My poem “fused at the wound” from my first book, Iron Man Family Outing, will soon be appearing in a new book called The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us by Ross Rosenberg. Ross is a counselor/psychotherapist and the owner of Clinical Care Consultants in Arlington Heights, IL. In the introduction to his book, he writes:
This book is about real-life relationships — common everyday relationships — that many of us have experienced, but wish we hadn’t. It is also about codependents and emotional manipulators and the ubiquitous “magnetic force” that brings them together into a lasting dysfunctional romantic relationship. The reader will learn why codependents and emotional manipulators are always attracted to each other and why, despite major personal and emotional upheavals, they remain together.
I’ve found over the years that “fused at the wound” is a poem that seems to resonate very strongly with many people, both men and women alike, and I’m pleased that Ross has chosen to include it in his new book. You can watch my video reading of the poem and read some additional background about the circumstances of the poem’s creation here. For more information about Ross Rosenberg and his upcoming book, visit his website at humanmagnetsyndrome.com.
I’m also pleased to add that this isn’t the first time that another author has chosen to include an excerpt from Iron Man Family Outing in his or her own book. Last year’s book Tough Guys and True Believers: Managing Authoritarian Men in the Psychotherapy Room by psychologist John M. Robertson included two poems from Iron Man Family Outing (“learning to breathe” and “release”). The 2009 book Drinking the Dragon: Stories of the Dark Night of Soul by psychotherapist Patricia Ariadne featured several pages of excerpts and related commentary on material from Iron Man Family Outing, including selections from the following poems:
- “dad I got”
- “black noise”
- “romance death rattle”
- “fever wheels”
- “x-ray barbeque”
- “wounded man detection device”
- “gift (iron man dream #3)”
- “bridge to gate”
I’m happy to see so much material from my Iron Man book making its way out into the world in new contexts that allow more folks to see it. As I wrote some time ago on the Bio page of my website:
It’s always been my intention and my heartfelt desire that my work would provide transformational opportunities for others as well as for myself. I’m thankful to have the chance to reach new people and, hopefully, contribute to their growth and healing in some way.
Sincere thanks to Ross Rosenberg, John M. Robertson, Patricia Ariadne, and everyone else who’s shared something I’ve written, for helping me extend the reach of my work by incorporating some of it into your own.
I don’t always have a clear memory (or any memory at all) of writing a poem, but I remember writing this one well. Where I was and what I was feeling that evening 23 years ago when I wrote it are as vivid and real in my memory today as they were in the present moment then. It was one of many hard landings I’ve experienced after trying to hold on to someone who was already long gone.
I’ve also found this poem elsewhere on the web along with some very nice accompanying art. Unfortunately, that version has a rather significant misquote in the final line of the poem. If I could figure out the identity of the artist and a way to contact him or her, I’d see if I could get that misquote fixed, but so far all of my sleuthing has come up empty. Such is life on the interwebz.
Like my last two poems featured in the Chronicle (“knock me out” and “absolute zero”), “bottom line guilt trips” dates back to the 1989-1990 time frame when my first book, Iron Man Family Outing, was written and published. These three poems were part of a set of about fifty I wrote during that period that do not appear in the book. They were subsequently packed away, forgotten, and then rediscovered in October 2010 during my exploration of a box in my closet that became the Iron Man Family Outtakes project.
It’s once again very interesting to see something I wrote so long ago finally appearing in public for the first time. I’m not sure why I didn’t include this poem in Iron Man Family Outing. It’s consistent in character and tone with other material in the book. I may have felt that it didn’t work in the flow of content and feeling I was trying to establish. Perhaps I felt it would have been unnecessary or somehow redundant when viewed in context with the other poems I was using. Maybe it felt a little too blunt and little too bold for me to put it out into the world at that time.
Maybe it was some combination of all those things. In any case, it has finally emerged.
The Good Men Project is currently featuring a weeklong series of posts around the theme of men and poetry. The series kicked off earlier this week with a couple of short essays: “The Good Life Includes Poetry” by series organizer Justin Cascio and a piece I wrote called “‘Poetry for Men’ and Other Problematic Labels”. I was pleasantly surprised to see some references to my own work in Justin’s essay. Here’s an excerpt:
Even men who identify themselves as writers struggle with words: for themselves and to describe the work they do. Rick Belden’s essay on poetry, “‘Poetry for Men’ and Other Problematic Labels,” points to both the necessity and limits of labels.
If “poetry” seems too creaky a label to be relevant in the 21st century, consider instead the rising popular interest in and critical regard for rap, slams, jams, and other revivals of poetry as it was originally composed and presented: aloud, by the author. Rick Belden, who joins us again for this theme on poetry, has shared his work here before, not only as the written word, but in videos of the author reading his work.
Justin is adding more posts to the series as the week goes on, including my poem “arrow” (a personal favorite) as well as a really great little essay from Austin therapist Steve Milan called “Men, Poetry, and Therapy” which, as it happens, also references some of my work.
Poetry is both undervalued and underutilized as a means to move into the heart of our experience, especially for men. I’d like to thank Justin for initiating, organizing, and posting this week’s series on men and poetry. I know (all too well) from my own experience what a hard sell poetry can be and I appreciate his efforts to establish a platform for it on the Good Men Project website.
This one was written in the fall of 1990 just before Iron Man Family Outing was published. It was one of the last few poems I completed before the long poetry drought that began in 1991 and finally ended in August 2008. This poem, along with many others, was tucked away and forgotten, then rediscovered in October 2010 during my exploration of a box in the closet that became the Iron Man Family Outtakes project.
Once again, as in the case of my last poem featured in The Austin Chronicle, I find it amazing that I’m seeing something I wrote 22 years ago in print for the first time. It provides an interesting glimpse into who I was at that time, and in all honesty, makes me a bit sad because I can see the almost heroic optimism I still had about romance and relationships at that point in my life.
I don’t have that brave (maybe foolish) confidence in love anymore. Haven’t had it for a long, long time. After all the rejections, infidelities, and failed relationships, and all the sexless, loveless years that have followed, I hardly ever think about romantic endeavors now. When I do, I typically tend to view such activities as belonging on the “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” end of the spectrum. And that’s on a good day.
Reading this little communiqué I wrote to myself 22 years ago has made me realize how much I miss feeling the way I did and being the guy I was when I wrote it. It also makes me wonder if I’ll ever feel that way and be that guy (older and hopefully a bit wiser) again.
My poem “absolute zero” is the featured “Poem of the Issue” in this week’s edition of The Austin Chronicle. This one has its origins in a journal entry from early 1989 which was forgotten and then rediscovered in October 2010 when I was working on the Iron Man Family Outtakes project. I can’t remember now in what state of completion this piece was when I found it, but I don’t think I had to do a whole lot of work to finish it.
I have extremely vivid memories of writing many of my poems: what was going on for me in that moment, the time, place, circumstances, etc. For others (like this one), I can’t recall much more than a general context and a time frame. Then there are those pieces, some of which are quite significant, for which I have no recollection whatsoever of the process of creation after some time has passed. Why I would remember writing some so well and others not at all has always been a mystery to me.
As I’ve been reading this one right now, it seems to me that it started with me feeling like I was too blocked to write anything (first two lines), which is kind of ironic in retrospect. I toss off a few lines in a journal, forget about them, and 22 years later I have a published poem. What a crazy, mysterious, unpredictable process this is.
“WAKING UP: Men Reclaiming Our Inspiration” is a 12-meeting study and process group for men in the Austin area that starts on August 31 and ends on November 16. The group will meet at Sol Associates in Austin and will be comprised of six members and two leaders, Steve Milan and Rupesh Chhagan. Here are the details:
WAKING UP: Men Reclaiming Our Inspiration
Would the boy you once were be inspired by the man you’ve become? – Nic Askew
This 12-meeting study and process group for men will explore the pathway to discovering our masculine gifts, and offering those gifts through our relationships, families, friendships and work. The group will be a place of refuge, challenge and acceptance where members will engage with new ideas about relating to ourselves, our partners and families, and our work in the world. As a process group, we will look at our interactions within the group as a reflection of our interactions with the world. As a working group, we will support each other in identifying and working through the challenges which keep us from living our lives more fully.
The primary work in meetings will be the focus on consciously finding our right relationship with ourselves, our lives, and each other. We will look at physical, spiritual, emotional, sexual, and psychological ways of offering our gifts to the world, and pathways to doing that. The group will do a small amount of reading each week from writings by David Deida, Rick Belden, Chogyam Trungpa and others to open up new areas for exploration of our full role in the world. We will explore mindfulness, and use this skill to explore barriers to true engagement with ourselves and our world.
This group will be comprised of six members and two leaders. All members will commit for the duration of the group. (It is understood that absences are unavoidable at times.) During the group, the leaders will offer experiential training on what is needed to develop and maintain an effective on-going, self-sustaining group. If there is interest, the foundation of this subsequent group will be established from interested men in the group with the support and consultation of the group leaders. After the initial stages of the new group, leaders will be available in a consultative capacity as needed.
When: 5:30 – 7:00pm on Wednesdays beginning August 31 and ending November 16
Where: Sol Associates, 3400 Kerbey Lane
Group leaders: Steve Milan, LCSW and Rupesh Chhagan, LAc
Cost: $50 per session payable at the start of each month. Discount available if paid in full in advance. If finances are the only barrier to joining, please contact us to discuss accommodations based on need.
Please call Steve at 589-5164 or Rupesh at 917-3404 to sign up or to get more information.
Signing Up: Anyone interested in participating must meet with Steve or Rupesh once before the group starts to assure that the goals of the group are clear, and that this group is an appropriate venue for this work. There is no cost for this meeting.
This is a great opportunity for men in the Austin area who are ready to explore the possibilities of deeper relationship with self and others in a safe, supportive environment, and I’m honored that some of my work will be included as a resource.