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Review of "The Breathing Field"

By Wyatt Townley and Eric Dinyer
Bulfinch Press, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Sep 12th 2002
The Breathing Field

The Breathing Field is an unusual little book of poems by Wyatt Townley accompanied by artistic illustrations by Eric Dinyer.  The preface explains that is meant to be a companion “for the yoga practitioner as well as the spiritually adventuresome.”  Part I, titled “Undoing,” contains poems that aim to “loosen the body’s armor in preparation for moving from outer to inner.”  The second part, “Stepping Over,” is meant to take us further inward.  The final part, “Reverse Zoom,” “break through to life beyond the body, where the self expands and healing begins.”

            Several of Townley’s poems have been published previously, in publications such as Southern Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly and The Kansas City Star.  The artist Eric Dinyer worked on Sting’s interactive CD-ROM, All This Time.  The book is nicely constructed, on good quality paper, with high production values. 

            The Breathing Field might appeal to those who practice yoga, enjoy poetry, and seek out new age bookstores.  The poems have an appealing simplicity in their form and imagery.  Consider, for example, Swimming Lesson.

Go under.

Put your whole head in

like the potato that grows

below the feet, below

concrete and the cars

that carry us.

 

We get up and dress up

and build up and grow

up.  The potato grows down.

It underlies everything

we have made

or said, or haven’t.

 

The potato shows us

where we are

heading.  Dive in.  Put

your whole life

into it.

The artwork with the poems has an impressionist feel to them, often picturing objects from nature such as trees, water, clouds, stars and planets, but also include images of a key, an x-ray of a spine, and human faces.  They often include photographic images, but the images are treated to give each work a sense of fantasy or dream, using techniques such as superimposed images, faint distortions on the surface, and manipulations of color.

While I can appreciate the skill with which this book was made, I could not finish my review without mentioning my reservations.  I find it a slight work, relying on well-worn ideas.  For a reader to find the book helpful, she would have to largely suspend any critical faculties she might have.  Of course, it might be helpful to just be able to enter into spirit of new age approaches to well-being occasionally, and far be it from me to condemn those who would find this book or its ilk a valuable resource.  But I would hope that readers would soon move on from such books to more probing and demanding approaches to inner exploration.

 

© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.

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