BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Quick Pick: The Shaman Speaks

Title: The Shaman Speaks

Publisher: Middle Creek Publishing

Author: Joseph Murphy

Pages: 24pp

Release Date: forthcoming

Back in 2012, I had the privilege of publishing two of Murphy's poems in Eternal Haunted Summer: "The Shaman and the Oracle" in the Summer Solstice issue and "The Shaman's Journey" in the Autumn Equinox issue. As such, when he approached me about reviewing his forthcoming chapbook, I was more than happy to do so.

The Shaman Speaks collects fourteen of Murphy's poems, each chronicling a different stage or event in the evolution of a shaman. The sequences are haunting, vivid, and dreamlike, filled with images of dissolution, transformation, and rebirth. You will not find the rational logic of the "real world" in these poems; rather, this is the logic of myth, dream, and the subconscious. Birds, serpents, boats, water, the moon, seeds, and trees appear frequently, representing aspects of not just the narrator/shaman, but also creation as a whole. As the shaman moves from initiation, through the Work of healing and helping, through death and into rebirth again, the images flow together, part, and flow together again; the shaman's journey mirrors the journey of all creation.

In "The Shaman Speaks," for example "Guardian spirits / carved sun and moon into rib and skull; feathered / my crest with their plumage." In "The Shaman's Craft," Murphy writes "Only a fool would think I lie at your feet / as a flame's bud opens through the stalk of my chest, / seeds fall from my rudder's quill/ and a new moon's tentacles / hone my oars," while in "The Shaman's Dream"

My feet became talons; my scalp

an iron cap.

Wings spread from the cap's well-etched brim; soaring

I rose amid sea-rounded spirits; plumage

changing shade and shape.

As the shaman's own journey comes to a new end/beginning, Murphy writes

When the craft cradling me reached the horizon, those on shore knew I'd rise; wing

from bark to starry branch.

I pushed my prow beneath whitecaps as the moon

began its chant.

My talons grasped rungs of light; what had bound me shook loose.

The Shaman Speaks is a luminous story-poem, rich with primal imagery. I lost myself in the cadence of the words, moving from the comfort of my modern air-conditioned house to a fluid, mythical, soulful realm of transformation, one-into-many and many-into-one.

Highly recommended to fans of poets Sara Cleto, Sandi Leibowitz, Mary MacMyne, Sarah Sadie, and Brittany Warman.


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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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