Via Negativa, from “Pitcher of Moon”


I have been thinking of this issue of creativity, where it comes from and where it goes. Some have this concept that artists, poets, etc. construct their work in isolation, but I think that is only part of the picture of creation. We breathe in the environment, we grab color from the cosmos. But also, those periods of Silence, Stillness, embracing the Dark of our souls, are important to our creativity, those fallow places…as much as when we are in full drive. Perhaps more important. Perhaps our work is born from a nothingness, a void, where we struggle to make it ‘real’…to bring it to some life, to expose it to air and light, to present it to the cosmos, to grab color and air by doing so. I don’t know. Perhaps we don’t really think of this process of creativity, and perhaps we don’t need to. There are too many words that get in the way of it.

“Via Negativa” is a poem from the soon-to-be-published Pitcher Of Moon.

Lady Nyo


Winter is the perfect channel
To carry Via Negativa,
No static
Just Silence, Stillness
And the embracing Dark.

On this path,
We sit in contemplation,
relish the early dusks,
No answers,
No struggle,
We are as empty as eggshells.

This time is filled by little outside;
A flash of darting cardinal
Like a stream of blood
racing past our eyes,
The sound of a falling limb
makes us search the skies,
The moaning of the wind
bustling around eaves,
soothes us,
The rattle of skeleton- bones
Of attic haunts
does not disturb us.

And yes, Death,
As Winter brings
To those who succumb to frigid winds,
And those lost from shelter.

These things are part of this path,
This dark quietude of a particular season.

We spiral into the Darkness,
Where we barely need breathe,
Conserve our energy,
And stare outside at such
A severe palette.

Stilling ourselves,
Stilling our hearts and thoughts,
We draw closer to low fires,
Scratch our dried skin
Like a monk in a hair shirt,
And, with time and patience–
Spiral back into the light of Spring.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012-2013

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17 Responses to “Via Negativa, from “Pitcher of Moon””

  1. brian miller Says:

    does creation happen in a vacuum…it seldom does in nature, so would it be natural for an artist to create theirs in a vaccum? reading your intro got me to thinking…its good to think process….its easier for me to write out in the public or in a crowded room than quiet honestly….

    being 96 here today your thoughts of winter were actually refreshing, ever in the death that comes with it…it is a time of the seed doing things we can not see…until spring…


  2. ladynyo Says:

    I don’t know, Brian…. Perhaps this is a philosophical question….but the Universe is made up of many things…as is creativity. It comes from what is seemingly emptiness, which is not really empty. It is the fallow ground for seeds, creativity.

    Right now I am reading Matthew Fox’ “Creativity”. when I finish it, perhaps I will have a better answer. But! we have lost a lot of the definition of our souls…what a soul is, and I think it is the cradle of creativity.

    I don’t like to use the word Divine, for the reasons that people jump to religious conclusions, but there it is: Our creativity connects us with the Divine…and what that is comes from our cultures. Differences here.

    The point of this poem is that different ‘seasons’ of the mind bring forth creativity…even when it seems like nothing is happening. fallow ground is made fertile…in time.



  3. annotating60 Says:

    I liked this very much, Jane, particularly ‘the dark quietude of a particular season.’ >KB


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Annotating60.

    I have to say that I was influenced by the philosophy/theology of Matthew Fox in writing this poem. And thank you for attending TO the poem. So many readers, other poets, don’t seem to address the poem, but things around it. That is frustrating to me because I don’t know then if the poem has said anything to the reader.

    Thank you, again. I’ll be over to your blog tomorrow.



  5. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Beautiful poem. “OUr creativity connects us with the Divine”, whatever that may be for our cultures. Creativity is such a mystery to me, but one thing I know for sure is that there are many people who would describe themselves as “creative,” who think doing something worthwhile–writing a poem, doing a painting, whatever it is–should come “naturally” and therefore easily. The missing component often in their view of the creative process is how much freaking HARD WORK it is. That even if one is talented or gifted, that it takes effort, perseverance, refinement, revision, returning to the drawing board, over and over and over, to make something beautiful. xo CS


  6. ladynyo Says:

    I agree, CS. But I also forget that what you write about perservance, hard work, etc. also fundamentally applies.

    Perhaps because I write so much…that I forget it is a refining fire issue. LOL! But it is. I have written about Hyperarousal Trance before, on the blog, but in “The Zar Tales”, my second published book and for a while it was a conscious effort to get into that state. Then, I think, the brain just enters it, and off you go. I won’t go into a long explanation, but suffice it to say that HT makes the ‘connections’ easier. HT becomes that refining fire.

    And…so many writers and poets just put up any damn thing and expect applause. Life (and writing) doesn’t work that way. You have to rework, do the hard work, and so many people don’t.

    I haven’t had much time to mull over where our creativity comes from. I don’t believe in muses, either. I think we claim what we do, and don’t give over to mirages. LOL! But! I do feel we must be grateful for what we accomplish.

    Meister Eckhart said this about prayer/gratitude: “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you’ it would suffice.”

    I also say ‘thank you’ to my friends like you: you are my refining fires.

    With Love,

    Lady Nyo


  7. siggiofmaine Says:

    I found much to think about here…challenging … which is good…
    me. Thank you for your wonderful challenge to my creative process.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Siggi! Welcome. Well, challenge is good. LOL! For ALL of us.

    The creative process draws from many, many things I believe. I’m reading Marcel Proust right now, his “On Art and Literature”, and he talks about the creative process. Also, Matthew Fox’s “Creativity”…though that has a bit more of a nod to Christianity and is a bit heavy handed in that direction.

    Me? I think Nature gives me the boost around creativity. I don’t have a lockdown on it, but I think we just develop our talents, abilities as we find them. There are so many roadblocks to creativity, but we can roll over them when we really feel the impulse to create beauty or whatever it is that we feel pushed to call it. When things are fallow, say in the Winter season, I feel more inspired to poetry. It’s that clean slate outside my window, the bareness of the trees, the pale skies, all these things act as a clean palette for me…at least in poetry.

    Thank you for reading and your comment, Siggi. I wish you the best in your own creativity.

    Lady Nyo


  9. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Morning LN, I wrote a long comment that didn’t ‘take’ so I’ll put the gist of it here–you have a love relationship to writing now, that lets you embrace it. I have a more fraught relationship to writing, because I’m not a creative writer or poet. It’s not my main form of expression, speaking is. I’m much more eloquent when I’m talking off the cuff, which is why teaching is such a ‘natural’ medium for me. Writing is much harder for me, so I’ve had to license myself to produce first and second drafts that are pure crap. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to even face the page.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Geez…I hadn’t thought about that! But I think it wonderful, and even a more legitimate form of love and creation~!: Think of the Bards!! To be able to talk before an assembly, classroom, etc…would be the best yet! To express your enthusiasm for what you are teaching…to mobilize in the hearts and brains of people, an inspiration from your teachings!

    MUCH harder than writing! In my opinion.

    One thing that I have come to realize in my own existance is this: my characters, demons, devils, historical characters like Tin Hinan, different cultures (Kimono) (The Zar Tales) well, they talk for me. Their conversations and antics do what I don’t dare. LOL! Maybe I skin their bodies and wear their skins? But I do know that each one of them are real and valid to me. I respect my characters because they exist. I am just the scribbler and they are the ‘real’. Other writers …some of them…understand this, but I think that many don’t. Writing is easy because the characters we create in fiction, do all the work. Sometimes they get away with everything and the plot is taken bye-bye by their antics, but for some reason, they come back and throw the manuscript on the table before me….and expect me to continue to scribble, regardless the mess they left. LOL! Oh, yes…they are real. I couldn’t come up with the dialogue they force me to scribble and frankly, they do embarass me with their sexual antics. Talk about a mental disorder here! LOL!

    Well, they are crazy making but they are friends, most of them…and sometimes very dangerous ones. I know a very few other writers who feel the same way. And most of us are extroverts. Hah!

    Still, you and your abilities….harken back to the bards. They were the ones that moved history and culture forward, because they inspired those who listened. I have a couple of chapters in “Devil’s Revenge”…towards the end….about a bard and his impact on the story. In his entrance into the story, I realized his power and impact.

    You do the same in your own life.



  11. Caliban's Sister Says:

    What an incredibly kind response. amazing. more later, but thank you Jane. love CS


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Well…it’s true.

    You are the modern day bard. And we need so many more of them…



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