Archive | July, 2010

delusional in a writing workshop

27 Jul

Week 2 ~

A 3 hour creative writing workshop is too long and not long enough!

It’s too long because at the start, the feedback is flowing steady, forthcoming, articulate, insightful, broad, overseeing and empathetic. In short, it’s coming from a well considered, and perhaps inspired space. But by the end, it’s … something … else.

At the end there are long silences and when the feedback does arrive; it is pedantic in nature, focusing on punctuation, formatting and the like. In the course of, let’s say just over two hours, it’s like the scrubby and wild qualities of the forest ends, and we traipse instead into a plantation, where unlike the forest; there’s no heart. The trees are measured for width and height, and of course no one comments on how the whole space makes them feel. It’s too analytical now.

Given this is my very first time to read my work out in a forum, I was kinda hoping for a soft entry into this new world of critique. You know; pretend I wrote this poem just for you and tell me if it touched you in some way.

But I was the last person to read out her homework.

And we’d run out of time. While most everyone else got ten minutes of feedback, I got half that. While most everyone else had the space to respond, I didn’t. We simply ran out of time.

And energy.

What’s more; I went out on a limb with my homework.

I knew I had overstepped my expectations; I wrote a large poem; large in that it is a poem packed full of everything that’s bursting out of me. How can I say this… writing brings me so much joy, and joy, it seems, wants to reach the stars in whatever vehicle it happens upon. If I am to inject my feelings into this piece, then it’s gonna aim high.

Before I even began writing it, I had a sense of something epic at my fingertips. See… I feel things. Not in a psychic way, but I can feel the presence of potentials, and the most tactile things about these feelings is the sense of size.

Maybe I need to illustrate what I mean.

About seven months before I met my husband, I could feel the presence of a very tall man in my energy. The sense was like I was looking up, way up, to give and receive a hongi, the shared breath of touching noses. Needless to say, I was on the lookout for tall men. Billy is a tall man, and the moment he and I gave each other a hongi, I knew I’d met my life partner. I recognized the feeling.

I had the same sensation to this poem. There’s something big, epic waiting for me I told my husband before I began the assignment.

And so I did my best to deliver on that feeling. I gave it due care; if I’m not able to ground my language in every day tones and shades, I am going to sound … quaky. Heroic. And yes, I want to avoid that. So I wrote about my walks (as per the assignment) and I wrote at night when my mind refuses to switch off and the creative energy is pulsing through me. In my previous post, I described myself feeling inflated by this energy.

Now I wonder, having read this poem to a room full of gifted writers, and the flatness that came back to me in their response, am I being delusional?

I’m serious!

There were a few comments; some confusion around my use of parentheses and an ambiguous personal pronoun, all helpful feedback; I can fix them easily enough.

But there was one comment, right at the end, and it sticks to me the way an insect gets stuck to flypaper. He said it under his breath, though loud enough for me to hear from the other side of the circle. “Scale it back”. He looked up (was he frustrated?) and said it louder, like the official opinion: scale it back.

Feeling bruised, I heard it like for god’s sake, scale it back!

This is what makes me think I’m being delusional. How do you rouse your creative spirit into writing something tangibly epic when the advice is to scale it back? I feel like the part of me that imagines my self in god’s own choir, isn’t allowed to find, or experiment with, that voice here on earth.

It’s like saying; It’s just too much. There’s an expression I learnt in Buenos Aires, demasiado; too much! I would say it to my friend in sheer astonishment whenever I passed a woman, usually middle aged, walking down a dilapidated street at the height of a recession in fine stilettos, glistening stockings, sparkling jacket, bright red lips, painted eyes and nails, chiseled cheekbones and bleached hair doing its own pirouette for attention. Is it the odacity? Do I regard this as being too pretentious? Too delusional perhaps for this neighbourhood? For this time in history?

Yip. That’s how I feel.

It’s my own associations I know. My colleague has his own biases after all; a six line poem suited him just fine for his contribution, and I loved the compactness of it, the simplicity. Did I loose these qualities at the expense of … what?

I don’t even know what he thinks needs scaling back. We ran out of time. Did I find his feedback useful? Well… it’s certainly brought up some stuff for me.

I’m not doubting my self, and I don’t like my poem any less for its flat reception; it’s malleable, I can shape it to be more pleasing for readers.

No, I feel like I lost something. Like some essence of me can not be understood in academic circles.

When I write as if I am a god (for we are all of that same gild) it can be quite an alienating experience. Do I loose the academic reader in this, or do I loose the academic reader in unsettling brackets?

I wish I knew.

I’d really like to think I’m not being overly egotistical about the poem, though I do appreciate it takes a bit of presumption to write a poem like I am a co-creator with God.

After the workshop I helped tidy up the dishes. Dinah, the course facilitator, pops in to drop off her coffee cup. She is softly spoken and clear eyed. I like her a lot. She stops to talk to me.

I wish I could quote her; but like the other helpful feedback, the actual words don’t stick, not even for the length of time it takes me to walk out the room. But her quality does. I feel … seen. Like she knows how intimate I can be with the world, and still largely alienated.

Break the poem up into sections is her concluding remark.


[I will post the poem in two weeks time; there’s an embargo on it as I’ve submitted a shorter version of it to the Vic Uni Bookshop poetry competition, and one of the conditions of entry is that it can not have been previously published in any form; not even your own personal blog.]


writing: peace and creativity

24 Jul

Week 1

Friday night; I can hardly sleep. My first class of ‘Writing the Landscape’ up at Victoria University finished this afternoon. My mind is buzzing, excited, this pollen thick in the air and hardly soporific! I grab a pen and write. I check the time, it’s after one in the morning. I daze out in a sleepy stupor, and my pen grabs me again. Part of me thinks I should wait till morning, but does the creative flow work like that? Does it stick round for convenient moments?

Every twenty minutes or so, my mind rouses and I grab my pen again. I am hot, agitated excitement bubbling through to my bed clothes and blankets. I strip what I can back, flushed for such a cold winter night.

My eyes close as I write further into the night, relying on the rim of the page to guide my lines. Does the fire of inspiration at night behold beautiful embers by light? I wonder if I’ll be impressed with my musings by morning.

My energy is draining, I’m pretty exhausted and I want to find a way to turn the tap off. Can we control creative energy? I breathe and my heart flutters. I breathe deep into the earth and I feel myself inflating; levitating.

To be clear; my body is tucked up in bed, but all the cells of … everything are now   a   l o n g  d i s t a n c e  a p a r t .  T h e r e ’ s  a  l o t  o f  s p a c e  and I am a tiny particle having an epileptic fit.

Where do I find peace?

Tomorrow I am going to a sanga session on Equanimity. The equanimity of joy is peace.

But where do I find peace tonight?

In exhaustion perhaps. Truly spent, I trip into sleep.

Studying at the International Institute of Modern Letters

24 Jul

From now until end of October I am participating in a course called ‘Writing the Landscape’ up at Victoria Universtiy. It is an undergraduate paper run by Dinah Hawken. I am very happy to be in this class.

Each week I aim to post something up on my blog about the workshops.

These posts will more than likely be traveling though my emotional landscapes of putting my self out there as a writer. I imagine I am going to confront a few ghosts, or at least open a few cobwebbed cupboards in doing this.

the journey (6 April 2010)

24 Jul

in the unfolding
in matters of spirit
  and evolution

the nature of this journey
begets patterns

life lessons
that cover familiar landscapes
(like) I’ve been here before

an offering to pause
dreams overlap
and continue to unfold

throughout this life
for growing is not linear
the first step is concurrent

with every final transformation
every new encounter
is the crossing, and

carving my concentric rings
can show my age
yet it is my wisdom

that shows my true journey

The full Preface for my poetry book(s)

15 Jul


As I was going through editing my 600 odd poems, I began wondering how to best present them in a book. I had decided to keep them in chronological order, however, on mass that made heavy going for even the most ardent poetry reader.

I also discovered that the free self-publishing software I was using would only let me make a book as thick as 200 or so pages. It seemed necessary therefore, to come up with a way of separating my poetry out into multiple books. But how would I break it up? How would I structure it?

It dawned on me one afternoon while I was out walking, the integrity I was trying to protect in keeping my poetry in chronological order, was an attempt to illustrate the progression of my soul. I began wondering if there were significant enough milestones in my life (and soul) that would herald the end of one chapter and the start of another.

There was.

Only it was a little obscure.

But I had a strategy. When I got home, I dug out a book by a favourite author of mine, Caroline Myss; “Anatomy of the Spirit” and read again how she mapped the physical and emotional needs and complaints of our mind-body experience into the seven chakra system.

Root Chakra Painting by Billy McGrath

I made notes and then compared the qualities of what she described with what I had written about. Without being too neat about it, I found that specific spans of my life had a certain resonance with a particular chakra energy.

In an attempt to validate my theory of structuring my poetry this way, I wrote a poem for each chakra that sought to sum up me and my world view at that stage in my life. At the end, I declared; it works! Well, it works well enough. It doesn’t account for how messy life is; there were many poems within each section that could easily be resonating with another chakra quality, but in context to the whole journey, those oscillations took place within the process of learning a lesson that ultimately allowed me to grow and emerge into a new way of seeing the world. Therefore; it worked.

Thus I settled on a seven book series, called Resonance, with each book in turn charting the emotional and physical landscape of my journey through a particular chakra. In full, the journey (and books), go something like this:

(nb: I haven’t decided on the book titles yet…)

Root chakra or Finding resonance or Perfecting honesty

The poems in this book explore the me that fits in and ultimately breaks out of my tribe and learned-beliefs. I do not break easily, or gracefully, for I am comfortably settled with my long term boyfriend and fulfilling profession. These poems explore this stubborn, and often confused, root chakra space as I answer an unsettling call in my soul to travel on my own, and where loyalty, honesty and integrity are all put to the test. The poems take from the land, as I travel from New Zealand to South America.

Sacral chakra or Creating resonance or Perfecting destiny

In this book, the poems explore my emotional entanglements and desires as I end a profound relationship and begin a new. In the golden light of answered prayers, my shadow crawls out and I enact out the age old pain of self-rejection and unworthiness. It’s subtle, but it succeeds to undermine my peace, and in the knowledge of separation, my fears find a voice. So here I am, exploring the sacral chakra space in a journey of creation, rejection, acceptance, love and (dare I say it) destiny and hoping all the while, that the love found in Brazil can sustain the distance of a heart stretching between Europe and New Zealand.

Solar plexus chakra or Personal resonance or Perfecting me

The poems in this book explore the death of a dream and how I cope with the loss of God and being single for the first time in over a decade. For so long, I defined myself as a reflection of my other, never believing I could be my own sun, nor indeed, my own protagonist. It’s a bumbly journey littered with fantasies and illusive saviours, yet I start feeling hopeful I can step into this role and honour myself. And boy do the sisters in my life help me through this. With my esteem and heart on the mend, I challenge myself to leave my job, friends and community, and go where nobody knows me. So this is me, exploring my personal power of the solar plexus charka back home in New Zealand.

Heart chakra or Sympathetic resonance or Perfecting death and love

In this book, my poems explore the healing land and community of Byron Bay in the hope that my broken heart can be turned into an open heart. I practice saying ‘yes’ to life and living spontaneously. I find myself bewilderingly sustained by Grace, touching a layer of my self never yet known and even less defined. With little direction, following only the synchronicities of daily life, I haphazardly fall into a love triangle that threatens to steal my peace. Devoting my attention to living in the heart, I am able to meet my perplexing emotions with much more honesty. This is the space of the heart chakra.

Throat chakra or Sounding resonance or Perfecting the selfless

The poems in this book ask the age old question; who am I? And the even sharper question; what am I? Responding to an invitation, I travel to an ashram in India, in a cliché ‘search of self’. Finding this too disappearing, I gather instead my own intuitive council and spontaneous offerings, and challenge my existence and role on earth. This is the space of the throat chakra which inadvertently catapults me into months of disorientation with my self, my motivations, and the nature of writing all this down. Not an easy ask on someone accustomed to breathing poetry.

Third eye chakra or Mysterious resonance or Perfecting truth

In this book my poems traverse the best and worst of life. To be intimate with another, and commit to them in marriage, is the greatest surrender of the self I have ever known. Simultaneously I am shining in my own light, and utterly desperate to not expose my shadows. I am hyped in sensitivity that is both beautiful and ugly to live with. Only someone who loves me as much as his own unfolding enlightenment can hold the space for me to unwrap the psyche and personalities that are stopping me from living gracefully. Five months into our marriage, we travel to Brazil, to the healing and meditation centre that sits on a crystal quartz plateau; a place that amplifies our thoughts and emotions. In doing so, I am convinced, we shave years of heart wrestling off our relationship. Facing everything, whatever arises, we weather the first year of our marriage together, committing to meet in truth. This is the space of the third eye chakra.

Crown chakra or Subtle resonance or Perfect

There’s nothing I can say about this book. Truly nothing, for there is a place that exists that words can not touch. Least of all, mine. This book unfolds around the crown chakra.


I also describe each book as a love story, because in truth, what has driven or pulled me in all these years are the strings I tied delicately or haphazardly to my heart. And what I learnt from the heart, is that it is not so concerned with moral rights and wrongs. It is far more interested in bringing me into a response of compassionate love. Very often I learnt these lessons at the price of pride or moral high ground.

And more notably, I learnt these lessons because they become so glaringly obvious.

This reminds me of a poetry workshop I participated in several years ago.

The facilitator asked us to imagine, with clairvoyant insight, that we were about to experience deep amnesia whereby we would loose every memory we have held dear or at arms length. We had 20 minutes to write down the things and events in our lives that we would want remembered. And with that the clock started ticking.

I mentally scanned my files and files of memories to assess what I’d be willing to dump, and what must be catalogued for prosperity. I thought of the beautiful backdrops in my life – particular trees, lakes, beaches and how they had come to mean something poignant to me. Should I tell myself how to get back there? Strangely; no one place leapt forward.

I thought of certain people who had carved my life. Should I write their name and the contract they took with my life? I looked at all the accumulated memory banks of files and photo albums, now pulled from their tidy shelves and scattered in desperate attempts of escape.

There’s too many I thought as I flung those imaginary files in to the air; to Hell with it! They can all go! Everything. Everybody.

Wasn’t it happenstance in the first place that allowed us to meet? Didn’t we connect because something deeper in us recognized each other? Who’s to say I won’t reconnect with that quality of person or circumstance again?

It seemed laughable in that moment to hastily scribble down engineered notes that would sound more like the what-I-like list of some distant ancestor. I can look at the carefully researched family tree lines that my brother gives me with the same indifference; who is this name and what motivated them to marry this person or emigrate or give birth or whatever?

My page was still blank as I considered what it was that I would not be prepared to loose. My mind started dancing around; God! I’d HATE to go through that break up again! And I’d hate to have to make peace with myself all over again; I made it so painful!

Oooh, something started dawning on me; it’s the lessons. At certain times in my life, I finally finally altered my behaviour, or way of thinking, that allowed for a little more room in my mind and heart to grow. That’s what it’s about! Lessons and growth.

I started to write down my lessons. And stopped again.

Surely once you’ve learnt a lesson (and responded now to a situation with more compassion than you once had), your soul has kind of… graduated, so to speak. Meaning, those particular lessons aren’t necessary any more. So I figured I didn’t even need to write that down either.

As the facilitator indicated five minutes left, I had only one item penned on my page. It read; be compassionate, trust. I put my pen down and decided I was finished.

It wasn’t what the facilitator was looking for.

Though I knew I’d reached a big headline for myself.

Forget the baggage, just be compassionate and trust that life will unfold to support this growth.

Even though I can map some of my experiences that allowed me to ‘graduate’ to another dimension of expressing love, it doesn’t, and probably will never mean that I’m cured of all the inner gremlins that tripped me up back then. If anything, the road gets more gnarly as I toil the ground back further. All I can do is meet these moments with more compassion and equanimity. Ahhh, it’s a journey alright!

Which is, in essence, what these poetry books are. A journey with no simple answer but with a sprinkling of hindsight and sliced where I can, compassionately.

To bring the reader on this journey; I present at the start of each book, the poem that I wrote for that particular chakra. It offers a segment of life story, and while there is absolutely no expectation that the reader will read any of these book from cover to cover, should you find yourself doing so, there lies within, the subtle coherence of a plot, and character development (and in my case; assassination).

I would like to stress that a coherent story was never intended at the outset; each poem enjoying its own space and existing in its own creative right, and appearing in a moment that didn’t always afford me a wise or compassionate perspective. So read from start to finish, or just open the book up randomly, as I am prone to do, and wonder where this poem sprung from.

So it begins.

And so it continues …

… … … … … … … … … … …

So where to from now?

I’m looking for some intimate-readers.

What is an intimate reader? Someone who resonates with what I’m doing and wants to discuss the poems and the books with me.

Gosh, If you’ve read this far, you’re definitely in the running!!

To get an idea of the type of writing, this blog covers about 80% of the poems in the books, though not all are in the book, and some that I never posted, are (don’t ask me the logic, it just happened that way).

So if you’re in New Zealand, have an affinity for spiritual development and reading poetry (or a poet), have spare time and a critical eye, hey, drop me a line, haha.

much love

  Alys Titchener 🙂

What I have been doing for the last 6 months

12 Jul

What have I been doing for the last six months?

I’m self-publishing, that’s what I’m doing 🙂

There are other activities that sometimes come centre-stage, but for the most part, writing and editing dominate my time.

I recently traveled to Australia, and on the immigration form it asked me for my occupation. I haven’t been in paid employment since I left my job last September when my husband and I traveled to Brazil for a few months. Back then I would have put ‘Information Specialist’, or ‘Business Analyst’, or ‘Web Developer’; none of which really fitted comfortably anyhow, and certainly even less now!

Since coming back to New Zealand, I can’t seem to entertain any thought about employment, let alone follow through and turn up; the energy just isn’t there. The grace isn’t there. Standing there in the customs queue, drawing a blank on that question, I decided to redefine this pitted term for myself. How about: ‘what occupies my time’.

Writing of course!

For the first time ever, I wrote ‘Writer‘ on the immigration form. And for the first time ever ever ever, I felt comfortable, in fact, perfectly entitled, to using that term.

That is huge!

And what is even more huge is that I want to share with you my current project.

My next post will be the Preface for my poetry book(s). I found an angle on presenting my poetry that I really like, and its drawing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for me to stay present with this project. Stay tuned 🙂

fear in living (7 July 2010)

10 Jul

he says; there is more fear in living
like one atom, one chromosome
slid away from Everything
and in this, he lost a crucial memory

and if the last breath were to resolve
as a chant resolves into nothingness
like a dying cinder of unity
and placed between his lips

and if he were told, this breath
in, or the absence of, holds the secret
of all connections, how fragile it is then
to live not knowing

how frightening to forget
he was ever connected
nor knowing if ever he will be again
in this life time

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