The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon
Musings on Being and Becoming Human
A Deeper Noticing
Art and soul and what it means to be human are themes for a lifetime of thinking, feeling, reflecting, and presenting shaped work from the creative cauldron that holds our experiences. That’s why we chose these words to be present in the title of The Grapevine and why we are always looking for new and interesting ways to explore them.
So much of what comes at us from the outer world comes in the form of “Breaking News,” a form of expression that lacks much of what we try to cultivate here, though soulful stories often live behind the breaking news that dominates media coverage. Through CNN and other 24/7 media coverage, we have amazing access to what is going on in the world, albeit a daily force-feeding that many of us hook ourselves up to even when we know better, even when we know the body of imagination wants better feeding, wants to hear more about the art and soul of life here and there and everywhere. Imagination also wants intimacy with what is going on inside us, in our hearts and minds, our intuitions and yearnings. For that kind of interior responsiveness, we need to feed on stories and poems, images and sounds, tastes and smells and textures as well as thoughts that travel deep into our inner recesses and bring out what lives there so that we can become all that we are, so that we can be fully individuated humans. William Carlos Williams gives us this startling pronouncement:
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
I am presently reading Jane Hirschfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays, a small book I have described to a couple of my acquaintances as “the best I’ve ever read on poetry.” As the author amplifies through image and metaphor the meanings of common words in our vocabulary, reading the book itself becomes a rich poetic experience. For instance, what does it mean to read (an activity that we might think became possible for humans only after the invention of alphabets)? Here is what she says about reading before books were made:
To read with accuracy the outer world is the most basic work of understanding, the initial action we must bring to the enigmatic data of raw existence. And the results of reading matter: hunters read scat, sailors read the sky, and lovers read one another’s every gesture, word, and glance with an intensity of intention that they may bring to little else in their lives (188).
These forms of reading out of intense interest in otherness exemplify one angle of what I mean by “a deeper noticing,” a phrase from a poem of my own about running over a turtle on the road that leads to my house. It was a day, a time, when I failed to pace myself soulfully and instead was hauling gardening materials impatiently and absent-mindedly so that I did not notice the ancient small creature crossing my path, whose crushing was a woeful experience that sent up a cry from my heart, first to pay attention and then for a deeper noticing. The experience prompted my recall of an old alchemical saying, “In your patience is your soul.”
Hirschfield discusses how the advent of writing made possible a “considered survey of the human mind and its contents” and goes on to say,
When not only the world of phenomena but also the world of the mind itself can be read, reflection and analysis emerge. With them comes a new sense of what it means to be human, to be a self who can think in a way outside of events and a culture’s consensual understandings. Such an individual will be more private, more separate from others—will be able, in a wholly new way, to be not only a carrier of cultural knowledge but an author (190).
So books and authors (writers of poetry, fiction, history, science, and you name it) are as much at the center of our work here as is the world of phenomena we read and write about, the world that artists paint and sculpt and photograph and film and choreograph and dramatize and turn into music for pleasure and enlightenment.
In Entertaining Ideas, Charles Knott discusses Anthony Stevens’ book The Two Million-Year-Old Self, based on Carl Jung’s radical-sounding revelation of the ancient one we carry in our psyche as well as in our DNA.
Presentations include Jonathan Knott's poem "Throwing the Runner Out" (to put a final touch on baseball season) and my story, “The Legend of Abigail Jones” that won first place prize in the wild card category of the spring 2014 competitions held by the Atlanta Writer’s Club.
In Views and Reviews, I have posted commentary on R. Cary Bynum's Woodhall Stories and on Seed of South Sudan: Memoir of a "Lost Boy" Refugee, co-written by Estelle Ford-Williamson and Majok Marier. Both books were published this year. We also include Jonathan Knott's description of a remarkable guest artist who appeared early in the year at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
Why We Love Atlanta, the column established in the last issue as a way of celebrating our sense of place, has since been shaken by the earthquake news of the closing of Georgia Shakespeare, a theater company that was half our reason for praising the city’s unique situation of having not only one but two Shakespeare venues. We are back to one venue now and wondering how on earth a city that appears to have such cultural maturity can so suddenly lose one of its most attractive features.
In the Reflections column, we include, in the category of personal reflections, a posting from the blog Lifelong Metamorphoses by Carolyn Cook, who has allowed us to reprint a page in which she appeals to medical students to revision geriatric medicine and patients through empathetic eyes. Also in Reflections, we introduce links to Selected Breaking News and to Mending News: Amusing and Engaging Antidotes to Breaking News.
Around Town with Nancy Rose is a new column that features impressionistic reportage from my gadabout sister who browses the city and environs for plums of personal pleasure, holding up for our consideration the art and soul (and fun) she finds in her exploration of cultural places and events.
Jonathan Knott's Tracking History column pays attention to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta and gives us a profile of General Sherman that may surprise you.
Ravi Kumar’s World Voices feature introduces the subject of an increasing need for greater knowledge of cultural perspectives that comes with the ever-increasing movement of people from one nation to another throughout the world.
Our Museum, where we post In Memorium material, features two pages in this issue, one on the demise of Manta Lester at age 96 and my chapbook of poems about her that will be published in January 2015. More about that can be found in our Poetry Reading section. Museum also contains a page on Robin Williams, whose death this year evoked an amazing outpouring of sadness and bewilderment about how comic sensibility often masks deep wounds.
Jane Hirschfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays (Harper Perrennial, 1998).
William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower.”
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The SALON presents a variety of writers and image makers, from promising beginners to seasoned artists. Anyone who wishes to submit a piece for our consideration can send it as a rich text format document (rtf file) through e-mail to editor Jonathan Knott: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon welcomes comments from visitors. General inquiries can be sent to email@example.com. All our regular contributing writers can be e-mailed directly (click on Contributing Writers and open specific pages for e-mail addresses).Editor and Host: Barbara Knott
Associate Editor: Jonathan Knott
Image Design: Bill Kennedy
Regular Contributing Writers: Ravi Kumar, Bill Kennedy, Nancy Law, Anne Lovett, Charles Knott, Jonathan Knott and Barbara Knott.
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Copyright 2014, Barbara Knott. All Rights Reserved.