to seek a poetic body?

“The roots of poetry are buried in proto-shamanism, which I suspect is of Upper Paleolithic antiquity. The shaman, as a novice, must rid himself of his given body, for a new and magical body, which is capable of mental travel. The main difference here between shamans, say, in 19th century Siberia, and poets in America today, is that shamans were central to their communities, they belonged in a way no American writer, even those with huge audiences, belong today. Whatever one must do to make the move from the given life to a creative one — well, that is up to each of us. The poetry scene today is flooded with young, talented, unoriginal writers who are trying to write significant poetry based on their given lives…”

From an Interview of Clayton Eshleman in Seattle Review, via Poetry Daily.

As a poet, I have been accused of OBE, by turns defined as out of body experience and overcome by events. Several people have said they don’t understand how a poet goes to the places where a poet goes; how we manage to attribute states of Being to situations, settings and states of mind that transcend their ordinary definition. I tend to think that transcendent reality is inherent in those things; it just takes someone willing to look at them sideways or through a refracted light to bring them out. And willing to transcribe the music that results.

As for the task of the poet to move from given life to a creative one, I think that’s only possible moment to moment. The spirit of the full time shaman is stone cold dead in the Western world; killed off, probably, by the television. Do you disagree?

2 thoughts on “to seek a poetic body?

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with Eshleman. And, like you, I suffer gladly from OBE. Thank goodness I was born with it.

    Too many talented and unoriginal poets, says it perfectly. That they are trying to express something of value, something discovered outside of their collective experience, speaks to either a lack of or to a misunderstanding of OBE.

    It is an essential element, the shaman’s mojo, if you will. A poet must change their POV, shed skin and remove eyeballs to look for the hidden seams of the world that lie in plain view before us.

    Then, with pen transfixed outside of time and space, wield it to conjure proof of the visitation, the embarkation, the journey of what was revealed there.

    If nothing was revealed, so state it. If so, state that as well. Simply tilting one’s head and closing an eye can bring about transitory miracles the magnitude of which the world has yet to see or encounter.

    I know, I have read proof of such odysseys. And I have also brought back proof. A poet knows immediately, or should, if what they have is a fish or a picture of one. Both are nice, both can elevate, but only one can be absorbed into the body.

    Thanks for this timely reminder of the poet as shaman. I was accused of such a thing just last night, as we stood looking at the templed end of western Santa Cruz Island with its staircased descension into the rocky sea.

    I said it looked that way and she said she’d had a dream that she had been in a temple of islands, like a Stonehenge on the ocean; a circle of geologic formations that were both sacred and fathomable.

    “Why did you describe it that way, Joseph? It’s uncanny,” she said.

    I said because poets know things we don’t know, aren’t supposed to know, but have luckily been granted peepholes to peer through the torn imaginary fabrics of reality. We feel the invisible things that touch us first. That’s all.

    And some of us bring back proof.

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