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Some short thoughts on poetry, writing and research, and some issues writing “Tin Hinan”

July 15, 2014

Some thoughts on writing and poetry…


Very recently I have been talking with a dear friend, Dr. RK Singh, in India. We have mulled over topics for about 4 or 5 years now. RK is a well published and marvelous poet of short verse, including tanka. He is also known for his academic papers and books. But this sensitive man is a joy to engage in what we both love so much, which is poetry. Later this summer, I will review on this blog his latest poetry book: “I am NO Jesus”. I have read these poems he so graciously sent me as proofs, and I found myself totally captivated.

In his last email of this morning, RK said something about the difference between poetry and novel writing. Well, he didn’t actually state an opinion, or define the difference, but there is one I believe.

I have read that poetry is of the heart. But I think that can be applied to writing in general. Poetry appeals to many people because it usually (in its best state in my opinion) is short, decisive, heartfelt, impactful, and at times..perhaps the best of times…makes that connection between humanity. More than “there is nothing new under the sun”, it makes the links between our distant humanity. I think of the cultures around the world like the stars in the heaven at night: laying out in the desert, or in an area where there are no city lights, we have icy pinpricks of light too numerous to count, only defined by pictures and myths we hang upon these exploding and gaseous rocks.

I am not a trained poet or writer: I shoot from the hip in these things. And about that, I very recently broke my hip and now am facing a long summer of little activity and a lot of bed rest. But the upside of this is the chance to settle in with the books I need for further research and writing.

Seven years ago, out of the blue I suppose, I started writing “Tin Hinan”. Other writers probably will know the feelings of compulsion, where an idea, a theme takes hold of you and shakes you like a dog with a rat. I have said that this book wove itself one knot at a time, and very fast I had a rather muddy rug beneath my hands. I realize none of these things actually come totally out of the blue, but come from some experience that circles around your head, whether you realize its presence or not. For me, I would say that “Tin Hinan” was a continuation of my discovery and experience of the Hyperarousal Trance. I was a belly dancer at one important and informative time of my life, and from some beautiful and handsome Spanish flamenco male musicians, discovered that this was really ‘real’. That the ayoub beat led into a world of tangible mystery and exoticism. That our bodies and our minds conspired to raise us out of our humdrum lives, out of the usual patterns that we trod, and into something much different. I was trying to explain to Dr. Singh what this Hyperarousal Trance did, or was, (it is a brainwave sequence, called Theta) and how it made the connections between pieces of research in writng. Oh, it did a lot more than that, and belly dancers (besides these gorgeous Spanish men) understand the trance that movement throws one into, but it also has, or seemed to have, more application.

I found that this state of mind also could be applied to different cultural approaches. People have been confused, or at times, disdainful, of my cross cultural writings: I have written books based in Hungarian, Japanese, Turkish, Celtic and Berber cultures. This isn’t strange to me at all. It’s a continuation of interest in different cultures and a heavy dose (always) of the necessity of deeper research. And that is what it means to me to be a writer. And poet. And why not? Aren’t we part of the total mystery of humanity? Where are the borders for our minds? As writers and poets, don’t we strive to make those connections between cultures that are ‘strange’ and unknown to us? For me, I think this is a compulsion.

And, frankly, it is also necessary to rid your life of the people (and yes, family) that stand as obstacles to your creativity and productivity.  I no longer will tolerate this.  It took me long enough to find a purpose in life, and I am damned if I will let anything get in the way of this.  Including my own stupidity.  Writing gives purpose and JOY to my existence.  For years I allowed  others to either stop or attempt to detour this purpose. I see the angst of friends who are embroiled in conflicts that don’t give one damn bit of joy to their lives.   Life is too damn short for this.

In reading and reworking “Tin Hinan”, I have seen the necessity to go even deeper into this ancient culture, called Berber by the Europeans, and Imazighen (amongst other names…) by “The People of the Veil”. Perhaps it is the luxury of being able to slow down (a bad hip will do that…) and settle into the more descriptive and important things of a culture. I do know the Berbers bring to life the mysteries, the spirits of the deserts, especially the Sahara and the mountains of Morocco and Algeria. The Berbers I have known are some of the most gracious and hospitable people on this earth. I believe this is because they understand, fundamentally, the things that are important to survival and they shake their veiled heads (that’s the men, the women don’t wear the veil) at our modern silliness. Or perhaps they, being the ancient culture bred in some of the harshest conditions on earth, understand the true concept of humanity.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014



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