (32)
vii. "Imagine the surface saying, 'I will accept whatever you do, so long as you work with sincerity."

Assignment: Create a studio if you have not already. ( By studio we mean a place devoted and sacred to your writing - it can be a desk, your car, a spot in the garage or in the attic or a toolshed --- or a particular picnic table in a park or in a place in your mind you furnish and go to) Think of all those paintings by painters of the place they paint -those studio interiors
In a poem describe your studio -maybe as if your poem was a painting

"The philosophers …had something to say about place (topos in Greek). Theophrastus maintained that every living thing has an oikeios topos or :favorable place where all energies and conditions are suitable to tis flourishing." (Hughes qtd. in Cousineau 100)

5. Goodrich: A Woman with a Wandering Eye

6. An Archeology of the Soul

i. Phil Cousineau "Prologue"

a. "If we're not bewildered by the mysteries of the soul, we're not thinking clearly."(xix)
b. "For many, soul is the constellating image for the paradox of unchanging depths in an ever-changing universe."(xxi)
c. "Music might not heal you baby, but it'll help your soul" - Frank Cocker, WWRL
d. "It is the irreducible, "I-in-the-eye," the core element, the blue flame that makes me feel distinct from anyone else who has ever lived…For me, ' the mystery of all things' that tortured Lear is just this persistence." (xxvii)
e. Rudolph Otto" "The Origin of the Numinous
"the most interesting idea of the soul is not the form given to it in fantasy, multifarious in its variations, but the element of feeling - stupor - which it liberates, and the character of 'mystery' and 'wholly otherness' which surrounds it. (15)
f. Thompson: The Fall of the Soul into Time
"The Fall is not only once and long ago; it is recapitulated in each instant of consciousness."(25)
g. Santayana on Lucretius' De Rerum Naturae
"The atoms of the soul are indestructible" (31)
h. Aquinas
"…there is a mover which is altogether immovable… Such a mover is the soul."(43)
i. Longfellow
"The soul of man [and woman, Henry W!] is audible, not visible." (45)
j. Jung
"We only believe that we are masters in our own house because we like to flatter ourselves." (56)
k. Barrett
"The soul as substance! Horrors! What a dreadful lapse back to Descartes…
But… a substance is that which persists through change. It may have altered in the process, but it is still recognizably the same: a persisting identity through time. It is in this latter sense that I wish to stress the substantiality of the human self." (58)
l. Saint John of the Cross -"the Dark Night of the Soul"
On that happy night - in
secret: no one saw me through the dark --
and I saw nothing then ,
no other light to mark
the way but fire pounding my heart. (93)

Some resources:
Sardello: Love and the Soul - revisioning psychotherapy, following Hillman's lead, so it honors the soul
Pinkola Estes: Women Who Run With Wolves - a celebration of the wild woman archtype
Whyte: The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
"Preservation of the soul means the palpable presence of some sacred
otherness in our labors…." (15)
Tompkins and Bird: The Secret Life of Plants - an argument for the intelligence and soul of plans, based on a number of scientific experiments
Rosen: Saved by a Poem - exploration of the healing power of poetry, especially the spoken word
Orr. Poetry as Survival - again the healing power of poetry

In your groups of 3 do soul work with the poems you brought
Besides exploring what in the poem you are pulled to and what needs work explore what is the glimpse of soul in the poem
Also, if you have photograph of "soul" poems - share these

Walking to oak-Head Pond and Thinking of the Ponds I Will
Visit in the Next Days and Weeks

What is so utterly invisible
as tomorrow?
Not love,
not the wind,

not the inside of a stone.
not anything.
And yet, how often I'm fooled -
I'm wading along

in the sunlight
and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
days ahead -
I can see the light spilling

like a shower of meteors
into next week's trees,
and I plan to be there soon -
and so far I am

just that lucky
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.

I don't know where
such certainty comes from -
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind -

but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth

with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body and shines

against the hard possibility of stoppage
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders and gives way.
Mary Oliver

Give your soul a name - and an endearing habit

Field Guide --- semester project
Over the course of this Spring Workshop: create a FIELD GUIDE it can be a field guide to slugs or wildflowers or things with wings or terrors or small blessings or punk rock songs or poets… but have at least 5 of the poems in your chapbook be modeled after a Field Guide ---scientific description, coloration, means of identifying, habitat, kind of "speech or song," location, habits, feeding



Online Poetry Professor is presented by The Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program (MCPL)