Relocating - please follow the link for new content

This archive will stay here - but you can find new posts (as well as this archive) at my new website which is at It's the new home for Stuart Eglin Online - including the blog, musings, and details of the publications and services which I have available. Take a look - it's worth a visit!

Wednesday, 27 August 2003

Art Therapy

Art therapy - a technical formalisation in language for something that I dabbled with at the start of my career. Back in the 1980s I worked within a team of artists of a wide range of disciplines. I was the poet who mucked about with photography and did the latter very badly (noble ideas without the technical skills). We had fine artists, ceramicists, photographers, dramatists etc. It was great fun. We worked with a wide range of people, leading workshops that were either uni- or multi-disciplinary.

It wasn't really art therapy as such, because the therapeutic intent was not controlled, although the work we did had a clear impact on many of the people with whom we came into contact.

I mention all of this because I am in the middle of reading a book by Anthony Stevens called 'Withymead: a Jungian community for the healing arts'. It's an interesting book, even if the style is a little dry and stuffy. The fascinating thing about it is the fact that this early attempt to establish a therapeutic community which used the arts was not formalised and rigorous. It had a clear emphasis on family, and focused very much on the Jungian ideas about active imagination and use of artistic expression as a way of externalising symbolism.

"The aim of Withymead was to encourage people to live the 'symbolical life', for once the conscious personality is open to the meaning of symbols it is forever opened to a source perpetual renewal and replenishment."

Jung describes the act of 'active imagination' as the art of letting things happen.

An interesting aside was the extent to which luck and certain apparently random incidents led to the setting up of Withymead. It was the bombing of WW2 that led to people taking refuge at the house that became Withymead. Acts of synchronicity - it is always worth looking for the purpose in seemingly random incidents!

Reading this takes me back to those days of expression and self-expression. At their best, the team were using the time to express themselves as well as encouraging others to find their voice and express themselves. It was a splendid vision, naïve and full of innocence. But it was the fresh youthfulness of it that made it work. We steered close to the edge at times, but the energy of the whole thing made it work.

I still have material that I was working on from that time. It was during that time that I produced 'sharp / blue breath' which was the first collection of my poetry which I would claim to be in my own voice (earlier poems were searching for the voice, working from juvenilia in form). I also worked on a small painted cardboard box which was filled with scrolls and tiny booklets representing my life and inner world. It's an idea that I never finished, but it still sits in my box of secrets and memories under my desk.

Tuesday, 26 August 2003

Sea in UK as hot as the Med!

The Bank Holiday Weekend has passed. It was an excellent one, crowded with activities. Amongst many other things, we spent yesterday exploring the Lleyn Peninsula in North West Wales. We even went swimming in the sea at Aberdaron. The weather was mixed, but lack of rain on a bank holiday was a miracle for the UK.

This is the week when the 'zen words' booklet finally comes out under the 'blue water books' imprint. It has been a few weeks in the making, but we are just about there. Finally, I am the proud father of a publishing house. It's not a patch on being the proud father of three boys, but it's still an achievement!

Now work beckons…

Friday, 22 August 2003

The Trans Pennine Express

Wobbling around in an ungainly manner on the "Trans-Pennine Express" from Leeds to Liverpool on the day before a Bank Holiday weekend. As a result of the timing of this, the train is heaving with people and I feel a little over-dressed in a suit, shirt and tie (I'm working today).

I have to say that the name of this train service is a grand illusion which is not carried through into the execution. At the sound of the "Trans-Pennine Express" one imagines a locomotive with dozens of carriages in a smart livery hurtling along at break-neck speed. The reality is a two-carriage train, which wobbles along at about 40 mph, and has seats like a bus. Comfort was left out of the vocabulary when this service was invented.

I have just been reading 'Duino Elegies' by Rainer Maria Rilke, a collection of poems which are translated by Geoff Ward. Geoff lectured me when I was an undergraduate student at Liverpool University quite some time ago. I've read his own poetry since then - I really enjoyed 'Comeuppance', and 'Breaking apart in slow motion' was excellent too. The poetry in the Rilke translations is accomplished and I'm enjoying reading it. But I'm left wondering whether they are more accurately described as 'interpretations' rather than translations. The poems are phrased and placed in such a way that it would be difficult to conceive of Rilke writing in such a way, given the period when he lived and other poetry by Rilke which I have read in other translations.

I have brought music with me to listen to during the trip, but so far I have preferred the quiet thunder of the train. Last night I listened to '10' by Kate Rusby, which is a stunning album. By coincidence, a record shop I went in to in Leeds on my way back to the station, was playing Kate Rusby. She has the most expressive and distinctive voice.

I'm having one of those days (so far) when trains arrive just as you get to the station, and 'green men' appear on the road crossings just as you get there. I like days like these.

Thursday, 21 August 2003

Bukowski and Wyatt - working when you don’t want to

It's an eternal problem - work is a state of mind. And sometimes you just can't find that state of mind. Sometimes you can blame those around you, and be convinced that there is a conspiracy going on to stop you getting to the things that need to be done. But, sometimes the great distraction comes from within. The only person who can be blamed for not getting around to things is the self. When I want to get on with things I can, when I don't at some level it just doesn't happen…

Dress it up however you want, but the fact is that the energy cycle (want to know more about my energy cycle theory, email me) is causing confusion, chaos and a state of nothingness. All of which gets me nowhere.

Next up! If in doubt, talk about music. This morning I received the latest issue of 'The Wire' through the post. Marvellous! And to my pleasant surprise I see that there is a new album out by Robert Wyatt. That's one to rush out and get - his last album, 'Shleep', was a wonderful album and that was six years ago.

Yesterday, I was looking at the work of Charles Bukowski - American rant poet. It strikes me that Robert Wyatt and Charles Bukowski are at opposite ends of the productivity spectrum. In the review in 'The Wire' Wyatt is quoted saying that he writes about a song a year. That's slow! There's a video on his album 'dondestan (revisited)' where he talks about his slow levels of productivity. Meanwhile, Bukowski seemed to pour out poems at the same pace that he would light cigarettes or pour himself drinks.

I can see the sedate beauty of Wyatt's work - and I like his self-effacing sense of humour. (He must produce more than one song a year, otherwise the new album would have taken twelve years rather than six!) But I am drawn to the manic creativity of Bukowski - his driven poetry in all its ranting glory makes me feel excited. I like the idea that he was writing so much that we are given access to all parts of his life, even if this is more persona than fact. It's the idea that poetry permeates every aspect of his life - that's an amazing idea.

Live it like that - or a fraction like that, and I'll be satisfied.

Tuesday, 19 August 2003

What's he building in there?

I've been back from holiday for a week now, and things have been really hectic. I'm just finding time to rise out of the chaos and resume the weblog.

The holiday - a week in Languedoc, South France followed by a week on the coast near Begur in Catalonia, Northern Spain. Then, to finish, a weekend in Barcelona. Different cultures, diverse experiences - a fabulous time experienced by the whole family.

High points - all of the Gaudi in Barcelona (especially Sagrada Familia, El Pedrere), the Kandinsky exhibition, the Dali Museum in Figueres, Picasso Museum, waking to the sound of the sea in the mornings, the beach in the cove at Sa Tuna, the medieval town of Pals, the fortified town of Carcasonnes, the tiny harbour of Marseillan.

The huge blast of art, architecture and culture in Barcelona left me thirsting for more time to write.

I took a dozen CDs away, and half way through the holiday the only trace of home sickness was a yearning for the rest of my CD collection.

The CD which has been haunting me over the last couple of months would be 'blemish' by David Sylvian. I keep hearing new things in this music in spite of it being so seemingly minimalist.

I didn't read any poetry this holiday (but I did write two poems). I did read 'Anil's Ghost' by Michael Ondaatje which is a marvellously accomplished novel. I love Ondaatje's poetic prose style. He is not as experimental as he used to be, but this is a powerful novel.

I'm also part way through 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel (Ondaatje's fellow Canadian). This is shaping up as a great read - truly original.

Before going away I stumbled across the fact that my local library will arrange an inter-library loan for just GBP 1.50. This means that I can get hold of any book in any UK library for such a paltry sum. I have just managed to track down a copy of 'Withymead' by Anthony Stevens which is about the art therapy community in Devon founded by Jungians. To be able to find any book, whether in print or not, is incredible!