To Awaken Soulfulness in the Human Voice
THE INSTITUTE FOR
I need it and enjoy the taste of it.
John Joseph Bowman
John is a former newspaper editor, is semi-retired and enjoys working as a freelance editor and writer. He lives with his wife Valerie in Auburn, California, where they started a poetry circle at their Unitarian Universalist church. He is the author of the poetry chapbook This Could Be the House I Die In published by Finishing Line Press.
Now, at age 77, I am semi-retired, and enjoying working as freelance editor and writer. For a while, I denied I had any concerns about growing older. But then I noticed that the poetry I was writing exposed what I was really feeling. Much of my work today — I write two or three poems a week — has to do with aging or dying. I expect to live quite a bit longer, and I am in good health, but I no longer pretend that these issues are not up for me.
Valerie and I have started the Outta the Blue Poetry Series at Roseville Arts in Roseville, CA. We also started a poetry circle at our church and we attend poetry readings regularly. Poetry is like my fourth meal of the day. I need it and enjoy the taste of it.
For more information about John Bowman's writing and editing services, please contact him at email@example.com, friend him on Facebook or call 916-751-9189.
Poetry is like my fourth meal of the day. I need it and enjoy the taste of it.
It started in a bookstore in Marin County in 1995. My wife, Valerie, spotted a book by John Fox titled Finding What You Didn’t Lose. She noted that John taught a class at John F. Kennedy University, where I had just accepted a job as Director of Marketing and Communications. That was the beginning of a journey that took me deep inside myself where poetry waited to be written — healing words that would change my life.
I took a course with John at JFKU in the Transpersonal Psychology program. It was a rich experience and I looked forward to each class. But in one class, when John invited us to write a poem about being a healer, I got stuck. I did not like the assignment and sat off in a corner by myself for about 20 minutes without writing a word.
I began daydreaming about a trip Valerie and I had taken to Namibia, Africa, where our daughter was serving in the Peace Corps. That led me to a poem, which John eventually included in his second book, Poetic Medicine. In the poem, titled Witch Doctor, I recounted an experience of mine while in Namibia, where I had seen a 7-foot-high mound of ground up wood and excrement created by termites. That experience had been buried deep inside me and when I wrote the poem, I realized that I was like the mound being watched by the tourist and I felt a “humming” inside me. That humming was the beginning of deep healing.
That experience showed me that the poetry I had been writing for the past year or so had contributed to my healing over losing a job as editor of a daily newspaper and being downsized and sent to a smaller paper. Eventually I left that job and my 35-year career as a newspaperman. I had not mourned the loss of that career until I met John and accepted his invitation to do that grieving with poetry.
Later, I became estranged from my father and then he requested that we take a DNA test to “prove that I was not his son.” I was shocked at this request and believed that my father must be suffering from dementia. Of course I was his son. But when the DNA test came back, it proved I was not.
My Father And I Never Read Together
no Thoreau, no Steinbeck, never
any Gertrude Stein. Oh, he read. Said
Michener’s Hawaii was the best book ever written.
We never shared poetry, or talked about
what makes good poets tick.
Once, as an adult, I sent him a
batch of my poems. He returned
them with a note. “I like poetry
that rhymes.” I should have written:
Poems that rhyme
are not a crime,
but I hope you see
I like them free
My Father also painted —
scenes of Dutch windmills
and mountains — by number.
He liked history, so I asked
him if he’d ever read Tuchman
or Duran. He had not, he said,
but loved Life Magazine’s
edition on World War II.
We never read Hemingway together
or debated what Faulkner was
telling us with Joe Christmas.
My father and I never read
together and then one day,
the DNA lab report revealed
he wasn’t my father. I wonder
if my real father and I would
have sat and read together.
Perhaps he was a writer.
We could sit around and talk
about objective correlative or
what part of ourselves reminded
us of Holden Caulfield.
Or Rabbit Angstrom.
Now, at age 73, I am semi-retired, and enjoying working as freelance editor and writer. For a while, I denied I had any concerns about growing older. But then I noticed that the poetry I was writing exposed what I was really feeling. Much of my work today — I write two or three poems a week — has to do with aging or dying. I expect to live quite a bit longer, and I am in good health, but I no longer pretend that these issues are not up for me.
This Could Be the House I Die In
this could be the house I die in,
the place where sons and daughters,
sisters and friends will come --
pots of pumpkin soup and loaves
of warm bread passing into the
kitchen, Ray Charles and KD Lang
playing in the background,
candles flickering here and there,
people occasionally reading
Jane Hirschfield and Donald Hall.
remember our friend Nancy,
how her place was so alive
in those last days, people coming
and going, me delivering her
hot cocoa with whipped cream
from Peet’s each morning? this
could be the house I die in and
if I can just hear old friends sitting
on the couch, voices like hymns,
as I drift off for another afternoon dream,
that will be good enough for me.
How has poetry made a difference in my life? Poetry insists that I be as authentic as I can be. Or allows me to do so. When I write about subjects that are difficult to discuss, I come alive and feel comfortable with fear and anxiety.
Valerie and I have started the Outta the Blue Poetry Series at Roseville Arts in Roseville, CA, where we have lived for about two and a half years. We also started a poetry circle at our church and we attend poetry readings regularly. Poetry is like my fourth meal of the day. I need it and enjoy the taste of it.
So, thank you, John Fox, and Poetic Medicine, for showing me the way to the interior, where I mine words to use in poetry and self-healing.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org (or friend me on Facebook) 916-751-9189
Writing prompt for readers from John Bowman
This is a guided meditation that I lead with these words, triggered by the sounding of a bell or chime:
Sit silently with your eyes closed gently, your hands sitting comfortably on your lap, your feet planted on the floor. Now, take this word and follow it wherever it takes you. The word is Digging. See the word in your mind’s eye and stay with it. Try to think and see only this word until you hear the chime. (After a few moments). Now, gently open your eyes and come back to this place. Write down that word and watch it birth a poem.
© 2006-2016 The Institute for Poetic Medicine and John Fox