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Eloquent Books Review

Written by Steven B. Herrmann, 2009

We have used the interview format to bring the lyrical rhythms of American poetry to life and have tried our best to stay away from psychological terminology that fails to speak to the reader’s core Self, whether when discussing fields of literature, psychology, fine press printing, science, astronomy, religion, or the arts. Our mutual effort is to invite readers to participate in the process of transformation evoked by the electric quality of the poetry and to lead one to listen through dreams, fantasy-thinking, and emotional resonance for the call within. The interviews address themes that have been in the process of evolution in American poetry ever since they were first introduced by Emerson in his 1844 essay “The Poet.” They point to the importance of living in accordance with Nature and the lyrical rhythms of psyche, communing with animals of the soul, letting go of our heroism and accepting symbolic death as individuals and as a species, so that a new shamanism can be born in us. The dialogues are designed to lead readers into the central archetype of order and meaning in the psyche that unites the field of American poetry with the most profound findings of analytical psychology, what C. G. Jung called the “Self.” We are shown in the narrative that the central gateway into the mystery of psychological transformation is through vocational dreams, synchronistic events, and transformative relationships (Herrmann, 1998), which hold the key to the mystery of identity. Such transformative experiences remind us of our destined tasks in life in relation to the revolving panorama of psyche and attune our consciousness to our modest yet vitally important place in the cosmos. Our book challenges assumptions about the poet’s role in society by positing that the first and primary function of the poet is to speak to the collectivity as a shamanic seer, a visionary, and as healer of the human tribe. It is in this spiritual sense that I believe William Everson was the twentieth century’s greatest living witnesses to the power of the shamanic archetype to evoke the mystery of transformation as an American shaman-poet. My role, as a Jungian psychotherapist and writer, is to dispense the meaning of the mantle he wore in “Birth of a Poet” as living witness to his powers of Divinization. Eloquent Books has done a beautiful job with the front and back covers of the text and it is my great hope that these final interviews that Everson gave, prior to his death in 1994, and the poetry we discuss together, will continue inspire the interest of our readers. I have been told what a splendid sight it is to see the book in print after all these years, with the illuminated path on the book’s front cover-picture winding through the redwoods, with the golden glow of light inviting readers to enter the mystery of its printed pages.

Shamanism in my understanding of C. G. Jung's hypothesis was the vehicle for the projection of the unconscious instinct into archetypal representations, by which the urge to wholeness was reflected in the human species by way of the image. Shamans, that is, were the first carriers of the image of wholeness. This is to say that the archetype of the shaman stands closest to the Self. As the oldest deposit of wholeness in the human psyche it is the primary form, or the psychic gateway, through which we each must pass if we are to achieve connection with the Self at its deepest archetypal levels (Herrmann, 2002). My role, as Everson’s former teaching assistant, was illuminating the meaning of the mantle he wore at UCSC from a post-Jungian angle. Before the interviews began, he put the buckskin vest on my shoulders, in a ceremony of investiture, so that I could feel into the mantle’s numinous medicine-power. The mantle derives its sacredness, its power to transform consciousness, from envoys of Divinity, the Animal Powers. It is from these shamanic structures in the American psyche that he attempts to Divinize us as a nation. If we fail to heed our calling to Divinization from the Animal Powers we will continue to destroy the earth, the seas, and the air that we breathe. Everson maintained a Christian attitude of humility under the mantle of poet-shaman, yet, when he read his poetry on platform he was a lightning Shaman. During such numinous moments the envoys of Divinity spoke through him. By virtue of his mantle Everson extends the meaning of shamanism to our collective callings as a race. If we neglect the shaman’s call within us, we may perish, like other endangered species. The shaman’s call is a calling from the archetype to stay true to our instinctive nature, our modesty, and our spiritual summons as human beings to change our materialistic American perceptions of who we are.