Leaning Toward the Poet
This book is part of an ongoing experiment to develop a poetic sensibility for a psychology rooted in the spirit of the depths in response to the spirit of the times in psychology, which would define the discipline in terms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Accompanied in places by images, the poems in this small volume celebrate the splendor of the simple, attest to the miracle in the mundane, and explore both the shadows and the stray lines of experience that undo our map making minds. They are gifts I have gathered along the way while traveling in the company of the poets.
From the Book
Meeting Patrick Kavanagh in Dublin
Along a walkway near the Liffey River in Dublin, Ireland
is a bench where the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh use to sit.
I discovered one day that he still sits there,
even though he died many years ago.
‘Trying to be a poet,’ he told me, ‘is a peculiar business.’
‘What does it feel like,’ I asked, ‘to be a poet?’
But then a breeze rustled the leaves in the tree
and he was gone, leaving me with that question.
I have wondered about this business of being a poet for a long time.
I do not think of myself as a poet even though I do write some poems.
And I do read the poets, almost everyday, a kind of ritual practice.But the word itself—poet—, it seems to me, is a benediction bestowed by others.
One does not bless oneself in this way.
Orpheus, I think, would be offended.
The tribe of the poets is a small one.
To join it, even if only to tag along at the very far end of their wanderings,
like some beggar picking up the crumbs of the feast left by those who are poets,
feels uncomfortable and even dangerous.
Prose feels more comfortable
and I feel more at home in the well fashioned costumes of my prosaic self.
But sometimes I dream
I am following along at the end of that procession,
wearing a patchwork garment made by a rag picker from the odds and ends of life.
And the dream always ends on that bench beside the Liffey River in Dublin
as I watch Patrick Kavanagh sew patches on the sleeves of torn coats.
Always a gap appears between a life event and its trailing expression. Lingering on one or the other side of the gap--gaping in wonder at what calls to be filled and fulfilled, Romanyshyn’s book fills that gap with the beauty of its images that are at once haunted by the future even as they rest serene in past light. Written by a psychologist, Leaning Toward the Poet presents overtures to soul celebrating the ordinary.
Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D. is the author of Twisted Sky: Selected Poems and Feathered Ladder: Selected Poems of Dennis Patrick Slattery and Brian Landis
In his first book Psychological Life: From Science to Metaphor we as readers were invited to participate in “the recovery of psychological life as a metaphoric reality.” Here in Leaning Toward the Poet Romanyshyn now extends that invitation again. This time, however, it is not through the application of any theory, or academic discourse; but, rather, through metaphor itself. In these pages one finds the poetic exploration of the wonder behind the ordinary, the phenomena of Provence mornings and evening light, as well as the “darkening plane (where) the dead are weeping” all brought to elegant life in this author’s on-going response to, and recovery of, soul.
Brian Michael Tracy is the author of three books of poems: Driving with Dante, Opaque Traveller, and The Distance Between Shores.
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The Wounded Researcher:Research with Soul in Mind (2007)
"Soul work and academic research have been so split apart that both have been lamed-soul psychology without intellectual respectability and scholarly research utterly irrelevant to the soul's concerns. Romanyshyn's book not only follows from all his earlier diligent explorations in the Western history of soul, but also charts a course that joins the integrity of scholarly work with devotion to the soul's vital needs. New winds, new directions, new methods."
Ways of the Heart: Essays toward an Imaginal Psychology (2002)
"There is much to praise in this book, this truly extraordinary writing…Each of the essays of this book explores the intricacies of the currents of the heart, developing the vocabulary for soul's own voice rather than the speaking for soul that characterizes most psychology…The fundamental tenant of this book is that we are here to learn to listen…In order to get the meaning of this book, to really get it…the reader is asked to feel the words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, in a bodily way, as if you are engaged in a beautifully choreographed dance. Let yourself dance with this book and then you will get it."
"Every time I read the work of Robert Romanyshyn I am touched by his honesty, imagination, originality and depth of vision. His psychological insight and poetic sensibility resonate with the force and profundity of a man who lives a full and soulful life."
Mirror and Metaphor: Images and Stories of Psychological Life (2001)
‘This brilliant and lucid book, now available in the second edition, takes us into genuinely new territory. It revises our ideas of psychology and science, and it offers original thoughts on metaphor. It is a text which anyone seriously interested in the broader reaches of psychology should read, and from which every reader will profit.”
Edward S. Casey
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Technology as Symptom and Dream (1989)
This book, which has been reprinted four times since its publication, is a cultural-historical exploration of the origins of the technological attitude that has shaped the contemporary world. Relying on the work of J.H. van den Berg, it shows how the invention of linear perspective art in the 15th century has become a cultural habit of mind. Within this shared collective dream, the self behind a window becomes a spectator who, with its eye upon the world, takes leave of the body's sensuous ties to the world, which opens the path toward the body becoming a specimen for the anatomical gaze and for the world becoming a spectacle to be mapped and measured. Approached as a collective symptom, the book is a work against forgetting, a work of returning to origins to recover technology as a cultural and historical achievement that allows us to appreciate its values and its limits. In this regard, the book is an example of how phenomenology can be the practice of a cultural therapeutics.
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The Soul in Grief: Love Death and Transformation (1999)
This book has been praised as a simple, elegant and poetic memoir of the mourning process that takes the reader deeply into the heart of love and loss and that beautifully describes that process in terms that mirror the seasons of nature. In his Foreword to the book, Thomas Moore has described it as "…a new way of imagination…a form of education of the deepest sort…a book where the soul will feel completely at home." An emotionally candid account of his wife's sudden and unexpected death, this is a book not only about grief as the possibility of homecoming, it is also a book about the enduring and transforming capacities of love.