1) I’ve pretty much exclusively been using my blog for updates about publications, readings, et cetera, and I’ve made the goal to “journal” more in 2015, so I think this is the perfect opportunity to shake it up a little bit.
2) I hardly (read: never) write about “going back to school” which is a thing I have done which is a thing I currently do, so perhaps that can be churned into more blog updates throughout this year. Is this a thing that people are actually interested in? Who knows!
3) I am bad, horrible, no good about keeping resolutions so this could be the only update like this ever amen.
One luxury in returning to pursue my MFA is that I’ve given myself time to think about process versus product. I am a big instigator of “getting witchy” as a framework of creative process. In fact: I would rather soak in a bath of Kool-Aid & bury a Barbie in the backyard for three days if it gave me some sort of mental torsion to be placed in a creative place I’ve never gone before with my writing. I simultaneous recognize the power of getting weird and the fantastic shame of these imaginary forces judging me for going there.
One of my other 2015 resolutions is to holistically resist shame.
Currently I am taking a course with Heidi Lynn Staples on Ecopoetics, a class she has brilliantly segmented into four sections based on the four classical elements (earth, air, fire, water). I’ve always been a proponent of the occult as a conduit to creative process (e.g.: ekphrastically working off the art of the Tarot or considering the meaning-making behind each card — something I did in my last chapbook). This is of course, not to make light of the work that practicing Neopagans do, but I’m attracted to the creative synthesis that’s formed present-day Paganism. The good type of ‘mental gymastics’, y’know?
Part of Heidi’s elemental quartering involves us, the students, “Calling the Quarters,” a time which can be used towards an exercise based on our current section/reading. I thought I could bring my own interest in herbalism/the healing properties of plants to the classroom as part of this process. My research/idea for “earth” formed a little like this:
1) Although, in theory, all plants are of the earth, some Wiccans have designated certain plants to be more representative of that element. Such plants include: celery seed, dill, lovage, parsley, sage, wintergreen, amongst others.
2) I considered how many of these herbs have medicinal effects that are taken somewhat seriously (e.g.: aiding in digestion, anxiolytic effects) and then the magickal effects which are taken with a grain of salt (e.g.: aiding in spellwork related to protection, love, dreams…).
3) I noticed that a) many of these herbs such as parsley, sage, and dill, are ones readily available in my kitchen (#kitchenwitch) and I could easily make a tisane (herbal tea) out of them. I also noticed b) many of the “earth” herbs share similar properties: protection, purification, love, dreams, mental powers, psychic powers…
4) I made the tisane seen above with herbs I had around my house and brought it to class, with the instruction that I would like to ask my classmates to consider the properties of the tisane and then to use that mental space in writing. We passed the glass bottle of ingredients around so people could inspect, smell, get a visual sense of. I then placed a ceramic tea pot in the middle of the room and poured hot water over the ingredients. After some steeping, I served tea in little cups, and we all wrote for a few minutes. We all entered a quiet space where we worked on our writing/ourselves.
5) As a sort of bonus I considered tea as this combination of the four classical elements: ((…herbs as earth / soaking in water / heated by fire / giving off steam…))
One of my peers noted they were overcome with emotion at this time (was it taste? scent memory? the subconscious overwhelming nature of taking on a creative profane exercise as a group?). Someone else said they think that even the idea of ritual on a subconscious level can be very powerful: the intimate act of serving peers tea in a classroom setting—which is not associated with these activities—is wonderfully disruptive. I also considered the following questions while sipping the tea:
a) What is our culture’s relationship with herbal medicine? Is it taken less seriously than pharmaceuticals?
b) What about herbs that are over-marketed, such as Goldenseal, and thus face a decline through over-harvesting?
c) Is taking part in a ritual inspired by Paganism a resistance to the Judeo-Christian narrative of the earth being a God-given resource… or is this equally problematic as one is also consuming plants for our human “needs”?
Academic institutions are peculiar creatures because they sometimes prefer measurements, and exactitudes. This is not exact. MFA programs themselves are unfortunately plagued by the mythos of the Workshop-with-a-capital-W. This is not a workshop. The mind is powerful in unknowable ways and I’m interested in how slipping into an uncomfortable/outside-the-mainstream/’queer’ mental space can contribute to lateral thinking and thus the nascence of poetry.
Although we had only a little time to write, and I did not save anything to share, perhaps I will be able to do another “witchy” exercise for fire, water, or air, and catalog some of the works that came out of that creative process. Until next time…