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The Breathing Field is an
unusual little book of poems by Wyatt Townley accompanied by artistic
illustrations by Eric Dinyer. The
preface explains that is meant to be a companion for the yoga practitioner as
well as the spiritually adventuresome.
Part I, titled Undoing, contains poems that aim to loosen the bodys
armor in preparation for moving from outer to inner. The second part, Stepping Over, is meant to take us further
inward. The final part, Reverse Zoom,
break through to life beyond the body, where the self expands and healing
Townleys poems have been published previously, in publications such as Southern
Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly and The Kansas City Star. The artist Eric Dinyer worked on Stings
interactive CD-ROM, All This Time.
The book is nicely constructed, on good quality paper, with high
Breathing Field might appeal to those who practice yoga, enjoy poetry, and
seek out new age bookstores. The poems
have an appealing simplicity in their form and imagery. Consider, for example, Swimming Lesson.
Put your whole head in
like the potato that grows
below the feet, below
concrete and the cars
that carry us.
We get up and dress up
and build up and grow
up. The potato grows down.
It underlies everything
we have made
or said, or havent.
The potato shows us
where we are
heading. Dive in. Put
your whole life
The artwork with the poems has an impressionist feel
to them, often picturing objects from nature such as trees, water, clouds,
stars and planets, but also include images of a key, an x-ray of a spine, and
human faces. They often include
photographic images, but the images are treated to give each work a sense of
fantasy or dream, using techniques such as superimposed images, faint
distortions on the surface, and manipulations of color.
While I can appreciate the skill
with which this book was made, I could not finish my review without mentioning
my reservations. I find it a slight
work, relying on well-worn ideas. For a
reader to find the book helpful, she would have to largely suspend any critical
faculties she might have. Of course, it
might be helpful to just be able to enter into spirit of new age approaches to
well-being occasionally, and far be it from me to condemn those who would find
this book or its ilk a valuable resource.
But I would hope that readers would soon move on from such books to more
probing and demanding approaches to inner exploration.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the
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