art ~ spirit ~ transformation
e*lix*ir

e*lix*ir   #16
Twin Birthdays 2023
Writing Life
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Editorial

The Art of a Loving Correspondence

The Writing Life

Trust in Poetry by Tami Haaland

Features

The Beautiful Foolishness of Things, A collaborative work by poet Sandra Lynn Hutchison, composer Margaret Henderson, and painter Inger Gregory
Writing Music for The Beautiful Foolishness of Things, by Margaret Henderson

Poetry

Heather Anne Hutchison
Victor Kulkosky
Linette Kuy

Essays

The Art of Losing by Victor Kulkosky
Yearning for Water: The Story of a Traveling Quilt by Bradford Miller

Personal Reflections on Bahá’í Texts

Fire and Paradise by James Andrews

Letters

Dreaming of a Better Iran: A Letter to Our Fellow Citizens by Eight Bahá’í Students

Translations

“I Want to Walk With You” translated by Bashir Sayyah

Comics

Ruhi & Riaz by Eira

Voices of Iran

Keeping the Eternal Garden by Maryam Afzal and Saam Mozafari
Mrs. Mansouri’s Mission by Shahrzad Mohebbi
Nothing but the Sanctity of the Desert by Nazgol Adyani
Five Days by Bahar Rohani

Interviews

Art and the Creative Process: An Interview with Hooper C. Dunbar by Nancy Lee Harper
An Interview with Erfan Hosseini, Santur Player by Mehrsa Mastoori

Arts

Paintings by Hooper C. Dunbar

State of the Art

Books for Children by Allison Grover Khoury

Looking Back on Books

Forty-eight Fragments by Imelda Maguire
The Divine Melody: Song of the Mystic Dove by Lorraine Hétu Manifold
Walking to Martha’s Vineyard by Franz Wright
Soul of the Maine House by Bradford Miller

Films

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in France by Perry Productions


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Ann Sheppard

Trust in Poetry

by TAMI HAALAND

When I begin a poetry class, or any writing class for that matter, the students and I start by discussing one particular conception of the forces at work: the editor, or conscious and logical personality, inside all of us who would like perfection; and the free and less conscious personality who is playful, associative, and who makes wild leaps and mistakes. We need both for poetry, for writing, and for life.

Often it’s the latter that needs the most exercise. It’s the part of us that leads us to a state in which time is suspended and the work of the moment takes precedence. The unconscious is a deep well of ideas, metaphors, images, and artistic sensibility. Frequently, the first step in writing poetry is learning to let go. It is not easy to trust where the poem is going, nor to keep going when it all seems to be a muddle, but this is precisely the path forward.

One way to begin letting go is to freewrite, to simply write what comes, without regard for punctuation, spelling or other concerns. The only rule is that one must continue for a certain amount of time. This practice will often allow memories or ideas to surface, and the editor must follow the rules: to write steadily for a given amount of time.

For many, working with specific assignments or with received poetic forms, like the sonnet or pantoum or haiku, can occupy the more controlling parts of the mind in such a way that the less conscious part of the mind becomes more active. Forms or assignments give the conscious mind, or editor, something to do, rules to follow. This gets the conscious mind out of the way and keeps it from overruling the less conscious mind. Once the editor is focused on form, the less conscious side of the mind, like a child left to play, will offer up images and associations that are often stronger and clearer than anything the conscious mind can conjure.

In this part of the process, a quest for perfection is beside the point. In this stage of the work, the poet transcribes the words and images as they arise. The poet works in service to the poem rather than insisting on a particular pathway or thematic development. At least, this is how I work. If I see where things are going and start feeling clever, I’m usually in trouble. It means my conscious mind is taking over and wants to direct things. My method is to write the first draft quickly so that I can stay ahead of too much conscious thought. This probably sounds more mysterious than it really is. Poetry is a practice, and this step is part of a systematic approach to creating early drafts.

To arrive at a place where this practice feels more natural, it is good to engage in training, as with any activity, either athletic or artistic. In the case of poetry, this means reading, studying poetic forms, and practicing them so that structure becomes part of the unconscious reservoir. Practicing long forms and short forms, studying poetry across cultures and from one’s own culture, studying historic as well as contemporary poems — all these methods make up the “boot camp” of poetry training. They also provide the knowledge base that allows a poet to practice freely and to learn to trust that the poem will go where it wants to go. It’s much like navigating life when you can’t see the future, nor can you control it. But trusting that one step leads to another, that one choice leads to the next, will allow the future to unfold, often for the good.

In this way, the practice of poetry is a kind of meditation. During the process, time can disappear. The poem unfolds in the present. It may work out or not, but trusting in the process, following through with the process rather than giving up, letting the poem arrive on the page will open the way to the next step, which is to trust, again, in the artistic process of revision: considering words, phrases and images, hopefully consulting with those who have skill in the field, and trusting that the poem will evolve into a final shape, perhaps ready for publication. This process requires patience, persistence, and honesty. The practice of writing poetry can be a fine teacher.



Tami Haaland

Bio:   Tami Haaland is the author of three poetry collections: What Does Not Return, When We Wake in the Night, and Breath in Every Room, winner of the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award. From 2013-2015, she served as Montana’s poet laureate. Her poems have appeared in many periodicals and anthologies, including: Ascent, Consequence, The American Journal of Poetry, The Ecopoetry Anthology, and Healing the Divide, and her work has been featured in The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, and The Slowdown. Haaland holds an MA in Literature from the University of Montana and an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She teaches English at Montana State University Billings and serves as Interim Dean of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Her website is tamihaaland.com.