For years I’ve been fascinated by something Leonard Cohen said (actually, I’ve been fascinated by a lot that Leonard Cohen has said— but let’s start small). Good Brother Cohen told us “Poetry is just the ash cast off by a life that’s burning well.” Because I’m a poet, I love poetry, and I love Mr. Cohen’s work especially, I took this statement deeply to heart. I asked myself: “What does it mean to have a life that’s burning well?” and… “How do I get my life to do that?”
A life that burns well is not one that’s free from grief or error or mistakes— it’s not winning the big prize and sitting pretty in the shade for the rest of one’s days. A life that’s burning well is a life where your creativity is roaring at full blast, where you are actively and imaginatively inventing in every area of your existence. A life that’s burning well is a life where your heart is fully out there and on the line, earnest and exposed and throbbing. It’s a life that’s rich with immense love and myriad interconnections. It’s a life in which a great process is at work— the transmutation of the dross of experience into the gold light of truth and beauty (i.e., poetry).
In short, a life that burns well is neither neat nor easy. It is, however, completely rad.
By a process of wrenching trial and error— in which I experienced a lot of life-burning-quite-poorly (which includes a sense of flatness, stuckness— oh, and demonic despair) and also through a ton of textual research (it turns out that working on a PhD in Literature has been a great excuse for me to spend time reading the Great Grand Daddy of American Spiritual Self-Help, Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with his equally inspiring contemporaries, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and a bunch of other awesome thinkers and poets), I’ve figured out how to create a life that’s a blazing conflagration of art, joy, and love. Along the way I’ve had the great good fortune of meeting friends and students who wanted me to show them how to get a similar blaze roaring in their own lives.
Because it gets tiring explaining everything to folks one-at-a-time (and because I have a poor memory and need to get it all down for myself) I’ve decided to assemble what I know and have to share about making a hot fire out of this one wondrous life at this here web log. I hope you’ll check back soon, because I’ll be posting every day.