The Double-Edged Sword of Creativity

rosepetals-sea_jeri_johnson_webSitting out here in the wind, the dancing trees, a peace washes over me and a sadness. I feel the fear of merging with that which annihilates me—the powerful force of creativity moving through me—and simultaneously the longing for it, because what is annihilated is the illusion of the small self, the separate me.

I feel the balm of poetry moving through me, the longing to write words, the healing they offer. Yet later, those same words will come to seem so inadequate, will become a thorn bleeding me with my own judgment, the same flower that offered salvation.

How painful to let myself go in that world of creation. No small wonder we avoid and distract. This two-edged sword is my deepest grace, my harshest measure.

Allowing You to flow i feel most like my true self, i feel the oneness. Flowing You into the world, sharing my words, i cast myself upon the rocks of rejection, doubt, criticism. What paradox. Sharp thorns, blood-red rose.

—Maxima Kahn

Photo of rose petals by Jeri Johnson.

You can read more of poems and musings at Click on Poems or Musings in the drop-down menu to find them. Creative Sparks contains helpful, inspiring tools, tips and inspirations to sustain your creativity and your heart’s dreams.

What I Know

This is what I know:

flowersbowl_KazuEndThat you were born with unique gifts that the world needs at this time, that you have a place and purpose here, that you were in fact called forth in this time and this place, in this body, with these gifts and challenges, because we need you. You have a unique role to play, and no one else can fill it. You being you and sharing your gifts is extremely important for the well-being of the whole planet.

That you were almost certainly raised to be someone other than who you really are—either by your parents, your schooling, your society, your culture and/or the traumas that happened to you. You’ve inherited lies and confusion about who you are that stop you from being who you really are, from giving your gifts, and living as the love, freedom and joy that you are. That underneath those lies are glittering truths that will set you free and empower you to shine.

That the challenges you’ve endured in this life are intimately connected to your unique gifts and have a important role in the unfolding story of you. As you uncover the treasures hidden within those challenges, remarkable blossoming can occur and you can be a huge force for good.

Guitar_LuisLlerenaThat our creativity and our beautiful imaginations are extraordinary gifts that can help us to lead lives of beauty, fun, meaning and well-being. That when you are swept up in the flow of creating, you are doing something profoundly good for yourself and for others, whether or not anyone ever sees the products of your creative activity. That it is vitally important to make time for this.

That to make time and space for creativity and for doing those things that bring us the most joy is a radical act that can change our world. We have within us the power to co-create a world that honors all of life, celebrating beauty and love. We are powerful beings when, instead of being driven by our small ego desires, we listen and cooperate with Life.

By jean-louis Zimmermann from Moulins, FRANCE [CC BY 2.0 (http-_creativecommons.org_licenses_by_2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThat in your heart are bold dreams for what you long to be, do and have—that are separate from (though they may be entangled with) the crazy mirage of achievement and acquisition that our culture foists on us. Some of these dreams you have given up on or routinely shove down because you have decided they are impossible, impractical, unrealistic or just too darn scary, or you don’t want to be disappointed or hurt one more time. And you keep thinking you don’t have the time or the money to pursue them.

That our contemporary culture often leaves us feeling empty, dissatisfied, confused, scared, and disconnected from ourselves. That many of the most brilliant, gifted, beautiful, sensitive, caring people are leading lives of “quiet desperation,” despite the fact that you have done so many wonderful, interesting, rich things in your life, have achieved a lot, and have many wonderful things going on in your life now. And you don’t know how to answer that nagging emptiness, confusion, sense of lack, or what to do about it.

That our culture promotes values that are insane from the perspective of the heart.
That it is possible to heal from this and reconnect to who you are and what you love.

Woman_Birds_BenjaminCombs_webThat there are powerful ways to reconnect with Heart, with our oneness with all Life, with a sense of being supported and guided in our lives, and to help us walk the path of our deepest dreams, co-creating lives of deep meaning, passion, purpose and play.

That we need one another on this journey. And many of us are feeling painfully isolated, separate, too alone in contemporary society, and we were never designed to live this way. We are tribal creatures who are hard-wired to grow, love, and thrive when we are in deep relationship and meaningful community with others. We cannot do this alone.

paintbrushesThat we desperately need time to unplug and slow down, tune into ourselves, replenish, nourish and care for that which is closest to our hearts. And we can do this from our natural joy, not as another “should” on our endless to-do list, but as a choice made from love for ourselves and our beautiful world.

That the time is NOW in our world to step up and step out in all our magnificence. We simply cannot afford to hide, to wallow, to not share our gifts and shine. Our world is in crisis. We are needed now.

That The Artist’s Way, as I teach it, is an extraordinary journey of Self-discovery that teaches you how to live your dreams, give your gifts and create a life you love, based in your inner freedom and innate Beingness.

My next Artist’s Way journey begins September 22. The Early Bird special ends September 9.

I am offering a Free Introduction to The Artist’s Way and To Living An Artful Life next Tuesday, September 8. Register here:

autumnleaveswebI am also offering the free intro in my studio in Grass Valley earlier the same day at 11:00 am. To attend that, contact me here.

I’d love for you to come on this adventure and see how your life can blossom in truly extraordinary ways. See below to find out how.

Come with me on the journey,


Find out about the course now by clicking these links:

Artist’s Way Telecourse

Artist’s Way Grass Valley Course

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening
that is translated through you into action.
And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
—Martha Graham

Image credits:
Bowl of flowers by Kazu End
Dancers by jean-louis Zimmermann from Moulins, FRANCE [CC BY 2.0 (http-_creativecommons.org_licenses_by_2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Paintbrushes by belchonock copyright
Guitar by Luis Llerena, creative commons
Autumn leaves, 123RF

What Makes Your Heart Sing?

Summer draws to a close and Autumn nears.

WomanBlowingHearts_123rfAccording to the astrologers, we are in a time right now that asks us to ask ourselves: “What makes your heart sing?” and to align our lives more completely with that, to make choices that validate our deepest dreams, desires, needs, longings, rather than choosing fear and habit.

We are asked to re-align the way we spend our resources, so that they are supporting what is most important to us, what feeds our heart, our spirit, our soul. We are encouraged to be bold and to try something new in alignment with our deep values.

We are supported in taking actions now that kindle our heart and soul, our creativity, our big life dreams, our outrageous selves. These actions could then unfold over a long time in extraordinary ways.

smilingFallCoupleSo, why not move with the support of this time and set yourself up to have an amazing Autumn, to finish the year in such a way that you are in a completely new reality at the start of next year?

In the spirit of that, I am calling you to look into your heart now and consider joining me for a profound journey that could radically open your path of heart, fulfillment, creativity and joy.

That journey is called The Artist’s Way, and it is truly about living an artful life. If you would like to find out how this journey could empower you to live in alignment with your soul’s callings and your heart’s dreams, click here for the Telecourse or here for the Grass Valley course. I’m offering HUGE incentives for those who sign up early.

Resistance to Creating

Woman_painting_123rfI’m going to let you in on a big secret that always surprises my students: Every artist battles with resistance to creating. And every dreamer resists what their heart dreams of most.

You are not weird, deficient or lazy just because you resist doing what you love and what you say you want to be doing. You are not missing some vital creative gene that successful artists have. You are not doomed to failure.

I will say it again: Every artist feels resistance to creating their art—everyone.

Take a breath and really let that in, because I bet you have been beating yourself up and thinking it was some flaw with you.

The fact that you resist your art, or your big life dreams, does not make you bad, wrong or lacking. It makes you human. Welcome.

In fact Steven Pressfield wrote a best-selling book that is entirely devoted to the subject of dealing with resistance to making art, The War of Art. That is how common it is.

Why is it so important for you to know this? Because when we take the stigma and charge out of the fact that we feel resistance, we can then begin to address it in meaningful ways.

DreamsFlags_123rfHere’s an even bigger surprise: The more important your art is to you, the more close to your heart any life dream is, the more resistance you will feel to it, at least at some points along the way—sometimes at the very beginning, often when the going gets tough.

Why? Resistance is fear. Usually we mis-name it. We call it laziness, procrastination and distraction or busyness. All of these are false names to cover something we would rather not feel or admit: We are afraid. Resistance is fear, and we do not want to feel fear.

We are afraid of failure, disappointment, our violent inner critic, our crippling self-doubt, the judgment of others, our pervasive sense of not being good enough.

Under the fear are even more difficult feelings: past hurts, wounds, times we were shut down, shamed, criticized, times we failed or did not get what we so badly wanted and needed, a host of skeletons in the closet. No wonder we resist creating or going for our dreams. What matters deeply to our heart is our path of growth and will put us up against all these inner demons.

Rather than face these, we check our email one more time, put another load of laundry in, schedule an appointment at the very time we had set aside for creativity, decide to watch a movie, or more insidiously subconsciously create drama in our lives that zaps our energy and steals our attention away from our heart’s dreams.

But there is a way out of this maze of resistance and procrastination. Here is a three-step process to move past resistance and into doing what you love:

1) Be honest—The first step in dealing with resistance is to stop labeling it falsely as laziness, procrastination, distraction or busyness. These are ways of lying to yourself that simultaneously beat you up and let you off the hook in an unhelpful way. “Oh well, I’m just lazy. I can’t get anything done.” Not true.

The first step is to be honest with yourself and admit that you are afraid. Let yourself become conscious of the fears at play. Name them specifically. What are you afraid of? What old hurts are you carrying? Write them all out. They will begin to lose power this way when you bring them into the light of consciousness with love and compassion. Most importantly, let yourself feel the fears, feel the feelings, but don’t believe the stories they are telling you. You have to feel it to heal it.

2) Question the Fear—Next, make a conscious choice to question the fear, to doubt the stories it is telling you, to open up new possibilities for yourself.

Look at each fear that you wrote down, one by one, and begin to question it. Is that really true? Can I absolutely know that it is true? If I tune into my deepest wisdom and widest heart, what is actually more true or the deeper truth about what this fear is telling me? What do I know or sense to be more true?

You can also reason from the truth. Look at the story the fear is telling you. For instance, “I will be ridiculed if I share my art.” And look at your past experience. Yes, maybe there were some examples that support your fear, but where are there also examples that you are overlooking when your creativity was welcomed and appreciated? Or, can you really know this will happen again in the future? What could you do to create different conditions now from when you previously were wounded in your creativity? What more positive outlook would support you in moving forward toward your heart’s dreams now? Why not try that on and play with it?

letter-writing3) Take a Step—And finally, you have to choose to move past the fear, even though you are probably still feeling it. You have to actually do what you long to do—write, dance, paint, play music, go for your dreams. Take a step today—even if it is a very small step. Every step we take becomes a victory over the fear and resistance.

I highly recommend you schedule time for your creativity or your dreams in your calendar at a specific time, and do it at the time you scheduled. Sometimes the way to do this is by signing up for a class or being a part of a group. Other times what is helpful is to start with very small increments of time, say 15 minutes or 30 minutes. And to plan small steps you can take that take no more time than that.

When it is your scheduled time, notice the tendency to procrastinate, to do just one more thing before beginning to make art, and don’t be fooled by those temptations. Hold fast. If you do this, you will weaken the resistance. If you do this multiple times and keep making time for your art and showing up, pretty soon you will have formed a new habit, something that becomes automatic and no longer carries resistance (or at least much resistance). You’ll find yourself doing what you love regularly without the battle.

While you are creating or preparing to create, let yourself feel the fear and resistance, the sadness and anger and hurt, whatever is in there longing to be felt and acknowledged, but do not use this as a reason not to begin. These feelings will become fuel for your art, your growth, your humanity and your dreams, and they will ultimately set you free.

When there are deep wounds from the past, we need the help of an experienced guide to free ourselves from blocks and beliefs that may have become buried or too painful to look at alone, and to rekindle the courage, faith in ourselves and in life that was lost. If that is the case I highly recommend taking The Artist’s Way course with me. You can see radical changes in your life, your freedom to create what you choose, and your ability to live from your joy, passion, inspiration and gifts through this life-changing course. It has happened for hundreds of students I have worked with, and it can happen for you now. I look forward to walking with you on your heart path.

Exploring Pleasure and the Poetry of Our Lives

joychild_verysmallIn my Brilliant Playmates membership program, we begin each month with the new moon, creating new intentions, taking new steps toward our creativity and our big dreams for our lives, supported by my guided meditations and inspiring prompts and suggestions. We begin this month on Thursday, August 13 in the evening, in time for the new moon.

This month our theme is…

Exploring Pleasure and the Poetry of Our Lives

beautiful_forest_123rfDiscover how enhancing the pleasure in your life and your awareness of the poetic within us and all around us can give an inspired boost to your creativity, to your motivation to move towards your heart’s desires, and to your enjoyment of life.

It’s easy to forget to nurture this in the busyness of life, but neglecting pleasure and the poetic can take the passion and joy out of life, leaving us feeling creatively blocked and unable to move forward meaningfully toward our life’s dreams.

We’re going to rekindle this delightful aspect of our lives this month!

This month begins Thursday, August 13.

For just $27, you can join us this month and see for yourself the boost that this gives to your creativity and to your momentum towards creating the life you desire.
Try it for a month! Click here!

Who is it for?

  • with blossoms_123You want to live a brilliant life, lit up by creativity, passion and joy.
  • You want structure, support, do-able steps, and inspiring ideas, without a big commitment of time, energy or money.
  • You want to be more creative, do what you love, and make time for fun and play, but it’s so easy to get sidetracked by a million other things.
  • You want to be a part of a creative, inspiring community of like-minded souls, who are saxophonist_123doing wonderful things—and experience the sense of camaraderie, excitement, synchronicities and blessings that come with that.
  • You want encouragement, support, guidance and gentle nudges to keep you on your true heart path, creating a life you love.

Welcome to the Brilliant Playmates!

Why Join?

Because you get all of the above, plus:
It’s ridiculously inexpensive, there’s zero commitment, it’s FUN and it works!

Give yourself what you need to thrive.

Click here to get all the juicy details & Join Us Now!

New Moon, New Possibilities

2015-08-01 12.24.25“I learned this, at least, by my experiment:
that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
—Henry Thoreau, Walden

The new moon is this Friday morning at 7:53 am PST. A new cycle begins.

Lion_123rf_PaulMaguireThe new moon is an excellent time for starting new adventures and projects, for new beginnings and setting new intentions. This new moon is in Leo, which gives a boost to creativity, self-expression, and playing on a larger stage in your life.

One astrologer writes: “With this potent Leo energy, we have the chance to make important changes in our lives that will benefit us well beyond this Moon cycle. It’s time to make some plans and to set the stage for reaping the rewards from our new beginnings.”

I have some invitations to spark your creative fires and help you live the life you have imagined.:
A new month of Brilliant Playmates begins this Thursday, August 13 (tomorrow!).  We’ll be playing with Exploring Pleasure and the Poetry of Our Lives—yum! If you’d like to bring more pleasure, aliveness and just plain fun into your creativity and ignite your heart’s dreams, you can join us now for just $27. Give it a try!

I have a special discount on my Ignite Your Fire: Get Unstuck Mentoring/Life Coaching program during the month of August. If you’d love to finally get unstuck, stop struggling so much, radically transform your limiting beliefs and painful patterns, gain brilliant clarity and find yourself moving with greater ease and joy toward your life dreams, now is the time to sign up and SAVE BIG. Click here to find out more.

Mark your calendars: I’ll be starting a new Artist’s Way course on September 15. I have exciting news about this. I will write to you this Friday, so that those of you who want to sign up for this life-changing course during the new moon in Leo can do so. Very powerful. You will save $100 and get some huge bonuses by signing up early. Watch for my e-news on Friday with special news about this.

In Friday’s email, I will also share news about a free offering I have for you. Be sure to tune in on Friday. (Sign up for Creative Sparks to get my e-news)

2015-08-02 14.29.57webI’m giving you choices to be inspired and create a meaningful, beautiful and joyful life for yourself. There’s no need to wait any longer.

Ride the wave of the new moon energy and take a step for what you truly desire now. If not now, when?

To your bold and beautiful life,


P.S. I just heard from a man who attended my Get Unstuck workshop. He told me that a pattern he has struggled with for 40 years,  that was “unfixable,” melted away in the workshop. He just moved past it! This is one of the processes I teach in my mentoring/life coaching program.
Get Unstuck Mentoring Special: Find Out More!

A Deeper Acceptance

DissolvinginTruth_RogerBurkhardToday, as i sit with my candle, i bring my loving awareness to those places of low self-worth, of feeling undeserving and guilty, in me, and to the sadness, the unloved feeling that goes with them, feeling not good enough.

I know loving awareness is enough if i keep bringing it to bear on what i feel and think. Everything dissolves gradually of its own in the presence of Truth. So, it is a matter of remembering to bring awareness to what is occurring and not to believe the lies the thoughts tell or get lost in the feelings.

What is here to be felt needs to be felt and not pushed down or run from, but at the same time not to wallow in the feelings by replaying the stories i tell about them, but to let them flow as energies, weathers that want to move and shift, release and heal.

To be able to lead others to this freedom within, i have to find it myself.

There is a deeper acceptance i need—of all my selves, all my facets, of others, of the world as it is now—a deep embrace and acceptance. From there comes peace and any truly sane, helpful movement. There is still too much i reject in me, don’t like or want, and that creates a split, suffering, inner war, ineffectiveness, confusion.

How about just being exactly as i am, with my sadness, busy mind, confusion, and all the rest? To really embrace the shadows and thus find a greater compassion for—and ease with—self and others.

—Maxima Kahn

On Risk, Part 2 ~ One of My Favorite Creative Tools

In my last essay, I wrote about the importance of Taking Risks and Being Vulnerable in Our Art.

Today, I’m going to share with you a beautiful, life-long tool for artists and creatives of all kinds that will help you to be ready to take risks and be vulnerable (or real) in your art. And I’m going to share with you why this tool is so effective.

To be able to make art that arises out of your own rich experience so that others are moved and changed by it poses several challenges. First off, you have to actually get in touch with what you feel, sense and think at a very real level, not on the surface, the parts you might willingly share at a dinner party, but the deep stuff, the murk and muck of being alive. Even the so-called positive emotions, such as joy, can be scary when deeply felt. But to be able to share yourself in your art, you have to spend time with yourself and your feelings and thoughts regularly, to come to know who you are and how you tick.

In my classes and mentoring, I am regularly amazed at how frequently and thoroughly some people avoid being in touch with their feelings and deeper thoughts, even the sensations of their bodies, and then wonder why they have no inspiration to draw from.

writing by the seaTo come to know yourself and be in deeper relationship with yourself there is no better tool that I know than the Morning Pages, which are a form of journaling. I know, I know. When I suggest keeping a journal, there is resistance. “I don’t know what to write,” or “I don’t have time for that,” “I always write the same thing day after day,” or “It stirs up too many unpleasant feelings.” But the benefits of this tool are many and rich. I will share them with you here.

But first. What are the Morning Pages?

The Morning Pages, as taught by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way are three full-size (8.5 x 11″) pages of long-hand writing every morning, anything goes, no holds barred, no rules, a record of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, imaginings, whatever wants to flow out onto the page.

They are not meant to be shared with anyone, and they are not meant to be art or “good writing.” They are a place for you to encounter yourself on the page, and they are one of the best tools I know for coming into a deeper self-knowing for any kind of creative person.

man_writing_journal_benchThe Morning Pages are the place where we meet ourselves unedited on the page and thereby uncover, over time, an incredible treasure trove of emotions, memories, inspirations, fascinations, dreams, that are the raw material of our art.

The Morning Pages also make space to clear out all the gunk that would normally get in the way of our being able to create good art. We need unedited space to process our experiences, thoughts and emotions before turning them into art. We also need space to hear ourselves and get out our concerns, obsessions, dreams, heartache, excitement on the page, so that we can then hear what is wanting to become our next piece of art. If we do not first give these vital feelings and concerns our attention, they tend to clamor for attention and cloud our ability to listen to the deeper promptings of our art. For instance, if I’m writing a novel about the middle ages and I’m having a big fight with my neighbor. I need to get the fight out on the page first, in my journal, so I can get on with the business of my novel.

When using the Morning Pages, it is vital not to judge anything that you write, not to censor yourself, and it is best NOT to re-read the pages, at least for a couple months after writing them (except if you need to go back and retrieve a really good idea or a passage you want to use in a poem or piece of art). This space needs to be an open space where anything and everything is allowed to flow onto the page and not be judged. If you need to complain about your roommate, or pine for your lost love, for 40 pages or 100 pages, you get to do that.

The benefits of this open space are many. Beyond the essential tool of having a way to know and feel yourself deeply, so that you have this rich resource of YOU from which to make art that is compelling, alive and real, you also have a place to sort through your troubling challenges, to surprise yourself with solutions and insights, to dream your big dreams and not be shamed out of them, to work out your feelings and not carry them around all day, inappropriately smothering others with them. I believe the Morning Pages make us both better people and better artists. Try them and see for yourself.

Hey. If you loved this essay, if you got benefit from it, if it stirred something in you, I’d love to know. Would you take a moment to leave a comment here? I’d love it if you would. You might also share this on Facebook or with a friend. Thanks for spreading the love.

Taking Risks and Being Vulnerable in Your Art

Man Singing_123rfAn artist must take risks. An artist must be willing to be vulnerable. This is not comfortable. But if you want to maintain a safe, respectable distance, if you are wedded to appearing calm and rational, if you want to hide behind a polished persona, above reproach, if you don’t want to let your deepest feelings, thoughts and experiences be shared with the world, you run the serious risk of making art which might achieve a certain technical virtuosity but never move or touch anyone, never make a difference in someone’s life.

We have all witnessed this kind of art, remarkable in its wizardry but it leaves us cold—like the musician who practices ten hours a day but has never put his own heart into his playing. Contrast this with the old-time blues musician on his front porch, playing simple chords on a beat-up guitar and singing in a raw, untrained voice, but touching our souls and causing our hairs to stand on end.

You may appear accomplished if you master the craft of your art form, but you have not actually put yourself into it, and so others are not inspired or moved to deep feeling. They may applaud your mastery, but they never approach you with tears in their eyes or face aglow, nearly speechless from what you have given them. You don’t change their life in any way.

jazzmusiciansTo move and inspire your audience, you have to risk being real, vulnerable, raw, awkward, unacceptable.

You have to expose yourself, your feelings, sensations and thoughts, without trying to make them look more polite, reasonable or contained.

Yes, you shape them into art, but you have to share your experiences and imagination, not from a safe, comfortable distance, but as wild and real as they occur.

The poet Robert Frost famously wrote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” If you, as author or creator, are not feeling your own sorrow as you write and willingly sharing that open place within you, your reader is not going to be feeling the sadness you are hoping to convey either. Your reader is not going to be feeling anything but bored, detached, unengaged.

Are you moved as you write your poem? Are you moved as you read it? Or are you unwilling to re-feel your own feelings and experiences deeply? Are you afraid to stir those waters or confess your real truths? Then, that too is what the reader will feel, your fear, your caution, your hiding, your lies.

The poet William Wordsworth wrote, “ I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.”

Note that although he says that the previously-felt emotion is now recollected in tranquility, Wordsworth goes on to say that the poet recalls this emotion until it is felt again powerfully. He then says, “In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on…”

“Understand that you can have in your writing no qualities which you do not honestly entertain in yourself,” Walt Whitman wrote.

I come back to these quotes again and again because they are deep and true and serve as powerful guides and reminders for poets and artists. There is much wisdom to be mined in them. This quote by Walt Whitman reminds us that you are not going to get away with lying and pretending in your art to be someone that you are not. The reader will smell the deception. The writing will not be convincing, and your true self will show through anyway.

If you are feeling mean-spirited at the moment, then mean-spirited is what you can write. It is no use trying to be loving and compassionate because it will just ring false. But you can perhaps write a great villain character or a poem about feeling grouchy (I’ve written some powerful poems in this state), and others will be grateful for the honesty, the reflection of something they recognize in themselves or in the world.

Woman_painting_123rfSo, you do not get to hide in your art.

Yes, you can create characters and personae. You can use clever word play, and certainly you can try to keep parts of your life private, but you have to be generous, willing to share who you are and how you experience the world, to be vulnerable.

An artist does not have the luxury of hiding. She makes art out of her own life, her own body, heart and soul, even when she does not personally appear in her poems as an “I,” she is nonetheless everywhere throughout the poems.

In my next article, I will talk about the challenges posed by this vulnerability and how to meet them. Stay tuned

Hey. If you loved this essay, if you got benefit from it, if it stirred something in you, I’d love to know. Would you take a moment to leave a comment here? I’d love it if you would. Thanks!

—Maxima Kahn

No one turned away for lack of funds

squirrelfor Mary Oliver

Everyone has their teachers,

I think to myself this morning

as I notice you have dedicated

your small great book of poems to James Wright.


We are all in each other’s debt,

all filled with this inconstant music—

inherited vocables, lost syllables—

speaking themselves again in our mouths.


The squirrel is gnawing at the inside

of the kitchen walls. All day I hear her slow,

determined ratcheting. She will find her way

through to something.


And I have your words in my head,

these words that echo

with his words; one day

you may even have mine.


I turn back to your poem.

Watching is what you do so well. Watching

until it opens you

and the words come pouring.


And you are slow and timely

and do not hurry over the least thing

until the earth glitters and every leaf

is upturned toward the light.


Look how abundantly

the earth scatters her rich gifts—

pine needles litter the red ground—

such surplus, such redundance,


as if she were singing, plenty, plenty, plenty,

while we shadow and cringe,

thinking never enough,

foolish in our small, square lives.


Now here I am to try my hand

wherever my own secret lies,

in some hoard, like the acorns

piled swiftly behind these


yellow walls—

my stash, my sweet supply.


—Maxima Kahn

first published in Spillway, A Poetry Magazine


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