This is just a plain old-fashioned list; images, links, and topics I am thinking about this week, cut and pasted in no particular order.
Self-Care for Poets, Part 1 (How To Be a Better Sacred Monster)
Poetry mag’s Harriet blog pointed to this last week; it’s a guest post for Drunken Boat, written by Bay Area poet Lindsey Boldt. She does give advice on diet (more on that in a moment) but It’s actually about how to safely go into trance. All poets (actually, I’d say all artists) do this when they work, whether they know it or not. It’s not exactly the same thing as mediation. It’s about dissolving the membrane between the unconscious and the ego. Carl Jung stated that in artists, the wall between those two things is much more permeable than in non-artists. When I read studies about artists and poets being more prone to alcoholism and mental illness, I always think about this – my take is that what makes artists more vulnerable is not so much genetic inheritance, but failing to take care when handling pure archetypal content straight from the unconscious, which is a bit like handling uranium ore with one’s bare hands. Because we are in such a material, reason-driven culture, we do not pay proper due to the real power of language and imagination. We have zero rituals around working with the material of the unconscious, as older cultures did (see the Oracle at Delphi, above). But the imagination, and just pure images, are POWERFUL. I think this is why so many artists and writers have to concoct rituals around their practice – it’s like their HazMat suit, the thing that keeps their psyche safe when they are working, and bombarded with the strong rays of pure imagination. Any fiction writer will tell you that when they are in the middle of a novel, the characters take on a life of their own. Any poet will tell you that some lines just feel like they were beamed into the skull. That’s working with the unconscious. I was happy to see Boldt acknowledge that. And much of her advice is practical: when you are drifting around on the ceiling, eat something! There is no better cure for drifting-away soul than a big, sloppy, peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Oh, how I love thee, Open Culture! And jeez, I love Dante with a big arrow-pierced heart, for all of my days. How big was my swoon over this? It was like this:
If you look at the hi-res versions of these images from the British Library, you will see why. As Open Culture notes, “The names Priamo della Quercia and Giovanni di Paolo may mean relatively little to you right now, but they’ll mean much more once you’ve taken a look at the illustrations featured here and at The World of Dante, which come from an illuminated manuscript of the Divine Comedy at the British Library known as Yates Thompson 36.” Other artists – Dore, Blake, Dali – have done some amazing interpretations of the Divine Comedy. (I think Blake is my favorite, followed by Dore.) But these are true to Dante’s poem, true to the time period, and just stunningly beautiful – and you can view them in super hi-res.
So, I know about Bang on a Can, but I’ve never investigated the work of David Lang (who is a BoaC member). Today one of my writers did a piece on the Mizzou New Music Festival; they’re hosting two terrific world-class composers, Nico Muhly and Zhou Long. Muhly collaborates quite a bit, including with rock/indie folks and David Lang too, and when I typed Muhly into the Spotify search box, Lang’s Death Speaks popped up. The vocalist on these tracks is Shana Worden of My Brightest Diamond. She is amazing – I once saw her open for Devotcha. I never get excited about opening acts, but I thought, “Bloody hell! Who is this human?” She’s pretty amazing. This whole record is a remarkable piece of work, though apparently the album to hear is Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion, which I’ll be checking out tout suite.