During my teenage expedition to Sarawak, Borneo, with Voluntary Service Overseas, I kept a journal of the vivid surrounds and how I was feeling. From that time on I scribbled poetry wherever I went, eventually accumulating trunks full of poems that reminded me of the experiences, particularly those later in India. My extensive shamanic training with incredible First Nations medicine people was also carefully logged, and those notes were a sign post to always be authentic, even when it was difficult to re-read. As a professor I wrote text books and scholarly papers, which had particular protocols that were somewhat stifling. When I started late on the writing craft – I had to re-learn how to write without sounding pompous. I gave up on footnotes!
My challenging journey through life navigated shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. From this vast range of experience I developed an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way and this was expressed in my poetry and books. My life as a global traveller certainly stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. Expansion of mind was inescapable. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. My approach to life comes through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. To the best of my ability, I endeavor to follow Gandhi’s principles of ahimsa and the teachings on mindfulness. I live very simply as a planetary activist. As a Zen teacher my initial task was to refine my own consciousness – to be a vehicle to chart an authentic path. From this energy the poems and chapters emerge.
My book – Redemption – was first written in 1975. I wrote it as an extended prose poem. It became a lost manuscript as I did not know how to get published at that time. When I rediscovered it forty years later I could scarcely believe my eyes. Anita Rizvi had this to say…. “Redemption is a riveting chronicle of one man’s journey through the stages of innocence, darkness, destruction and transformation.” She goes on to say, “What is so exquisite is the tenderness and honesty with which the author deals with the human condition . . . When the main character’s journey takes him ever closer to the abyss, the author refuses to ‘sanitize’ his experiences.”
It is important for me to remain true in telling the grittier and more difficult aspects of a poem or story, also to touch the mystical elements that led to it being transposed to written form. Yet in 1975 I was writing way over my head and lacked the maturity to understand the deep nuances emerging from my pen. The book was writing me and it is fitting that it was not published until 2014, as the time lapse allowed me to grow into the insights and revelations writ large. I was a total mess in 1975 – with a failing marriage in the Hebrides and trying to keep my career intact as a young professor at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. The surprise for me in 2014 was how I could have written such a powerful poetic novel while in a desperate state of mind. The themes of mental illness and alcoholism are writ large in this deep and turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation. Redemption is an allegory for the depression and life difficulties I once experienced, though I did not realize it at that time.
From the rhapsody of an idyllic childhood through traumatic tragedies to the derelict zone of alcoholism and then to a state of awakening – I depict the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to “Redemption.” The poetic voice in the book is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world. Its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama. Relationships with people, land and sea skilfully brings the poetry out.
In my career as an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many First Nation story tellers across North America: Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I would say that without poetry cultures implode. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary aboriginal medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice. Through their mentoring, I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness, and re-write some of Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. I am not good at sitting down and writing four pages a day. I wait until the spiritual energy is present within me, then I write. Sometimes this is frustrating, as I want to get on with it, but when I do not stay still and wait – I simply write garbage! So I use the in-between times to do research and edit. When the energy is sparkling, the writing flows effortlessly. I do not consider this as a necessary template for others. It is just what works for me to connect to the Muse within. I trust that far more than any impatience.
My books are screenplay-worthy epic tales that weave together seamlessly to create inspiration. Global citizens are staring into the abyss. Instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them – “Awaken spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. That is the prod and direction of my poems and books. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform. All of this funnels back into my writing.
The stories I tell in my poetry and books are offered as a gift to our planet. My purpose in life is to share my wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… Earth. I shed light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. The example of my own challenging journey and personal transformation illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. My writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become responsible stewards of the earth and society.
Books at http://www.ianprattis.com