Last week I read Pathworking Through Poetry by Fiona Tinker, a most unusual book. Even though it is slender, it took me quite some time to get through it. It is not the kind of book you read systematically, but a great bedside companion to read in from time to time, truly tasting the words. It discusses how poetry can be used as a framework for pathworking and meditation. It focuses on a few poems by three poets: William Butler Yeats, Fiona MacLeod and Seumas O’Sullivan. I was taught English by Irish teachers and as a consequence I read Yeats extensively in secondary school. I was only superficially acquainted with the two other poets.
I love poetry, both reading it and creating it myself, but to me it was an acquired taste. My teachers taught me to truly weigh the words and their backgrounds. I still remember the quiet delight when I felt I had grasped the meaning of the words, and felt, only for a little while, the way the poet must have felt when he wrote it. Appreciating and enjoying poetry can be compared to enjoying good wine but also to the pursuit of a spiritual path. Poetry and meditation require similar skills. You need time, peace of mind but also learning to enjoy both at their fullest. It is a craft like all others and cannot be taught in a day.
This book either gets you started on this path or reminds you to weigh and taste the words. It stirs the imagination and helps you fill in the blanks regarding the poets’ background. That makes it easier to understand where they were literally coming from, acquaints you with the Gods of their land. Reading poetry crosses the blurred line into a spiritual experience.
For me, this book was a most welcome nudge to reconnect with my teenage infatuation with poetry and Celtic/Irish culture, and hopefully integrate it with my spiritual practice once again. If you love poetry and/or guided meditation and like a little help with delving into a text to find the hidden meanings, Pathworking Through Poetry is a great way to get started.