In The Studio :: Julie Howd

A little over a year ago, Saturn’s return ignited an influx of beginnings in my life (an impromptu cross-country move, a new job), a cosmic cavalcade that pushed writing from my daily routine. With physical relocation necessarily comes psychic relocation, but that appears to be a slower process. 

To nurture my creative spirit during this generative lull, I’ve been exploring other arts: meditation, painting, studying the symbolism of the Tarot. 

I have recently returned to Amherst, MA, the place where I first started actively being a poet. I’d been drawn to poetry for its ability to translate the inner experience into something palpable. Language, after all, is the threshold between the inner and outer worlds. 

Because I work remotely, my workspace and studio are the same. To offset the psychic energy of my “day job,” there is an altar on my desk made up of stones and crystals I’ve variously collected and received as gifts from other poets over the years. The Tarot card I am currently studying features as the altar’s centerpiece, providing my mind a space to wander and be curious when it is not actively producing.

I’ve written maybe three poems since my most recent move this past August, the best of which was written after a bout of meditation. It flowed out effortlessly, like it used to. Thank god. (I wasn’t broken.)

This surge of inspiration, along with my growing interest in meditation and the Tarot, led me to become interested in the idea of superconsciousness—specifically, poetry as the language of superconsciousness. I have often drawn much of my inspiration from the surrealist poets, who were concerned with the language of the subconscious, the language of dreams. However, the subconscious is a cluttered chamber of emotion and memory, our junk drawer—hence the confused, murky nature of dreams. 

Superconsciousness on the other hand is the clear-headed, transcendent state one can access through a limited number of human experiences: meditation, psychedelics, and potentially what we encounter during “true” inspiration (also called the flow state, muse, etc.). The threshold between life and death may also qualify, death being the ultimate reunion of consciousness and superconcsiousness. However, this state lasts only a moment before the consciousness is subsumed by the superconsciousness. (Digression for another day: Does superconsciousness also tend toward entropy?)

My early hypothesis is that the liminal space between consciousness and superconsciousness is where truly inspired poems are formed and delivered to us whole. This is where my studio resides. 

Therefore, to write good poetry we must declutter our psychic space. We can’t depend too much on the stability or generative qualities of our physical space, whose floorboards always tend to be shifting. That’s why rituals can be so effective for writing: A few portable luxuries—candles, stones, tea, cats, a good lamp—offer that sensory association, much like muscle memory, to get you back in touch with the muse without waiting around for a sporadic visit. (Without ritual, and to our frustration, this visit typically occurs just before drifting off to sleep, when our minds finally clear and the veil lifts.)

Having explored the subconscious through surrealist poetry, consciousness through confessional and political poetry, the exploration of superconsciousness may be the next frontier of the avant-garde—and may even be a novel way to attain the much coveted “inspiration” when we sit down to write. Is this just Romanticism’s sublime with a sexy new hairdo, reinforcing the cyclical and reactive nature of all art? Maybe.

—Julie Howd

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