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 5 - March 4
The Vale of Soul Making

"Was somebody asking to see the soul?
See your own shape and countenance, persons, substance, beasts, the trees,
the running rivers, the rocks and sands.
All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them:
How can the real body ever die and be buried"

Whitman: "Starting from Paumanok"

Wilde: "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"

I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing
When a voice behind me whispered low,
"That fellows got to swing."…

Dear Christ, the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
Quickend his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter lock,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss.
The brave man with a sword…

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some with a sigh.
For each kills the thing he loves.
Yet each man does not die….'

We begin with doomed and lovely poets

a. Plumley: "Posthumous Keats"

b. "Call the world if you please "The vale of Soul-making." …I will call the human heart the horn Book used in that School - and I will call the child able to read, the Soul made from that school and its hornbook. Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways. Not merely is the Heart a Hornbook, It is the Mind's Bible, it is the Mind's experience. Keats, April 21, 1819 to his brother George

1. Hillman: The Myth of Analysis

a. "…psychology has become a massive yet subtle system for distorting the psyche into a belief that there is something 'wrong' with it and accordingly, for analyzing its imagination into diagnostic categories." (3)

b. "So to take sickness into life means to take soul with one wherever one goes… To be individual means to be peculiar, to be peculiarly what one is…" (5)
c. "The creating Gods are the destroying Gods. A Jung said, "Creation is as much destruction as it is construction." (36)

d. "' Know thyself' will be insufficient for a creative psychology. Not 'Know thyself through reflection, but 'Reveal thyself"….(91)

e. "…a remarkable parallel between the 'inner world' we speak of in our psychology and the 'fields and dens and caverns of memoria described by Augustine 'innumerably full of innumerable things…"… "'Great is the power of memory, a thing, O my God, to be in awe of, a profound and immeasurable multiplicity, and this thing is my mind, this thing I am. What then am I, O my God? What nature am I? (Augustine Confessions X (171)

f. "We have had to be sick to rediscover in felt experience the power of this imaginative faculty." (172)

g. " The shame about our fantasies gives testimony to their importance….;This part of the soul that we keep to ourselves is central to analysis, to confession, to prayer, central between lovers and friends, central in the work of art, central to what we mean by 'telling the truth," and central to our fate." (182)

h. "But the psyche insists on repetition. Are so sure it is negative."(185)

i. "The archetype is an affliction." (191)

j. "….our pain becomes a way of gaining insight into mythology. We enter a myth and take part in it directly through our afflictions." (196)

2. Thomas Moore: Care of the Soul

a. "In his studies of alchemy Jung says that the work begins and ends with Mercury,…
Mercury is the god of fictions and fabrications, of trickery, thievery, and selight-of-hand… I often tell my patients that they should not strive for sincerity so earnestly; a dose of Mercury is necessary to keep our work honest." (xiii)

b. "The act of entering into the mysteries of the soul, without sentimentality or pessimism, encourages life to blossom forth according to its own designs and with its own unpredictable beauty. Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life; quite the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness ….." (xix)

c. " Any move against the archetypal child is a move against the soul…"(53)

d. "…. the cure for narcissism is to move from love of self….to love of one's deep soul…." (63) "The story in Ovid ends with a colorful detail. His companions look for his body but cannot find it. In its place they find
a flower with a yellow center and white petals…."

e. "Separatio was an operation the alchemists considered essential to the process of turning ordinary materials into gold. Jung understood the obscure imagery psychologically: to him separation was a breaking into parts of materials in the psyche that needed differentiation." (87)

f. "The shadow is a frightening reality. Anyone who talks glibly about integrating the shadows, as if you could chum up to shadow the way you learn a foreign language, doesn't know the darkness that always qualifies shadow…." (133)

g. "Depression grants the gift of experience not as a literal fact but as an attitude toward yourself…. You know that life is suffering, and that knowledge makes a difference." (139)

h. "Our wounds remind us of the gods…" (167)

i. "Failure is a mystery, not a problem,…" (196)

j. "Creativity finds its soul when it embraces its shadow…" (198)

k. "…when we disallow soul to the simple things around us, we lost that important source of soul for ourselves." (281)

3. Tracking down the soul - in addition to sharing your own poems, do the following: For the poem assigned you, explore

a. how the poem defines soul/helps us to define soul

b. what strategy does the poet use to make the definition of soul real/accessible to the reader (us!)

c. pretend you are a therapist and diagnose the person on the basis of this poem and offer a "therapeutic" suggestion/cure

d. decide on a sound that captures soul in this poem

The poems:
1. Shakespeare: "Poor soul the centre of my sinful earth" (Sonnet CXLVI) (1)
2. Donne: "The Ecstasy" (2-3
3. Herbert: "Affliction" (4-5)
4. Vaughan: "They Are All Gone into the World of Light" (6-7)
5. Keats: "Ode to Psyche" (8-9)
6. Poe: "Ulalume" (10-12)
7. Dickinson: "There's a certain slant of light" (13)
8. Hopkins: "Carrion Comfort" (14)
9. Li Young Lee: "Eating Alone" (15)
10. Szymborska: "Torture" (16)
11. "In this Photo, Taken" (17)
12. Skoyles: "Definition of the Soul" (18)


1. Pick a photo of yourself in which you can "see" your "soul"
and explore in a poem

2. Pick an "affliction" of yours and find the gift in it

3. Embrace, make love to/pick a fight with, dance, make supper with, take your shadow shopping--- "The shadow is a frightening reality. Anyone who talks glibly about integrating the shadows, as if you could chum up to shadow the way you learn a foreign language, doesn't know the darkness that always qualifies shadow…." (Moore 133)

READ: sampling of "soul poems" and title of soul books from internet

For next class: BRING A POEM OF YOURS THAT GIVES US A GLIMPSE OF YOUR SOUL -- an unfinished one THAT you have been working on

Lorca "Night Piece"
The ship, slow and rushing at the same time, can
get ahead of the water
but not the sky.
The blue is left behind , opened up ibn living silver
and is ahead of us again.
The mast, fixed, swings and constantly returns -
like an hour hand that points
always to the same hour -
to the same stars,
hour after hour, black and blue.
The body as it daydreams goes
toward the earth that belongs to it, from the other earth
that does not. The soul stays on board moving
through the kingdom it has owned from birth.

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)