The Poetic Universe: Interweaving Cosmology, Poetry and Deep Time
THE POETIC UNIVERSE
INTERWEAVING COSMOLOGY, POETRY AND DEEP TIME
Cosmology as an ancient wisdom tradition draws from science, theology, art, poetry, and philosophy…Its terminology…generally seeks to make use of language arising out of our experience of living within an unfolding cosmos. [Brian Swimme, Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, p. 107-108].
Poets and artists can help restore a sense of rapport with the natural world.It is this sense of reciprocity with nature, in all it complexity and remarkable beauty, that can help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead. [Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe, p. 48].
Each person discovers a field of allurements, the totality of which bears the unique stamp of that person’s personality.Destiny unfolds in the pursuit of individual fascinations and interests.By pursuing your allurements you help bind the universe together.The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion. [Brian Swimme, The Universe Is A Green Dragon].
My own fascination and interest here is in the many ways in which cosmology, poetry and a Deeptime perspective go together. I am also allured to the ways in which contemplative practice can bring science and the arts together. I am certainly not alone in this as there are artists, poets and scientists around the world who are creating amazing projects together, discovering the ways in which their respective fields can open doorways when they are committed to working together, helping to “bind the universe together” as Brian Swimme observes.
One day, some time in the last 18 months, a Deeptime Network member posted a link to an online resource, The Universe in Verse, a creation of The Marginalian website, formerly called Brain Pickings, the website which is the brain child of the writer, Maria Popova. The Universe in Verse began in 2017 as a gathering of poets, writers, scientists, artists and musicians co-ordinated by Maria Popova and others to celebrate “the wonder of reality through stories of science winged with poetry”. The Universe in Verse is a feast of science and poetry with many of the poems now scored with original music. The latest iteration of the series in 2022 was animated, The Animated Universe in Verse, miniature chapters made available weekly on the website over a few months. I love the way poetry is central to The Universe in Verse and it has drawn my attention to poets who are new for me, and to scientists who also write poetry. It has also opened my eyes to the borderless and co-creative ways in which poetry and science, two distinctive ways of entering into reality and meaning can illuminate the other. It feeds my own allurement to writers and writing, and to finding out more about scientists and poets, to being immersed in beauty and curiosity and wonder. It inspires some of my own creative commitments and their applications.
Recently I participated in the online session that psychotherapist and emergent dialogue teacher Marianne Rowe and astronomer Stephan Martin of the Deeptime Network co-created on Contemplative Cosmology: Captured by Beauty where participants immersed together in contemplating the first deep field images released by NASA from the James Webb Space Telescope. In a timeless and seamless way we moved between Stephan’s commentary and Marianne’s sensitive coherence of a space within and between us in which our own subjective feelings and connections were elicited and honoured in response to the images. Apart from sitting in the presence of Marianne and Stephan whose own individual passions and fascinations shaped the session, and with others holding the sheer depth and beauty of our sharing, I noticed personally that at one level I was responding to the aesthetic dimensions: we were not outside the deep field looking in: we were the cosmic field contemplating our own beauty and poetry.
Some of this was enhanced by the process. As we came in to the session, Marianne led us in creating our own cosmic poem by inviting us to write in the chat words and phrases expressing our own initial responses to the JWST images. As the session closed Marianne also included a poem by Margaret Wheatley simply titled, “Stars”, a poetic universe in itself which both held us in its own beauty and reflected back to us the radiance of the experience we had shared together. For the purposes of this blog, I actually tracked down a contact for Margaret Wheatley and asked permission to fully quote her poem here. While this poem was not written with the Deeptime Network in mind, in my view it could just as well have been, given the cosmology it weaves.
Here is “Stars”:
© Margaret J. Wheatley
note: In a clear night sky, for every star we see, there are at least 50 million more behind it.
In places where air still offers clarity,
stars sing a siren song from space
in the bright night.
Lying on soft earth,
carried into sky by longing,
humans respond to stars
with questions. Why is the Universe
so vast? Why are we so small?
Call and response through the night.
My whole life I have sent
these questions into space. And
Listened for response.
Then sky wakens and star song fades.
Humans forget mystery and get on with living.
But the stars, the stars
keep calling. No response.
Why is it that we call to
stars only with science and insignificance?
On the next bright night,
find the clear air and ask again.
Humans, ask again. Who are we?
What is our place in mystery?
Perhaps you will hear what I have heard,
a song of inner
For the stars,
the stars are calling
saying we must
turn to one another
turn to one another and see
the stars everywhere.
[ABOUT MARGARET (MEG) WHEATLEY, Ed.D.
Margaret Wheatley writes, speaks, and teaches how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly step forward to serve in this troubled time. She is co-founder and President emerita of The Berkana Institute, an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, and a prolific writer. She has authored eight books. Her numerous articles may be downloaded free at her web site: margaretwheatley.com. For more biographical information, see margaretwheatley.com/bio].
Another recent Deeptime Network course, over 4 weeks, led by Physicist Sarbmeet Kanwal titled, Quantum Wisdom: Insights from a Revolutionary Science was an astounding experience of the power of poetry to ultimately take us inside the wisdom and meaning of quantum science concepts. Participants in the course came from diverse backgrounds across cosmology, religious studies, the arts, education, psychology and the sciences including engineering, the agricultural sciences, and mathematics. In our final session Sarbmeet concluded the course, deeply informative in the ways in which quantum principles are transforming earlier Newtonian principles, in a narrative poetic integration of those concepts. As I listened to Sarbmeet narrate his poem, I was deeply moved and engaged. To me, it was as if everything Sarbmeet had come to understand and teach as a physicist can also be integrated into a unifying poetic perspective which comes from a deep and hospitable space of love, abundance and creativity. The final session offered participants an emotional way to connect with the cosmic story as a seamless narrative unfolding both through principles of quantum physics as well as through poetics, and in the process shifting our perspective to include the subjectivity of the whole. It was an experience of being held all at once within different ways of knowing – through science, spirituality and the arts – drawing closer together within the loving embrace of the Cosmos.
In September 2022 I am offering an online series of three sessions focussing on the poetry of three women poets. The series is titled Fire, Air, earth, Water: The Poetic Universe – Interweaving Poetry and Deep Time. I am allured to contemplative cosmology and ecology, to the expressive and transformative arts including poetry, the visual arts, music, movement, journalling and writing, and meditation. The three women poets in the series are ones whose poems I read on a regular basis as part of my own commitment to contemplative practice. Their poetry also inspires my dabbling every now and then in mixed media art practices. They are Pattiann Rogers, Linda Hogan and Mary Oliver. They are poets I have chosen for the series guided by Thomas Berry’s regard for the ways in which poets “can help restore a sense of rapport with the natural world”, who can “help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead”.
In May 2022 I completed a Leadership course with the Deeptime Network and over that time I was drawn to the ways in which the poetry of these three women in particular enriched and inspired my understanding of a Deeptime perspective, weaving cosmology, ecology, science and spirituality through their poems and often inspiring my own allurements in the world. I am interested in how the universe story can be told through poetry as well as science and cosmology and the series is specifically designed to immerse in this perspective via poetry.
Here is the website link for the ways in which the Deeptime Network describes a Deeptime Perspective: https://dtnetwork.org/deep-time-perspective/. A number of readers who are members of the Deeptime Network will be familiar with this perspective which is inspired by the cosmology of Brian Swimme in particular and by the new story and functional ecology expressed in the writings of Thomas Berry. The network is a place for people coming from diverse backgrounds across education, the arts, and the sciences.
A Deeptime perspective arises in response to questions we ask about where we come from, and where we are going. It includes the questions: how do we belong to something larger than ourselves; how are we connecting our personal and communal lives to the larger arc of cosmic evolution? This perspective is activated around 5 principles recognised by the Network:
1. Context – orienting to the whole, the vast evolving universe;
2. Matrix – understanding our embededness in Earth;
3. Transformation – experiencing inner growth and intense engagement in the whole;
4. Action – participating in evolution to create a vibrant world;
5. Continuum – continuing deep time learning across all stages of life.
To me these principles dance their ways through the poems, and my role in the series will be to invite attentiveness to the choreographies of deep time in and around and underneath the poems, in ways that are both evocative and intersubjective, bringing our own feelings and associations to bear as we bring the poems alive, and they bring us to life. I see the process as a form of cosmogenesis, an unfolding one. As part of the deep listening process in each session, referred to as lectio poetica we will listen for the whispering and shimmering of deep time in the poet’s voices and in our own, and allow them to call forth the energies we need for the Ecozoic era.
The series is contemplative in style; it is not a biographical study of the poets selected or an in-depth study of the poems although it does not preclude these. For the interest of those reading this, here are three links, one each for each of the three poets where you will find a little biographical information about each of them:
1.Pattiann Rogers https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/pattiann-rogers
2. Linda Hogan https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/linda-hogan
3. Mary Oliver https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mary-oliver
Pattiann Rogers and Linda Hogan have both kindly given me their permission to quote one of their poems in full as part of my blog. Following Pattiann’s poem, “Achieving Perspective” I have included a link to The Marginalian website where you will find a reading of the poem embedded in a longer essay by Maria Popova titled “Trailblazing Astronomer Maria Mitchell and The Poetry of The Cosmic”. Maria Mitchell was both a scientist and a poet and the essay was the focus of Chapter 3 of The Animated Universe in Verse series of 2022. If you scroll down in the Chapter you will find a link to the animated reading of “Achieving Perspective” which is read by the artist David Byrne. At the end of Linda Hogan’s poem I have included a link to her reading the poem, and a short discussion of her poem, “Lost in The Milky Way”. The link is to a poetry podcast. I found the analysis of the poem very moving, transforming my own Western view of the night sky via images and layers of meaning by which I am humbled and set free.
Perhaps you have a moment to notice where your attention is drawn as you read these poems, including the Margaret Wheatley poem above, and how, and why; if you love to write, I invite you to take a line or phrase from one of the poems, a line or phrase that chooses you rather than you choosing it, take a piece of paper and simply write continuously for three minutes giving expression to whatever the line or phrase stirs in your own subjective and creative imagination. Do not censor or judge your writing; if you ‘get stuck’, quietly repeat to yourself, the line or phrase that has chosen you, and you will find your pencil moving across the page again. Delight in what arises in you because as Brian Swimme observes, cosmology draws from poetry and it is expressed in language arising out of our experience, always unfolding in us, moving in us, and opening ways for us to take the next step – “to take us one more bend around the river of sky” as Linda Hogan so graciously imagines for her readers.
You are very welcome to join me online for my series, Fire, Water, Earth, Air: The Poetic Universe. Further details are on the flyer promoting my series. The link is below. There is no cost. I am limiting numbers to 20 participants. While my own preference is for a commitment to attend all three sessions, you are welcome to attend the first session only if this is all you have time for.
Link to flyer Fire, Water, Earth, Air: The Poetic Universe: https://dtnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/The-Poetic-universe-PDF-copy-1.pdf
Achieving Perspective – Pattiann Rogers
[Source: Pattiann Rogers, The Expectations of Light, Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 35].
Straight up away from this road,
Away from the fitted particles of frost
Coating the hull of each chick pea,
And the stiff archer bug making its way
In the morning dark, toe hair by toe hair,
Up the stem of the trillium,
Straight up through the sky above this road right now,
The galaxies of the Cygnus A cluster
Are colliding with each other in a massive swarm
Of interpenetrating and exploding catastrophes.
I try to remember that.
And even in the gold and purple pretense
Of evening, I make myself remember
That it would take 40,000 years of full gathering
Into leaf and dropping, full of pulp splitting
And the hard wrinkling of seed, of the rising up
Of wood fibres and the disintegration of forest,
Of this lake disappearing completely in the bodies
Of toad slush and duckweed rock,
40,000 years and the fastest thing we own,
To reach the one star nearest to us.
And when you speak to me like this,
I try to remember that the wood and cement walls
Of this room are being swept away now,
Molecule by molecule, in a slow and steady wind,
And nothing at all separates our bodies
From the vast emptiness expanding, and I know
We are sitting in our chairs
Discoursing in the middle of the blackness of space.
And when you look at me
I try to recall that at this moment
Somewhere millions of miles beyond the dimness
Of the sun, the comet Biela, speeding
In its rocks and ices, is just beginning to enter
The widest arc of its elliptical turn.
Link to The Marginalian, Chapter 3 The Animated Universe in Verse, February 2022 – https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/02/18/achieving-perspective/
Lost in the Milky Way – Linda Hogan
[Source: Linda Hogan, A History of Kindness: Poems By Linda Hogan, Torrey House Press, 2020, p.10].
Some of us are like trees that grow with a spiral grain
as if prepared for the path of the spirit’s journey
to the world of all souls.
It is not an easy path.
A dog stands at the opening constellation
past the great helping hand.
The dog wants to know,
did you ever harm an animal, hurt any creature,
did you take a life you didn’t eat?
This is the first on your map. There is another
my people made of the great beyond
that lies farther away than this galaxy.
It is a world that can’t be imagined by ordinary means.
After this first one,
the next could be a map of forever.
It could be a cartography
shining only at some times of the year
like a great web of finery
some spider pulled from herself
to help you recall your true following
your first white breath in the cold.
The next door opens and Old Woman
counts your scars. She is interested in how you have been
hurt and not in anything akin to sin.
From between stars are the words we now refuse;
loneliness, longing, whatever suffering
might follow your life into the sky.
Once those are gone, the life you had
against your own will, the hope, even the prayers
take you one more bend around the river of sky.
Link to The Poetry Magazine podcast, April 2016 which includes Linda Hogan reading her poem, followed by an analysis of the poem by three poetry editors: https://soundcloud.com/poetryfoundation/poetry-magazine-short-takes-linda-hogan-read-lost-in-the-milky-way
A Deeptime Network blog of relevance about the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope:
From Astronomer, Stephan Martin:
A website of relevance:
Imogene Drummond, Filmmaker, Artist and Educator and Deep Time Network member whose original “Divine Sparks” poem was transformed and adapted into several projects including a film and video installation. The video installation, “Dancing with the Cosmos” weaves human and cosmic wonder poetically:
Judith Keller M Ed (Rel. Ed) 1987, Boston Coll., MA.
Certified Deep Time Leader, 2022.
- Used by people who call the work: New Cosmology, The New Story
- Learning Stages: Adult Education
- Type: Blog
- Keywords: Poetic Universe, Cosmology, Poetry, Deep Time, 3 Women Poets
- Why I love this Resource: Connects cosmology with poetry and poetry with Deep Time
- Posted By: Judith Keller
- Date Added: August 29, 2022