Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Heart and the Imagination - making the link

This saturday at Bardschool we are sharing our work and looking at the theme of the Heart and the Imagination, as the theme for this term is Lev, the Heart in Hebrew. Last term was Teshuva - the return home, and next term is Kadosh, the Holy. Obviously all these themes are profoundly linked, but what does that have to do with our work and progress as artists of many genres?

Many are those who would have us accept that art is no more than an idea, unconnected to the artist, or an idea from the artist, but in neither case the fruithful manifestation of the heart of the artist themselves. Yet the heart in the Jewish tradition is the place of decision, the place from which flows good and evil and the fruit of our being.. so how could it be that we who are often as artists the main instrument upon which we are working, not firstly responsible for working on our hearts? If God dwells in our hearts surely the sacramentality of our art is truly related to the state of our heart.

On Saturday and throughout the term, I'd also like us to consider the link between the heart and our imagination. Do we have evidence of this flowing from our work?

We can see evidence of destructive forms of art emerging from the Dada movement which celebrated and encouraged the outpourings of the detritus of a disinhibited unconscious. Its aim was the overthrow of all forms, including governmental; all of which were seen as oppressive. So their view of the connection of between art, the heart and the imagination had specific political ramifications. Their link to Marxism can be clearly identified.

But what is form? What is beauty? What is this word "therapeutic", that can be so abused?
The original word in Greek, Therapeia, meant 3 things
To tend a garden
To honour the gods
and to heal


Especially in the light of one of the comments made by a visitor to my poetry blog today, when reflecting on the poem The Fertile Field -
The visitor said
'Work in silence / In your garden'

Sacrificing time and self to try to free hearts under the Shadow.

If there were more gardens, might there be fewer Gollums? Mine is 'an unweeded garden gone to seed. Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely'. And the door is locked, the key lying around somewhere, under heaps of obligations.



So here we are developping the Garden of the Bard school and so I've asked various of you to bring some flowers and weeding tools for the work:
I've asked Karol to reflect on her essay Why is Art Therapeutic? which she's just completed for her course, and to balance this with some thoughts on Phenomenology.

I've asked Julia to reflect on some of her thoughts about Grace in the later Romances of Shakespeare.

I'm going to look a little at the experience of 17 years of poetic writing and the heart's journey shared with people from many sections of society.

I know that Roseanne has something interesting for us two from her poetic experience.

Balanced against this was the comment of Tom's poetry teacher who said Poetry shouldn't be therapy. At which I sniffed loudly and asked for some excluded middles in the definition of therapy and poetry... What a potentially inhibiting thing to say to pupils that could be!! I bet Tom was glad I wasn't in the class. He thought it was marvellous. But then he's a 9 on the enneagram and I'm not!

All you fellow bards out there accross the sea in Las Canarias, France, Ireland or the USA, please feel part of this discussion and post to the list and also the Bard School blog or my blog!

This theme of the heart and the human person is so huge, it's definitely worth at least a term of inspired sharing and comment, especially in the wake of the Beatification of John Paul II on 1st May; He who was so much the advocate of the Beauty and dignity of the human person and of the vocations of man and woman - so mysterious and profound.. all you fans of Hildebrand and Von Balthasaar, let's hear from you too!!

much love


  1. Finding and connecting with my heart has been a journey of mine for many years now, and the blossoming began when I first heard soul-spoken poetry from the heart of a Bard. Without heart, poetry can easily tend towards intellectual exercise - valuable in itself (great craft comes from the application of a clear mind), but I feel that it is only the beginning of greatness when it comes to art.

    I'm looking forward to Saturday, and would love to share some of the poems from my journey and encounter the works of other artists on the path...a Blossoming of Bards in the garden this Saturday; a beginning of great beauty indeed.

  2. There's a poem by John Paul II somwhere about how we can get 'mind-manacled'. Poetry which comes through the heart can open the heart of the hearer. It's wonderful to hear that you've experienced this.

    I also love the children's story, 'The Secret Garden', in which several hearts and bodies are healed through the restoring of a garden in the grounds of a man in mourning.

    Encountering the work of other artists is like being given the key to the gardens which we have built in order to be healed.

    I encounter an over-intellectualised version of the academic approach to poetry which claims that poetry is only an object, divorced from the author and which is not meant to heal either the author or the reader - as though that were a paltry and non intellectual aim! How mind-manacled is that!

    I prefer the greek definition of Therapy which involved honouring the gods, tending a garden and healing.

    Now that I'm writing this a few days after our bard meeting in the lovely house.. I can say it really was a blossoming time!

    Hurrah for Tolkein who puts into the mouths of the elves the words "We put the thought of all we love into all that we make". And Hurrah for a lovely speaker at the Tolkein conference in Oxford (a Fransciscan priest of wonderful presence, whose name I must try to find) a few years ago who said a line I will not forget: "Tolkein's text is a healing narrative because he writes in a world in which the covenant between word and world has not been broken".

    No wonder then that people like Vincent Price say (I believe he said at least!) that they read the whole of the Lord of the Rings every two years as a necessary healing experience... As you say - finding and connecting with the heart is something we have to consciously do sometimes in our ideas-and-technical driven world.. and good art helps us to do this. Thank Goodness!

    Carry on Blossoming!