Clinging to the Axis Mundi: The Poetry of Politics

Naomi Lowinsky is a Jungian analyst, poet, and teacher. She practices in the San Francisco Bay Areas; her poetry and other writings have been published in many books, including The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, Adagio and Lamentation, red clay is talking, and Motherline. For many years, Naomi has taught Deep River: Writing as a Spiritual Practice and most recently, she presented this paper at a pre-presidential election conference, The Citizen's Dilemma: Four Voices, at the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco

Writing poetry is an essential and organic process for me. Jung writes “The creative urge lives and grows… like a tree in the earth” (CW V. 15, par 115). I know that feeling. Writing poetry is how I plant myself on earth. The leap of associations from conscious mind to unconscious and back that is the magic of a poem is how I find my way back to the center, to the archetype of orientation—the Axis Mundi—which we recognize in many forms, among them— the Tree of Life or World Tree, the Seven Chakras, the Motherline, the ladder between the worlds, the sacred mountain, that old black magic that connects us to the cosmos, whose wisdom goes back to the origins of our kind. I believe it is the essential work of poetry to reach back to the roots of human consciousness and retrieve our collective soul. I believe poetry is a way to bring ourselves back into relation with our old black magic—the sun, moon and stars, animals, plants, ancestors—the Axis Mundi.

The great ash tree that holds together earth, heaven, and hell by its roots and branches in Norse mythology.

But how can poetry respond to the rancor, the bitterness, the extremism, the climate change deniers, the New Deal dismantlers, the Women’s Rights plunderers, the hellish intensity of our collective moment? Poetry is no more than the flap of a butterfly’s wings, the dart of a hummingbird—a strophe flung into the roar of the mob. Poetry does so little, dares so much. Poetry is the prophet down from the mountain, a gadfly on the body politic, a witness to the desecration; poetry sings our cultural myths, mourns what’s been lost, praises the newborn day.

When the political leaps into my poems I am surprised and actually, grateful. As an introvert I mostly meet my muse in inner worlds. But sometimes she startles me with some iconic collective image, or jumps on me with fierce associations to the news of the day. Disturbing as the news may be such visitations from external reality feel numinous and strangely orienting. Something shifts in the imaginal realm. My spirit settles down; my soul finds the stairway between worlds.

I have chosen five poems that take very different slants on the political. I’ll introduce the poem, then present it, accompanied by its images, and muse about it.

Read Clinging to the Axis Mundi: The Poetry of Politics on the ARAS website.