How Long the Way is not quite “modern poetry,” in the sense of, “a faster way than short stories or journalism to dive into the narratives of others.” Though I have nothing against the narrative bent, poetry, for me, has been more of a mystical quest, as with Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Vachel Lindsay, e e cummings, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Hopkins, Hesse, Rilke, Whitman, Dickinson, Shelley, Blake, Goethe, and many more; more about love and freedom and how they can work together.
I have spent more than fifty years writing poems, songs, essays, and stories. Could have had scholarships to almost any college, but wanted to keep working on my own stuff. Then I found the love of my life, another poet, singer, dreamer, mystic, and cook. I can help to have things in common. And we had personal reasons for not trying to market our work. We were lucky to find simple ways of making money and communing with others that afforded us plenty of time for writing, talking, traveling, and learning about love and freedom. She died a few years ago, so I’m finally editing everything we wrote, hoping to make it accessible.
Also working on a book of essays called Living Minds: The Psychological Nature of Evolution and the Intelligence of Love for a couple of decades. These writings for thoughtful readers of many interests try to understand more of humanity’s 300,000 years of dramas and consequences within the three billion years of biological experience on earth. Although my nonfiction isn’t biology, it looks at how we are finally discovering that we have more in common with other life forms psychologically than we thought. Throughout the story of life, the often mutually beneficial endeavors of enduring alliances have provided us a living world that has often cooperatively evolved in symbiotic ways. Comparing modern human habits to those of successful species and alliances, it becomes clear that the symbiotic skills of the living could encourage a lot more teamwork in the next steps of our human story. We could refresh our still young species and its ancient biosphere by reshaping our communities, economies, and ecosystems in sync with the win-win ways of the surprisingly freewheeling and democratic nature of life in general (as demonstrated by the cells in our bodies, as well as by healthy reefs, forests, and societies).
An earlier collection of my essays along similar lines is freely accessible at naturesmind.differentway.net. I also have a few attempts at novels, including one about the youthful quests of Jesus—Yeshua—as told by his twin brother Jude—Yehuda (not Iscariot). I have many more poems. A few of my homemade songs are at soundcloud.com/george-gorman. Having lost much of my partner’s prose, I still have some of her essays, memoirs, children’s stories, writings about healing developmental trauma, and almost all of the poems by this, my favorite poet.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
My grandfather spent hours every weekend reading poetry to me and searching through his huge books of nature photos as big as my arm from the time I was three or four. I was also deeply influenced by my mother who sang and read me stories since I was a baby, as well as by Miss Parsonette, my English teacher from 6th through 8th grade (who I located and thanked on the phone after all these years), and my brilliantly creative best friend since high school.
Some poets/philosophers—such as William Blake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Jane Roberts—helped me see that I could find my own way without needing authoritarian credentials. I’m also very thankful to Goethe, Thoreau, Bergson, William James, R. B. Fuller, A. N. Whitehead, Margaret Mead, Kenneth Burke, Lynn Margulis, Jeremy Rifkin, Tamsin Woolley-Barker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Claudio Naranjo, Kathryn Schulz, Stefano Mancuso, Dawna Markova, Hillary and Bradford Keeney, Jon Lieff, Carl Safina, Theodore Zeldin, John Holt, Jennifer Ackerman, Fritjof Capra, Rupert and Merlin Sheldrake, Annie Dillard, Robert Lanza, Andreas Weber, Dale Peterson, and numerous others (including many poets) who were suddenly right there for me at the most urgent times.
And, by far not the least, I seriously doubt I could have kept writing (and enjoying it!) for all these years without my irrepressible partner writing four times as much as me every day, and then inspiring me with hers while listening to my efforts, if not improving them, through countless afternoons, and sometimes half the night. No one can weigh the immeasurable tokens of love.
What inspired you to start writing this book?
This book about how the stories of our lives are inseparable from the stories of our species, and from the story of life in general had been coming into being for fifty years. I could have tried to publish some of this long ago, but I’m glad it has had time to evolve into something, perhaps, more savory.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
Forever. Still not certain. When it’s your whole life, it takes a while. Tempted to steal “Life’s a Long Song” from Ian Anderson, but How Long the Way can be a question or a description, a map or a song. My life has been so unusual that I keep focusing on the common ground. What can help us work play together? How do we let more freedom and more love come out from inside?
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Now you’re askin’ for it. It would have to be some of my own songs.
Describe your dream book cover.
Graphics are not my specialty, but dreams…
In one dream I caught a ride down a mile-long shaft into the earth where the learning was happening. I knew there was a workshop in one part of that endless cave, and a film for the newbies it could help, but there was no doubt that I HAD to go by myself into the holy room where just a little spring was coming up through the rock. There it was clear that all I needed was to get down on my knees and submerge both of my hands and forearms in the springwater. After that I was one with the spirt of the earth. I doubt if that’s much of a marketing image, probably just that it was a very ancient dream of mine that’s stayed with me for as long as some of these poems. How long the way.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
Luckily (and determinedly), I’ve mostly avoided jobs where you have to do what someone tells you to. Most free animals avoid that. So, in terms of working publicly, my partner and I developed our own business cleaning only houses for people we liked in rural mountain counties. When we got tired of that, we traveled through half of the world doing long-term housesitting and petsitting. The only readers I have are on Facebook, and I probably shouldn’t tell you what I don’t tell them. But there are things I can say that I haven’t told them. I could have been a great water skier. May dad was amazing and he taught me well. He also taught me how to fly the little planes he would fly us in to Alabama football games. And I could have learned from him how to be a great baseball team manager. But I got obsessed with music, poetry, philosophy, and the yogic path of love. And with stories I may never be able to tell.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
I imagine every inspired reader as unique in essential ways. Not perfect, but able to open up more to new perspectives. Not necessarily mine, maybe those insightful potentials our quirky chemistries could create together. That and some warmth, or some “chickenskins,” as they say in Hawai’i.
Thank you guys. That was fun.
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