A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

An interview with Martin Prechtel


Where is the poetry in the modern men's mythopoetic movement? Where is the mystical tribal language that will melt away the ice of logic and initiate our souls? Where is the life-giving water that flows down the mountain deeply nurturing our thirsty hearts and minds? Where is the tribal elder walking along the path describing the sacred landscape to our young men and women? What ancient story will he tell? Will we listen? Can we see his facial expressions, hear his tone of voice, and feel his strong emotion as we follow along? What secrets of nature's beauty might we discover hidden within the sounds and without the words as we build our ritual home? Shall we allow these ancient rites to transform us and connect us with the universal greater whole? Are we now ready to hear the songs of a shaman's ecstatic heart?

Martin Prechtel is such a man who makes road maps to the human soul. He is the author of Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Long Life, Honey in the Heart, The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: Ecstasy and Time, plus his newest book The Toe Bone and the Tooth - the highly anticipated third volume in the narrative trilogy of his autobiographical series.

Robert Bly refers to Prechtel's work as "a treasure house of language in service to life." Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, declares "the Mayan gods, who hold eloquence above all else, must surely be pleased with his soul, who, in this lifetime, is named Martin Prechtel."

Prechtel's own life story takes him from his native New Mexico upbringing as a half-blood Native American from a Pueblo Indian reservation to the village of Santiago Atitlan where he eventually served the Tzutujil Mayan population as a full village member, becoming a principal in the body of village leaders responsible for instructing the young people in the meaning of their ancient stories.

The author comes alive during his seminars with poetry and songs. Even by telephone it was a truly magical experience to share in his personal warmth and charismatic personality. Although Prechtel is a prolific writer, his native tradition and preference, is to communicate through speech.

"The spoken story becomes the way people know how to live inside a certain landscape," he began. "It takes the landscape to contain story - that mythology that has all the details of the dismemberment and rememberment - the words utilized are of such force that it causes the young people to grasp at the things they do not comprehend."

It's an initiatory process that takes years for people to "get closer to beauty."

"They go through a personal transformation that takes them out of the sibling nonsense and into community accountability," he continued. "So words can be utilized to link them up to something enormous, a ritual feeding of what is Holy in nature."

If done correctly, the "Holy in Nature" can be fed by the way we walk, speak, or even gesture, he added.

"Holy is not something in church, but it's in the natural universe," Prechtel said, "and it's fed by our delicious words."

A master of innovative language, Prechtel works to promote the vitality hidden in language.

"The words, themselves, as magical as they are, become the poetry for the young person with which they wrestle death," he explained. "Before the young man or young woman in initiation goes down into the underworld to retrieve their own souls from the romantic feelings - those feelings that steal the imagination by stealing their heart so they feel hollow - before that the old people will take them in and put them through all this language learning."

Prechtel described the power of poetic language as the greatest weapon against death.

"Death wrestles you, but not with machine guns or bombs or sarcasm," he said, "and you then fight back with poetry; you beguile death; but you can't kill it. Death loves words so much it will make a deal with you. It says 'I'll give you back your soul if on a regular basis if you send messages to the holy.'"

For Prechtel, translating the oral tradition into the written word is a very difficult task. Maintaining "the quality so it inspires a modern human being" is "nearly impossible," he adds.

We all have the capacity to touch something more spiritual in ourselves "like spiritual DNA lying in memory," he said, but quickly added "it's not in us as much as we are in it."

Modern views consider humans the center of the universe instead of part of the universe, Prechtel said.

"As long as we're working for the benefit of the human, we're working with a narrow vision," he noted. "We need to keep the Holy before and after the human. Only then can humans become a very large beautiful thing speaking human to human. The real initiations are those that cause us to become something that feeds life beyond ourselves. It's not self involvement or self enlightenment. It's something beyond yourself for the universe."

Prechtel, who is also a gifted visual artist, said grief is the source of his creative powers.

"To make war is an inability with grief," he said. "Shame and depression are an inability with grief. Grief is the source of art. The only source of art. Violence is an inability with grief."

What does a shaman have to say about coping with modern violence and this time of war?

"You love what you love more than you love your hate," he advised. "If what you love is the divine, story, culture, children, then instead of blowing a whistle, you'll strive to keep the seeds alive."

For those who love to write, keeping "the seeds alive" can be a means of spiritual survival in turbulent times. Prechtel exhorts writers to stick with metaphors rather than a "literalist" approach to the creative process.

"Holy understands metaphor," he explained. "Metaphor is images without the verb 'to be.' When you do not have a verb 'to be' you can't talk unless you use metaphor."

The author said modern speech is abbreviated to stream line communication for technology or for business purposes An example of our truncated language is the fact that some 42,000 words in Shakespeare's plays are not in common usage today. Among "tribal people in the bush" a more ornate and beautiful language can be found.

Prechtel said he teaches seminars to bring back the gifts of language and "feed something beyond ourselves."

"Take the time to feed holy every day," he urged. "Find a way to write a poem to your 'Invisible Soul.' Take the most beautiful part of you that you've never met and welcome it home like a sweetheart. Then go out into the street and look for the most invisible member of society. Anybody. Somebody on the street corner. Somebody in a diner. Give them that poetry as a gift - a gift for them. The courage it takes for a small individual to give to another person creates so much admiration in the soul. It becomes an integral part of the poet's soul. Plus, the invisible people aren't invisible any more. Little tiny people doing little tiny things in little tiny neighborhoods ... that's when the unblessed are blessed ... and that's when we will start to have a culture." Contact Martin through www.floweringmountain.com

© 2005 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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