Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A Wolfish Yule to Y'all.

Well, after two weeks the headcold has finally packed up its dream-tangle bag and headed back into the tree line.I feel better. Yule is almost upon us. I actually enjoy the december build up, it's the festival itself that can feel a bit of a stretch. The girls have left early for frosty Norfolk, leaving this old bear to work on some literary loose ends and examine some quiet bits of his soul that he hasn't seen for a month or two. Cats for company,great meat from Rodney Cleave butchers, the occasional glass of Shiraz,words to write-it's a good scene.
So no great pearls of wisdom this week,just a wishing of the very best to us all in this time. May all our loneliness wander down to the shed, pull up a chair and drink whisky and play cards with all the lonely bits of other people.May that shed have a wood burning stove, plenty of books, a persian rug and an Irish fiddle player.

Which reminds me: Have you ever heard of Pecker Dunne? Check youtube for footage of this great hunk of Irish Gypsy playing songs of the travelling people.

Just one mythic image to play with. In the not too distant future i will be writing a book with my compadre and fellow mythteller Daniel Deardorff; a large thread to that book is the story 'Ivan and the Grey Wolf'and our accompaning commentary. In it Ivan has to stop riding a Horse and start riding a WOLF-in fact the Wolf kills the Horse. The Horse (in this story) is a image of collected wisdom, caution and preservation; the Wolf offers a thrilling,intelligent, troublesome ride- not offering normal ideas of safety.

What is it like to ride the back of a wolf? Do you remember when your Horse had to die for something new to enter? Let me know.

It feels like wolfish times we're living in-much uncertainty, travelling at speed, never quite sure if the energy we ride isn't going to gobble us up.There are big wolf marks in the economy, but also tremendous possibility-which is partly what the Grey Wolf brings.He also brings a kind of trickster-hope, which is a wild notion.

I'm greatly looking forward to the COYOTE MAN AND THE FOX WOMEN gathering in January,
(see trips to Switzerland and Germany in the new year.For any locals there will be a Steiner Storytelling Festival in Devon last weekend in January that i'll be teaching and telling at.Plenty of U. S. work in the pipeline for spring and summer.I'll be making good trouble with all the american mytho-poets many of you met in the summer, and making new friends.

My Book, A Branch From The Lightning Tree: Wilderness, Myth and the Life Not yet Lived,is practically finished (i thought it was a year ago!). If we can't get a publishing deal sorted by Spring we will do a limited run via the School Press.
More speculation in a week or so,i want to leave with something by Thomas R. Smith, one of our very finest praise Poets-something of a lost art- a very old one.

It's like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes
So you take your car to the new mechanic
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.

The package left with a disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers-
all show up at their intended destinations.

The theft that could have happened doesn't.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even when
frozen, arrives at the right place.

And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can't read the address.

Take care in the frost, walking the lanes and under the blue black night.
Wishing that the storytellers fire stays close this christmas, that you eat loads, carouse,make a bloody fool of yourself and write nimble words to the Moon.

M x

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Promiscuity of Myth,the Emboldenment of Literature

Above is some small evidence that i'm painting again. I thought i'd drop in more of the essay i'm working on (see Boxing with Barthes below for another segment). It's just starting to poke around the ground of myth, storytelling and literature..grab a map,coat, and coffee, its a longish one.

(Side note:knee deep in Heinrich Zimmer at the moment, i would recommend his 'the King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul's Conquest of Evil', especially his defence of the dillettante)

OK, lets have a look

I think that the oral tradition and literature are lively but ultimately complementary bed fellows. They resemble my earlier illustration of the Rhizomic and the Olympian universes’s (jump into Delueze and Guattari for more on the rhizomic);

'The rhizome is a plant root system that grows by accretion rather than any separate or oppositional means. There is no defined center to the structure, it doesn’t relate to any generative model. Each part remains in stems'. (13) Author, Lightning Tree, p 125

The oral tradition has this mischevious spirit, pulling the rug from ‘thou shalt’ every time we think we have the definitive version of a story. Has anyone had the definitive view of a waterfall? Or the red shinned Hawk?

'Coyote’s movement through the worlds is both potent and fractured..he diffuses righteousness, laughs at tribalism, steals fire from the gods and is ever present as circumstance, cultures and weather patterns jostle with the inevitable changes of time. We know that Coyote is a decentralized zone, that his life force exists in the tip of his nose and tail,not the broad central plain. We see he is elusive in texture and not located in geographical location or specific point in history but remains epistemic.Brian Maussmi refers to his footprints as nomadic thought'. (14) author,Ibid, p124.

DIFFERENT MAGICS:Pen as Wand, Voice as Spell.

However, it is almost entirely due to literature that we have these stories at all, so it is an ungenerous and blind alley to attack it too harshly. A tension does arise in the aspiration of both mediums however. Literature has always defined, marked out and emboldend both the author and culture it arises from. In the deliberate assembledge of words an agender appears, an agender that is some how vacumn packed and pristine within the mind of the writer. It raises a story into the air so that its roots dangle self consciously for the mythologist to examine rather than remaining in the tangled understory of its natural habitat.

Of course the issue of ownership arises, the compartmentalising of wild image, the aspiration of empire. We have the strange thought of the upheaval and then preservation of oral stories in the literary tradition of the conquerors. We feel the grief but also a gratitude that we are able to enjoy them at all, even if it feels we are peering through glass.

Myth offers secret histories; the geographical and political developments of a particular region; even when we encounter effectively the same story in a variety of regions, certain moments will rise and fall in emphasis, which offer valuable perspectives on the concerns and desires of that culture, as opposed to their neighbours.

We sense the strongly muscled history of literature losing these inflections; There is only one version of'The Serpent and the Bear', this is its only interpretation. The story now bears the ambition of the writer, often without others in the
communuity who have held the story most of their lives. Stories can get awfully cold when held up in this way.

Living in the air
I was a storyteller a long time before I was a writer or mythologist. Stories have always felt warm and robust; the rule being, rather like cooking, you can add one element to the receipe, nomally something subtle. I never memorise stories like a script, but describe the moving images I see. This rule of possible addition is not something I would apply to great sagas like the Upanishads or Beowulf, but in more local stories and told over time, some strange fiery detail floats up from the unconscious and adds itself to your telling of the story. A storyteller needs something of the loyal, monkish transcriber and the nimble pirate, singing at the moon.

There is an inherent relationship in actually telling the stories that changes your dialogue entirely,the whole affair becomes less precious but more sacred. A triad of possibility opens up between you, the story and the listener that is different to the hermetic intimacy of reading. When you read it is a journey entirely inwards, moved downwards on the winds of the authors ideas blowing the sails of your imagination. Much of the work has already been done; many novels will carry much description of the characters, the authors thoughts distilled to a polished tip of eloquence.

We want silence, some internal stretching, comfort, any number of things.With storytelling the experience is different. For a start it is communal; even if we don’t know the person next to us we are aware of bodies, opinions, mass. The room is full of histories.

I have often told stories on the sides of mountains, by fires, with dogs loping around and cats peering in, in Yurts with rain thrashing the canvas,in lecture theatres, in deserts, by oceans, in deep, bear laden forests, in a Brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. Always people, animals, tears, conjecture, animation- the weather of the room won’t allow ‘the one true version’.I’ve told stories to the dying, the rich, world leaders, medicine people and at risk-youth, Pueblo, Welsh, African, Lakota, Tibetan, English, Russian, Mayan, Scottish, Romanian and Irish. No one has ever failed to enter the story or been anything but delighted when they found an element from their own culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve told stories badly plenty of times, but what I do trust is this enherently triadic relationship between the teller, the myth world and the listener. Something happens.

For a start the listener has to work harder, to push further with their imagination. The story will give less descriptive details of the characters, especially when we are in the realm of dieties. So the visual perception of the audience is pronounced, if called upon all know the shade of the wild third daughters hair, the exact part of the chest the spear entered, the colour of Finns tunic. Their eyes may sometimes be closed but they are extremely active. So the story as Coyote ambles through the many cultures present and offers each a glimpse of the living story; one saw the brush of tail, another a flash of teeth, another a row of nipples, another a laughing eye.

In the racous, poingnant and often intense conversing that follows the story it serves as container, better still a cauldron, for all the inner worlds awoken.The myth is unshakled and prowling, wary of the snares of dry analysis but fed by the visioning of the one-night communitas.

The storyteller will be awash with the images that arise from the audience,they are like waves coming back at you, with seaweed rope that comes from the depths of that individual. The ritual question is normally simple; ‘What caught you? Where are you in the story right now? Did you ever pick a thorn from your fathers hand?

This is is no way an attempt to diminish or make entirely personal a story;that is not their sole function, but it is a part. I have never encountered a group that had much problem with the idea that the myths both referred to them and had some elemental life that was entirely their own. The psyche seems to settle into that quickly, and jumps happily between its differing emphasis. So, to clarify:

1. By not learning a story as a script you enable it psychic movement, it is in relationship to the environment, the fire, the audience. It will never be told in quite the same way and is in lively accord with the moment. The moment is not Barthes’s ‘time of sarcasm’, but the eternal ‘once upon, beside and underneath a time’. This invocational quality should not be mere rhetoric but a stepping beyond our normal frame of reference and receptivity.

What you lose in polish you can gain authentic dialogue; and this is something also sensed in the listener-this is not acting. This is ancient image coming of the tongue in a new and sometime uncertain expressions.It is far more connected to the inner life of the storyteller than the cluster of techniques they may have aqquired to hold an audiences attention. The words should feel at home in the atmosphere of the teller, that some integration is present.

At the same time we are looking to feel more than personality: we are looking to see who or what stands behind them. What powers will step into the room?

This all is implicit of receptivity in the storyteller; we sense not a braggard but a limping visionary. The receptivity lives in the story that chose to be told in the first place, the awareness of atmosphere and audience, the openess to the wild insights and emotions of the participants, the honouring of all the men and women who have told this story long before you and will after you.

So we are not impacting a story in concrete, but bearing witness; allowing the wingtips of our imagination to brush the hoofs and cloak of the Otherworld-this is the place of beaches-between the ocean and the soil.

2. Rather than attempting to wrestle a shape on the story let in live in the room. Let it find a wider body in the intesity of the audiences response,their passion or annoyance. The storyteller has every right to offer insights, should indeed be encouraged to do so, but the story needs a larger confluence. In the triad configuration some surprise waits that the story, teller or participant could never have anticipated! This surprise-an observation or insight-is all part of the life preserving aspect of myth, that it is once again living right in the heart of things.

Without these two elements that loosen the grip of control, we risk (as is often the case) word perfect ‘preservations’ of story, with a fixed destination and an uncomfortable sense of excavated ground-like peering into a Pharoahs tomb as the guide shines his flashlight. In this world the storyteller nervously fingers their script as they try not to offend the anthropologists.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Interesting week; at least half of it spent in a wild, feverish and headachey state.Intense dreams- i met C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther King at various stages,i'm pleased to report they are both in good shape-Lewis especially; he was in a prussian blue short sleeve shirt and says he's teaching on 'sundays'. Try and catch a lecture in the backdoor of your dreams sometime.
Funnily enough, my vacation from lifes steady road came in the middle of deep research for the next section of the year programe, 'Coyote Man and the Fox Woman'-it was a tricksterish descent into new approaches to the stories and ideas about this archaic energy we call Trickster: Raven,Hermes,Eshu,Guizer.Trying to keep to my research schedule while drifting in and out of visionary rupture was most useful-Coyotes paws bashed my slumbering brick of a brain into something a little more lucid.
I don't know if any of you caught the documentary on Joe Strummer on Channel 4 last week. Gotta love the man that he became. Oddly not 'famous Joe', the James Dean of Punk, but the Joe after 10 years without a record deal,out in the wilderness.Sweet,ferocious and musically open. His Coyote carried him away from the dead genericism that Punk had become into whole other strange areas, even though it was Coyote that stole in with Punk in the first place to scare the shit out of everyone.He stole Punk from the Gods (from hell some would say) and brought it to earth, just like he stole fire many thousands of years before.Anything that shakes, alerts or challenges the Status Quo can have a paw print or a raven feather in it.The possibility of new growth.The oldest Trickster stories show the sacrality of the context though-the school bully flushing your head down the toilet is not Trickster-but he could live in what you do with the experience.
So i love Joe for following the spirit rather than form, that's inspirational.I met him when i lived in the woods, only eight weeks before he died-he was low key, kind, funny, gypsy-like, wore biker boots and knew his Lorca-what the fuck else could you want from a man? he was ready to go and freak the gods and goddesses down there in
heaven, playing troubadour african blues to dancing Tibetans drinking Tequila.He had a tequila bar in his house, full of Mexican hats, did i mention that?
So i Love Joe, and loving Joe makes me think of some one else i love, Patti Smith.
The many tusked, moon laden underworld/ overworld beauty that she is. I saw her play in the Villa Borghese in Rome one night.5,000 lunatic Italians in an ancient park, dusk, warm, huge bunches of incense wafting out from the stage,cold beer,massive PA, introducing her with Hendix-VOODOO CHILE.She was, as the hip hoppers say-The Bomb.
I sacrificed an entire Peronni Nastro (best summer beer) to the four winds and became my 11 year old self again, down in that ancient seat of brusing alchemy-the mosh pit.Patti knows so much about Trickster her Tour T-shirts should just have a picture of Reynard the Fox and Emily Dickinson making out whilst riding an Old Truimph bike into the mouth of Allen Ginsberg. Wow. Thats a good image-we should save that for the School.
So, no myth debating this week (see Boxing with Barthes)i'm too high, but i would recommend to track down James Hillmans essay 'Peaks and Vales'-you should be able to find this in 'A Blue Fire: selected writings of...'when you find it you'll know what its about.
I'll finish with something by the Prose Poet Louis Jenkins. A great, gnarly, troubled american who dissaproves any transport but feet.

The best anyone can say about you is that you are a disappointment. We had higher expectations of you.We had hoped that you would finish your schooling.We had hoped that you would have kept your job at the plant. We had hoped you would have been a better son and a better father. We hoped and fully expected you would have finished reading Moby Dick. I wish that when i am talking to you, you would at least raise your head off the table and look at me. There are people who, without your gifts, have accomplished so much in this life. I am truly disappointed. Your parents, your wife and children, your entire family, in fact, everyone you know is dissapointed, deeply disappointed.

Sheesh, Jenkins. Do NOT let him babysit your kids.

Well this little flurry of consciousness has made me realise that Pan is still coursing my blood stream: i must take my swan feather cloak and await his shaggy instruction.

M x

Monday, 24 November 2008

Boxing with Barthes: The Village Brain

I'm sitting with a mug of tea wishing it would snow as myself and Cara keep getting reports of great swathes of the stuff over in Norfolk and Lincolnshire-respective family seats for the ol'folks of the family.In the meantime i'm working on a essay-partially to do with the relationship between the oral tradition and literature and also a host of other things-it's placing the schools relationship with myth up against other voices-namely Roland Barthes and Sean Kane. I'll drop fragments of this in over time-it's too much monkey business for one blog.I would say that Barthes holds the 'Village' perspective of myth, Kane the 'Forest'. Today it's mostly Barthes turn. Much of this debating lacks poetry, but it can be useful to skip through.

It can be seen that to discriminate among mythical objects according to substance would be entirely illusionary: since myth is a kind of speech,everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way it utters the message: there are formal limits to myth, there are no ‘substantial’ ones. (1) Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Vintage Press, 1957, p.109.

mythtelling assumes that the stories already exist in nature, waiting to be heard by humans who will listen for them. Such stories have a semi-wild existence; they are just barely domesticated and so are free to enact the patterns of the natural world.(2) Sean Kane, Wisdom of the Mythtellers, Broadview press, 1994, p. 35

We see here Barthes and Kane, writers with profoundly different perspectives tugging at something porous and malliable in story, something that indicates a kind of spell language but also openess to more than the grinding muscles of human inventiveness. Kane also says;

History has been brutal to nature and therefore brutal to myth,
Which it has defined by the Latin equivilant of the Greek word
Fabula, a persistent lie…the assumption of human power we loosely call anthropocentrism. As far as mythtelling is concerned,
The term implies a shift from the authority of plants and animals,
each the spirit-children of supernatural progenitors, to the authority
of man, considered to be god like at the center of the world he
contructs for himself. Once this anthropocentrism settles in the
outlook of a people who have learned to domesticate animals, the
animals stop talking in myth.
(3) p.34

In 'A Branch From the Lightning Tree' I call this the movement between the Rhizomic and the Olympian universe.

Coyote is riding a different vibration from those of us dependent on alarm clocks and years planners. He favours the rhizomic universe.The rhizome is a plant root system that grows by accretion rather than any seperate or oppositional means.There is no defined center to the structure, it doesn't relate to any generative model.
We see that the rhizome is de-territorial, that it stands apart from the tree structure that fixes an order, based on radiancy and binary opposition. Trees are organized with universal principles of heirachy and reproduction. We could say that the tree contains the classical,village,Olympian,solar organised model from which we define most of our stage, language and society.The anthropological fixation on world trees as immovable centers in which the Shaman/Coyote ascends or descends to
objectifed territories is actually a blurred picture. This tree, seen through the eyes of an initiate is actually a vast rhizome, pierced through with a million branches and rootes; not stratified realms but alternating degrees of intensity experienced as plateux, interconnected, riddled with gateways. So Coyote or Enkidu as strange heroes are not pulled into dogmatic gestures of the glittering prize.

(4) A Branch From The Lightning Tree, 2009, p125.

I'm a believer in the knotty crossroads between Village and Forest. How do we live in the luminosity of Asgard whilst holding the fractured posture of Coyote? Well it may be worth remembering that Asgard had a Coyote in the form of Loki. When Zeus incubated Dionysus in his own thigh the two universes drank from each other.It's the business of living to exist in this paradox.

Wandering around in the foliage Kane is bored with Olympia and longs for the cackling plateuxs of myths pre-history rather than the affairs of the Feasting Hall.
He's longing for the earth itself to sing, rather than these pompous dieties with the face of men and women. Barthes seems firmly village bound, sipping a frapacinno and feeling pleased with himself:

The meaning of the myth has its own meaning, it belongs to a history..a signification is already built, and could very well be self-sufficient if myth did not take hold of it and did not suddenly turn it into an empty, parasitical form…when it becomes form the meaning leaves its contingency behind; it empties itself, it becomes impoverished, history evapourates, only the letter remains. (6) p. 117

From a rather literal perspective Barthes is writing well here; the oars of his word-boat are causing all kind of linguistic splashes and intellectual tremors, but one suspects he is not such an accomplished diver into the psyche. There is a frantic quality in his arguments that makes us suspect he would do well to jump overboard- allow himself to drown and wake up as a shoe or hawk, rather than an overworked and rather self-conscious brain. What Barthes seems to be associating with myth is what we would today call ‘spin’; the amplification of an image or idea for the manipulation of the Spell maker. He then bemoans the lack of the ‘true’, historic legacy of what that object originally was. We are back to Kanes Fabula, and a fundamental sticking point in approaching myth. Barthes perception, through valuable, is in the role of myth as distortion, un-truth, sly emptier of wholeness.
This is hugely anthropocentric as it places the machinations of human ambition at the center of the myth-world; that the stories are attempts to steer all the cattle into the collective coral, eating the same withered grass.All is horizontal; the metaphorical implications and holy chinks to the Otherworld don’t figure.

'(myth is) abnormal regression from meaning to form, from the linguistic sign to the mythical signifier' (11)Barthes,p 117.

To answer Barthes here: A sign is something that has literal significance placed upon it, a symbol has a far wider web of connotation. A sign denotes, a symbol connotes.When images from the unconscious or from myth are seen as signs only, they have their legs cut from underneath them; their use as psychic guides is redundant. It can only point towards a breakdown of imagination when we intepret a symbol as a sign.

Barthes concretized attack on myth is only effective on a podium in the market square. He criticizes the waves with no idea of the energies that move in their depths. His critique of what he calls myth has a kind of smug intelligence in it, but in my opinion is misguided, even dangerous. Above all it negates the 'web of connotation' into something frozen and manipulative. This points to a cultural misaphrehension; an oddly fundamentalist monologue.
Mythic understanding is subterranean; it lives underneath. A woman who is really a seal, a Dragon obese with conquest, a bridge that is a razored sword; it is inane to suggest these doorways are thin falsehoods; they provide a poetical space for the imagination to flood into. Rather than frozen they are vast-collapsing and refiguring with every consciousness that encounters them.

Barthes states;
What I claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time, which may
well make sarcasm the condition of truth.
(9) Barthes, p. 12

By committing to live in ‘the full contradiction of my time’, he makes his mistake. All storytellers know that two types of time exist. One Barthes knows well-the 24 hours. The shave, the cafĂ©, the deadline; but numinous time is outside the grumblings of the everyday. Myth in its fullness is numinous time pin-pricking through the horizontal, honouring the currency of the shape-shifter generation after generation. Shape-shifer in the sense of its willingness to crumble and reshape to the complex terrain of that generation or individuals consciousness. It doesn’t negate the 24 hours but renegociates its rhymthn; offers a sacrality. It takes us to ‘once upon a time’;the illud tempus, the timeless eternity.Barthes intelligence is rallying against a distorted picture, the best a purely ‘village’ perspective can muster.True mythic influx carries eternity with it.Suddenly we‘have time’-we are nourished.To live in Barthes universe is to walk in irritable boots sheltering under a hungry roof of one-sided intelligencia. It is a joyless language that lacks cock, breast, heart or tail.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

TED HUGHES: Gifts from a Kestrel God


I love Hughes. His face is an offering from some Kestrel God, his shoulders mossy enough for the pony of his sorrow to lie down on.If you'd put him in a shopping mall all the lights would blow at once, the cash tills releasing ground antler-bone in widdershins spirals to all the unmortgaged lunatics. You know what i'm getting at.
He feels a little ungainly, raw and brilliant-like at some point in his adolescence he had a deep experience that none of us are privy to, but sense in his hands and his sticky out hair.
They can be tough though: sometimes his poems feels like atmospheres rather than highly individual from each other (of course there are exceptions.)But that's also what gives the work its real sha-man energy: like unwieldy buckets of sound charging up from the Otherworld. He is reluctant to dandy-fy them too much for the human public, they lack chocolaty hooks but pull us forward into heavy weather rather than settle us back down in the armchair with an easy sigh of consensual recognition.It's interesting to look for younger poets who carry some of that-any names? Please send them over.The energy may have moved disciplines- be living near a painter or in a wolfish street person.
So I'm struggling with 'Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being', Hughes mega-thesis, simply because of my lack of knowledge of the intricacys of the Bards plays. Like 'The White Goddess'(see below) Hughes takes big risks, and applies the kind of leaps his poetry embodies into his ideas. The prose is grounded and juicy;

'in the many examples of the shamanic flight recorded in literature and folklore, the prize can be almost anything-the tongue that cannot lie, a hair from the sun gods beard...but almost always the success is mediated by a woman,who either guides him, or is herself the keeper of the treasure,or is herself the treasure, and returns with him...the problem lies in bringing the prize back into the world. It is as if the prize, the object, the woman,were some image of that Complete Being.When he re-enters the world, human life cannot accept what he brings-his own waking consciouness cannot accept it.'

For anyone studying 'Ivan the Bear's Son' with me at the moment that should be
significant-especially around the betrayal of the three false brothers.I will keep
going with the book, try and tighten up my scant Shakespearian knowledge and will eventually attempt to say something vaguely coherant about his ideas. He is lashing much mythological ruminations around the plays and their development.I don't care if it's true, it's certaintly exciting. Anyone out there read it?

wild nature words:
'All night i rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning i had vanished at least a dozen times into something better' Mary Oliver;
another great poet; 'i thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichen and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the
perfect trees'.


Over here at the School we are celebrating the success of one of our allies, the poet Jay Leeming picking up some poetry enormo-award in the U. S. We are dancing on stumpy tables and shaking bricks of word-sugar into each others tea. Well done Jay, for all those endless hours of ruminating that only the red-shinned hawk sees.

Sometimes when eating an apple
i bite too far
and open the little room
the lovers have prepared,
and the seeds fall
onto the kitchen floor
and i see
that they are tear-shaped.

This is just a taster; he can be panoramic, intimate or just plain witty-he is one of our great jugglers- there are lots of rooms in Leemings Hut.

Run to and buy his book today!


The young men reading Krishnamurti say no
to womanly joys, orioles, wagtails, mud,
Rancid songs, the hair of drowning persons,
Bare ankles, the brandy-breath lost in the cold,
All the glee bandits feel by the ocean.
That's all right, but it's not the whole story.
Krishnamurti himself loved orioles and wagtails,
As well as handsome women and flooded fields.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tawny Clouds of Thunderous Honey

Well, the school is launched. Thirty of us braved the moorish embrace of Samhain weekend to gather in the old way: to wrestle with the tusks and flowers of the mythworld, sleep under fluttering canvas and by a blazing burner, to see Artemis and Parseval flare up in the startling faces of our fellow companions.'How can i be with you if i am not sad?' ask the Irish and we stayed loyal but not bound to that-much laughter seemed to circle the campfire and catch each teardrop. Thank you to the crew of the camp-Jonny, David, Del, Scott and William-and Joe for being the Ash-Man of the burner.

So i guess this blog (the least sexy and unmythic name i have ever heard)is to hopefully be of use for anyone with an interest in myth, poetry, wild nature and rites-of-passage, whether they are at the School or not they are most welcome.
First up is books for the school bag. Further down is a big list for the real lunatics but here is a tiny condensed one. Off the top of my head and a drop in the ocean-

Laying the Ground:
THE CLASSIC FAIRY TALES Edited by Maria Tatar.
I found it on a rain swept farm in Oregon-Robin Williamson swears by it too. Old school (19th Century)-carries some of the word magic of the traditional storytellers in its linguistic patterns.
GODS/GODDESSES IN EVERY WOMAN/MAN (two separate books) Jean Shinoda Bolen
Essential reading on rites-of-passage; really lifts it from a tribal ritual into the shape of the experience in both our concious and unconcious lives.
CROSSROADS: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage
Edited Mahdi, Christopher,Meade
BETWIXT AND BETWEEN: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation
Edited Mahdi, Foster and Little.
Both full of useful essays and threads to other writers.


THE OTHER WITHIN: the Genius of Deformity in Myth, Culture and Pysche
Daniel Deardorff
Some of you know Danny, he's a long distance faculty member of the school. THE OTHER WITHIN is one of the deepest and most distilled commentaries on 'Trickster Wisdom' that we have. Trickster in its widest context, rather than a commentary on Native American stories.It's a book of great generosity-it contains dozens and dozens of examples of both stories and poetical threads to follow. For my money it also amplifies a train of thought that moves through Eliade, Bringhurst and Bly-namely
'the feral intelligence of the wyrd road'. He tackles this issue well:
'it must be established, therefore, beyond all doubt,that deviance,cunning, trickery, in and of itself, is not enough; for the real fruits and blessings of our cursed asynchrony are the undifferentiated, unprecedented, and hierophanous generations of liminality'.Trickster is no by-word for rip off: it needs a sacred context to flourish.
It is a hard read but offers great rewards-you will come back to it again and again-and benefits from note taking. Hopefully we can get this great scholar and wonderful
human being to come back to teach next year.
As a coherent introduction to the Celtic world this is problematic.It is a thicket of speculation and obscure opinons about things most of us have never thought about.In the introduction he actively encourages you not to read it.THE WHITE GODDESS
is a horse that has escaped from the corrall, a candle lit in a chapel no one visits, a horny wolf in the lecture theatre. It has been attacked by acadamics since its release. However, if you enjoy wildness to actually exist in language and ideas, if you value a writer who's hands are stained with berry juice and cold welsh streams (i.e. he means it), if you arn't going to attempt to turn it into some 12 step easy plan to a 'wild and creative' then you may want to check it out.I think poets are almost always the best writers on myth and i celebrate Graves allowing his 'luna'tic opinions to live in this doomed, resolutely arcane shape. It feels like time in the Magicians hut; as he cuts the air into strange constellations,lots of half successful spells, mice becoming pens, the road home to the rational turning into a small buggy of wanton nuns singing boozy madrigals.

Michael Taussing
Great work on when the shadow and power of the west hits the brujo jungle.

On my own bed table right now is:
PARZIVAL Wolfram Von Eschenbach
DIONYSOS: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life Carl Kerenyi
BASQUIAT: A quick killing in Art Pheobe Hoban
GARY SNYDER: The Real Work-Interviews and Talks 64-79 Edited Scott Maclean
ON THE ROAD Jack Kerouac
Robert Bly's own copy-he left it in my study by accident.
At 81 he was reading it for the first time.After being rude about Kerouac for 40 years he said it was feckin brilliant.

and i am waiting for....

Out of print and coming from Uni of Plymouth.I am predicting wild, unruly brilliance from a great hero of mine.

I just got off the phone with Robin Williamson-he has graciously agreed to teach at the school -on the evening of Feb 27th and all day 28th- 'Tales From the Tuatha de Danann' This will be a serious jump into the Celtic underworld from one of the worlds finest storytellers.More to come..
After a summer of insane levels of work (i just taught 14 days straight in the U.S.) i am settling into an autumn of writing, walking with the girls and trying to do a better job of mopping the kitchen floor. The chicken stew i'm cooking is looking promising though, even if i do say so myself.Time to open a bottle...
I'm revising 'A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Wilderness, Myth and the Life not yet Lived' to include an entirely new final section on longing-drawing ideas from Siberian,Irish and Romanian Gypsy stories.Longing feels so undervalued but so crucial-the working title is 'The Currency of Longing and the Malignancy of Disappointment'.

Signing off with something from the new translations of Olav H. Hauge, 'The Dreams We Carry'

Orion has arrived now in the west, hunting, hunting-
he has not come any farther than i have.
The cherry tree outside my window is naked and black.
the sky is a bell, dizzingly blue, where the hard
fingernail of the new moon is making scratches.

Martin x

Sunday, 3 August 2008

SCHOOL "RATTLE" BAG contact 0044 (0)1364 653723

Wolfram Von Eschenbach 'Parsival', Penguin Classics, 1980

Daniel Deardorff ‘The Other Within: The Genius of Deformity in Myth, Culture, and Psyche’ White Cloud Press, 2004,

Chretien De Troyes 'Arthurian Romances', Penguin Classics, 1991

Erich Neumann 'The Origins and History of Consciousness', Bollingen Series, 1954

Keith Thomas ‘Religion and the Decline of Magic’ Penguin University 1971,

Homer 'The Odyssey' Penguin Classics 1946

'The Mabinogion', Charlotte Guest translation, Dover Thift Publications, 1906

Marie-Louise von Franz 'The Feminine in Fairy Tales', Shambhala, (this iss) 2001.

Hafez 'The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door', Trans Robert Bly and Leonard Lewisohn, Harper Collins 2008

W.B. Yeats 'Yeat's Poems', Edit. A. Norman Jeffares, Papermac,1989

Joseph Campbell 'The Way of the Animal Powers/Seeded Earth Vols, Harper and Row, 1980

Thomas R.Smith 'Keeping the Star', New Rivers Press, 1988 (visionary, rock'n'roll and edgy -poetry needed as much in 2008 as 88.)

Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson 'Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciouness' Shambahla, 1996

Robert Moore 'Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity' Chiron Publications, 2003

Mahdi, Foster and Little 'Betwixt and Between: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation', Open Court, 1987 (anything with Steven Foster and Meredith Little is worth reading)

Lewis Hyde 'Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art' Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 1996

Robert Bly 'My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy' Harper Collins 2005

Clarissa Pinkola Estes 'Women who Run with the Wolves' Rider 1992

Paul Tillich 'The Courage To Be' Yale University Press 1952

Giles Deleauze and Felix Guattari 'A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia' University of Minnesota Press 1987

Ted Hughes 'The Hawk in the Rain' Faber 1957,

Marie Heaney ‘Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends’ Faber and Faber 1994,

Gary Snyder ‘The Real Work: Interviews and Talks, 1964-1979,

Gary Snyder 'Back on the Fire: Essays' Shoemaker Hoard 2007,

Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo ‘Selected Poems’ trans. Robert Bly, John Knoepfle, and James Wright, Beacon Press 1971,

Sean Kane ‘Wisdom of the Mythtellers’ Broadview Press 1994,

Robert Graves ‘The White Goddess’ Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1966

Jay Leeming ‘Dynamite on a China Plate’ Backwaters Press 2006,

Fredrico de Laguna and Dale DeArmond ‘Tales From the Dena: Indian Stories From the Tanana, Koyukuk, and Yukon Rivers’ University of Washington Press 1995,

Timothy Young ‘Building in Deeper Water’ Ally Press 2003,

Michael Taussig ‘Shamanism, Colonialism, and The Wild Man’ University of Chicago Press 1987,

Robert Bly ‘Talking All Morning’ University of Michegan Press 1980, (essential reading)

Robert Bly ‘American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity’ Harper Perennial 1990,
Jeremiah Curtin ‘Myths and Folk-lore of Ireland’ Weathervane Books 1889,

Steven Foster 'We Who Have Gone Before: Memory and an Old Wilderness Midwife' Lost Borders Press 2002

Steven Foster and Meredith Little'The Four Shields: The Initiatory Seasons of Human Nature' Lost Borders Press 1998

Jim Lenfestey ‘Han Shan Is The Cure For Warts’ Red Dragonfly Press 2006,

Fran Quinn ‘A Horse of Blue Ink’ Blue Sofa Press 2005,

Thomas R. Smith ‘The Dark Indigo Current’ Holy Cow Press 2000,

Joan Halifax ‘The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth’ Harper San Francisco 1993,

Robin Williamson ‘The Wise and Foolish Tongue’ Chronicle Books 1989.

Tip of the iceberg, but plenty of leads. Look out especially for the poets Jay Leeming, Thomas R. Smith and Timothy Young amongst the above- all visiting teachers at the school. They represent a new opening of poets in the US with a great feel for the mythic that informs their work in subtle not overt strokes. Deardorff's 'The Other Within' is be reissued through Random House this Autumn with new introduction. Helluva read-he makes you work for your rapture thats for sure. I love these books, it makes me happy just to type their names out.

Friday, 1 August 2008