Kia ora; Tēnā koutou: My name is Kevin Moran. I was born in 1951 in the small township of Moana on the shores of Lake Brunner (Kotuku Whakaoho). My father & mother ran the local general store. My grandfather & grandmother owned a batch beside the camping ground. Grandpop had a boat & was a keen fly fisherman. The Lake Brunner area is rich in bush, birdlife, lakes & rivers, and is overseen by the splendid Southern Alps. The district has a rich Maori history as local place names like: Moana, Kotuku, Ruru, Te Kinga, Orangipuka & Kōpara attest. Historically Maori lived & gathered food locally. Tribal groups travelled through the area as they journeyed South in search of pounamu (greenstone).
When I was four years old my family shifted ‘over the hill’ to Christchurch. However throughout my childhood & on into adult life I have returned over & over to ‘the Coast’ to replenish my soul. The Lake Brunner area is sacred to me. The Arnold River is my river. Mount Te Kinga my mountain. My poetry often reflects my connection with the West Coast. and the natural world.
In 1955 my mother & father settled in Christchurch where they raised six children. Mum & dad were very family orientated: they were also active Catholics. I had a close relationship with my father who was a hardworking, mischievously funny, rugby & garden loving, working-class Kiwi. Mum was a skilled seamstress: a very creative woman who loved nature. She had great energy & drive. She also had a bizarre sense of humour & a fondness for anything oddball. She loved drama & the stage & involved all her children in the world of elocution & theatre. I share my mother’s energy, love of nature, quirkiness & love of poetry. I grew particularly close to mum over the last five years of her life as her health & memory declined.
The primary theme which runs through my life is the quest for awakening. In my early 20s I became interested in the spirituality of the East particularly Yoga & Zen. Eventually I chose an Eastern guru & learnt to practice meditation. In my late 20’s I sought an experience of the Holy Spirit. For a time I became a Quaker: however soon I entered the world of charismatic Christianity. I eventually became a minister. Throughout my ‘church days’ I often sensed there was more to Christianity than I was experiencing. I began to actively seek ‘the experience’ (that I suspected) lay beneath the ‘form’ of Christianity. In time I embraced more forms of contemplative Christianity. I went on retreats & read books on spiritual formation. Later I trained as a spiritual director & taught spiritual formation at a local Bible College.
In my late 40’s I suffered a major burnout & midlife crisis. This was the turning point of my life. I left the Church & began to let go of the religious persona I had built my world around. I was flooded with dreams. For three years I worked with a Jungian Analyst who helped me understand & cooperate with my dream process. I then worked with a different (male) Jungian Analyst. For seven years he supervised me & continued to assist me with my dreams. During these ten formative years I opened to the world of the soul. I also discovered ‘something’ was pushing to become to consciousness within me. Eventually I encountered the Self. I dreamt: a blazing sun is rising over a dark sea. I am shouting: ‘the Self! The Self! The Self!’ I experienced the Self as a spark of transpersonal Life within me. The Self had a personality & seemed to have a purpose for my life. It wasn’t easy to find a balance between my ‘ordinary everyday’ life & the ‘larger reality’ I was encountering. One morning the Self spoke: It’s always going to be a compromise between little i and a natural, open, growth system. I understood ‘little i’ to be my ego & ‘a natural, open, growth system’ to be all of me including the life of the Self. The Self continued to educate me. It spoke in dreams: also in short, enigmatic, ‘sayings’ on the cusp, between sleep & waking.
In February 2006 I started writing a series of personal psalms. These psalms chart my apprenticeship as a poet. They also chart the initiation process that was occurring within me. I call them ‘psalms’ because most of them relate to the unfolding life of the Self. It took time to understand my poetic identity & vocation. As a poet I felt different. I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Over time I came to understand fit best in the visionary tradition that includes poets like William Blake, W.B Yeats & Walt Whitman. This tradition also includes the shamanistic poets of indigenous traditions.
Under each psalm I have placed a ‘whakapapa’. In Maori a whakapapa is a genealogy. A whakapapa may include the circumstances out of which the psalm emerged. It may include dreams. It may include the enigmatic sayings of the Self. It may also include quotes from the many poets, mystics, teachers & philosophers that influence me. It can also explain the symbolism within the psalm. As you read these poems you will encounter suns, moons, lions, snakes, white heron (kotuku), owls, swans, mountains, red roses, white roses & much more. Symbols are the language of the soul. The soul innately recognises a symbols primordial power. I hope the whakapapa assist in deepening the readers understanding of the psalms.
The circumstances of my daily life enter the psalms: as does the area in which I live. When I wrote the psalms I lived in Brooklands on the outskirts of Christchurch. Brooklands was a beautiful little township of 550 houses which sat beside a lagoon. Around the lagoon is a bird sanctuary which protects the many seabirds which visit the area.
On September the 4th 2010 the province of Canterbury & the city of Christchurch was shaken by a massive 7.1 earthquake. This quake has been followed by over 8000 aftershocks. During one of these aftershocks; a 6.4 quake on February the 22nd, 2011, 182 people lost their lives. The town of Brooklands was badly damaged and in December 2012 declared a redzone. This has meant that the entire Brooklands village will be abandoned by April 2013. My home has already been demolished. During the February 22nd quake my mother’s Rest Home was wrecked. Mum was evacuated to Wellington where three months later she died. During this traumatic time of ongoing earthquakes I continued my work as a counsellor, therapist, supervisor & spiritual companion. (For further info see my website www.anamcara.net.nz ). I’ve worked with adults, couples, families & children who have been affected by the quakes. I also have a number of personal connections to the CTV building in which the greatest loss of life occurred. Reference to the earthquakes & their aftermath will be found in the psalms.
Writers I am particularly grateful to include; Kathleen Raine whose writings & lectures have helped me connect with the Hermetic & Neo-Platonic tradition which informs the poetry of William Blake, W.B. Yeats & others. ‘Tradition’ helps me value: a) the poet as vessel of ‘Inspiration’; b) the power of symbolism; & c) the intimate relationship between poetry & music (or rhythm). I am grateful to the writings of German Sage Karfried Graf Durkheim whose amalgam of Zen, Christian Mysticism and Depth Psychology has helped me understanding of the Way of Initiation. I am grateful to Carl Jung for his many pioneering discoveries & his ability to articulate the process of individuation. I am grateful to Jungian Analyst Monica Wikman for her beautiful book: ‘Pregnant Darkness: Alchemy and the Birth of Consciousness.’ I am grateful to Tom Cheetham for his ability to interpret the works of C J Jung in a way which respects Jung’s many strengths but also throws light on his weaknesses, particularly his lack of a larger metaphysical (or spiritual) framework in which to situate his work. I am also grateful to Tom Cheetham for opening up the world of Henri Corbin & through Corbin the world of Ibn Arabi & Mundus Imaginalis. In philosophical works of Henri Corbin I find food for my soul. I am grateful to the poet William Everson. The book ‘William Everson: The Shaman’s Call; Interviews, Introduction and Commentaries’ by Stephen Herrmann has opened up a new vista of ‘Poet as Shaman’. I am grateful to poet, psychotherapist & healer Jay Ramsey. When reading him I found myself resonating with his insight that he is a ‘poet of transformation’. This helped me recognise that I too am a poet of transformation. Among Jay’s many books, I especially appreciate: ‘Alchemy: the Art of Transformation’ and ‘Crucible of Love: The Alchemy of Passionate Relationships’. If you wish to explore the world of Alchemy I know no better place to begin.
I want to acknowledge some of the many poets who have inspired me: W.B Yeats, William Blake, Kathleen Raine, Samuel Coleridge, Jelaluddin Rumi, Mirabai, Hafiz, Angelus Silus, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton, William Everson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rabbindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Anna Swir, R. S. Thomas, H D, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Anna Akhmatova, Shamus Heaney, Gabriel Rosenstock, Antonio Machado, Walt Whitman, Jane Hirschfield, D H Lawrence, James K Baxter & Wendell Berry. I want to acknowledge the deep well of Chinese & Japanese poetry: also singer songwriters Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan & Van Morrison who fanned to life the flame of poetry during my teenage years.
Finally I bow to the Source of Inspiration: ‘in whom we live & move & have our being’. May you sense the Source embracing & inspiring you, as you explore these psalms & the newer poems in the ‘Songs of Kotuku’ series. With Arohanui (much love) – Kevin Moran