Marion Woodman and Coleman Barks
Marion Woodman and Coleman Barks share the stage for a spirited dialogue on Saturday evening, June 5, at 7:00 p.m. at the Mythic Journeys Conference in Atlanta. This special “Conversation with Poetry,” Barks’ and Woodman’s first joint appearance, is co - sponsored by Atlanta’s C.G. Jung Society, Journey Into Wholeness, and the Mythic Imagination Institute. Marion Woodman is a Jungian analyst and author, and Coleman Barks is a poet and translator of Rumi. The following articles are written by Van Waddy who knows Marion Woodman personally and by Wilson McCreary who knows Coleman Barks personally.
On Marion Woodman
by Van Waddy
Van Waddy is a licensed psychotherapist in the Atlanta area and a published free-lance writer.
Honoring the feminine principle in the human body has been Marion Woodman’s hero’s journey.
Woodman is a Canadian Jungian analyst, a woman who burst the yoke of perfectionism, battled
and transformed an eating disorder in her youth, has outlasted a bout of cancer in her elder
years, and has used all of these graces to her spiritual advantage.
Woodman’s complete surrender to her personal encounter with the divine in matter -- an inner
and outer presence she affectionately acknowledges as Sophia – permeates all of her work.
Her individual hero’s journey spirals and wanders around this single feminine value.
The mythology and universal story she embodies draws women to her from all over the world
who find in her the way through the proverbial forest.
Woodman’s markings through this mythological forest are metaphorical in the finest sense.
She teaches us how to embody, how to bring to consciousness in the body incoming spirit;
how to contain our center and allow all opposites in us their fruitful play; how to honor
the feeling value in us when all outside forces fight to suppress it; and how to identify
and speak our truth from what she calls our virgin standpoint, our “I am”. These metaphors
and principles apply to both men and women who fight to honor and release the feminine in
them, which in our culture is routinely discouraged.
“The new feminine (emerging in our time) stands for a new kind of consciousness which
can hold the divine and human in one thought,” says Woodman. It is divinity in matter
-- “soul living in matter” – that Woodman excavates in the body, in dreams, in metaphor,
in the creative life. She shows us how to contain it, dance it, harness it, celebrate it,
until our conscious self can act out of both the human and divine of us. “The feminine
lives with uncertainty, mystery,” she says, for we can only know the divine through its
manifestations, intuitive imagery, not with the mind.
Woodman’s fierce discernment cuts like a knife through our chatter and gets us in touch
with our still point -- that place within where the dance between body and psyche,
between conscious and unconscious, transforms us from merely living into being
wholeheartedly alive. Intuition and imagination and images from our dreams become our
guide. True healing, she says, happens with imagery.
Whatever is driven by will power alone is left behind, as this depletes the body.
Whatever sings the soul into action, stirs passion and vision, is embraced in the dance.
“When soul is not heard,” says Woodman, “the energy goes back to the will.” When we are
living in survival mode, through will power alone, our soul energy escapes to the basement
of our being and goes to sleep.
Around all this, wrap Woodman’s humor, her colorful story-telling, her audacious playfulness.
Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson’s rich images color her own, with some T.S. Elliot thrown in,
all with poetic cadence. She is well-known for her delightful dialogues with the poet Robert
Bly, with Woodman representing the feminine principle, Bly, the masculine. At the Mythic Journeys
Conference in June, Woodman will dialogue with Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Robin and Stephen
Larsen, and other provocative panel members, always bringing our musings back to the presence
of the feminine, the play of the divine in any of our wanderings.
I was privileged to personally participate in Woodman’s bodywork intensive in Canada in
1996, to dialogue with her at several national conferences, and to bask in her generous
openness to embrace anyone who sincerely embarks on an authentic soul journey. If I
had to choose one attribute from her long list, it would be her shameless humility.
Woodman’s willingness to be vulnerable and transparent for all-the-world to see is both
courageous and liberating. She is fearless in speaking the truth with which most of us play
hide and seek. Her beloved Sophia ever at her side, she dispels whatever darkness confronts
her in simple, healing language, and invites us in to learn what we can from her ordeal.
Marion Woodman is only one hero on a hero’s journey, but she’s my hero.
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On Coleman Barks
by Wilson McCreary
Wilson McCreary is a semi-retired computer systems engineer in the Atlanta area, and he also writes poetry and makes music.
Coleman Barks was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and educated at the University of North Carolina and the
University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for many years.
In 1977 Coleman connected with the poetry of the 13th century Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, and since has been a steadfast student of Sufism.
He has authored many translations of Rumi’s poetry. In the US, where poetry now seems to live in fertile ground, Coleman’s Rumi translations
are said to be the most popular poetry in the country. The Rumi work led to an hour-long segment in Bill Moyer’s PBS series, The Language of Life.
Coleman is a featured poet and translator in Moyer’s later PBS poetry special, Fooling With Words. His work has also been aired on NPR.
His voice has a smooth and pleasing texture much influenced by the true old South. Reading poetry can be wonderful. Hearing poetry spoken
can add a tremendous additional dimension. Coleman is a master at both the written and the spoken word.
Coleman’s own soulful poetry, too, is revered by his readers and listeners. Indeed, for many it is difficult to see
where Rumi ends and Coleman begins or vice versa. His fascinating mix of Southern small town
upbringing, strong connection with the mystics, excellent academic literary credentials,
world travel and some additional mysterious element from the gods must enable him in
connecting the mystical, love-dog longing of the Sufi with the soulful southern,
shapenote singer of Church songs, both searching for God. Coleman seems to “feel”
the words of the mystic and the shapenote singer. He would likely deny that he,
himself, is a mystic but that may not be true.
My own connection with Coleman and Rumi began in 1991 at a large gathering of 750 men at
the World Congress Center in Atlanta. The leaders or teachers at the event were Robert
Bly and Michael Meade. Robert, of course, was then and still is, poet, war protester
and leader of whatever the “men’s movement” was and is. Michael Meade is mythologist,
drummer, story teller and author.
In the audience that day was Coleman Barks. Robert asked him if he would come up and
read. Robert and Michael had already warmed us up with poetry, drumming and story.
The poetry was something new for me, word pictures that evoked connections and emotion
not found in a greeting card shop. And Coleman raised the temperature considerably.
Better known for his translations of the 13th century Sufi poet and teacher, Jalaluddin
Rumi, he began with a poem of his own, Hard Cuss for a Gourd Seed, then Darhshan Singh
and Christian Harmony, then his Rumi translations. On that day poetry became a part of
my life. Coleman has been a teacher at several subsequent men’s gatherings I’ve attended
since that day in 1991. His audience and students always observe and listen with rapt
attention and respect. Coleman’s Rumi translations are still a big part of many men’s
lives since their first exposure in men’s work.
Coleman is a father and a grandfather. He has been known to brazenly hang his
granddaughter’s picture over the podium at a reading and to unashamedly read poems
about her. Retired now from teaching, he has been known to grandly ride his
granddaughter through the streets of Athens in his old Plymouth convertible.
In short, he is absolutely human with the soul of a mystic.
If you know Coleman’s poetry and his Rumi translations, then the words here are wasted.
But if you don’t, then when you do see and hear him you’re in for a transformation.
If transformation doesn’t happen then your soul is dead.
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