Saturday, June 18, 2011

Visionary Sensuality: Creating "Eros - The Divinity of Passion" with H. Samarel

I'm often asked what it has been like to work closely with so many artists in my writing career. Friends and readers have seen how devoted I am to the joining of words to art; it's been a fascination of mine since as a young man I fell in love with the visionary works of William Blake, who saw art and poetry as vivid partners in the presentation of ideas. In my own creative world, I have seen my concepts wedded to stunning visuals with gifted artists like David Cuccia, Marge Simon, Gene Colan, Felipe Echevarria, and Steve Mannion. My most recent poetry/art creation is with one of the foremost artists of sensuality in the world: H. Samarel.

Samarel and I have worked together before, creating some intense collaborations of individual poetry and art, but when we decided to do a book together, I knew it was going to be something special.

How does a book like this take shape? For Samarel and I, there was no need to start from scratch, learning about each other before cautiously taking the steps to craft a book project. He and I have usually worked using the technique of ekphrasis, which is the dramatic re-imagining of a work of visual art. To that end I asked Samarel to choose twenty of his artworks and send them to me to muse over. We discussed the basic feel we wanted for the book, and decided on works that were sensual and powerful, but also less explicit than some of our other works, so that we could strive for a classical feel to the book. Needless to say, when Samarel sent me his choices, I was blown away by their subtlety and strength. I felt that using them we could craft a journey into the heart of passion itself, tying it to spirituality as we went. Here is what I would ultimately write about that in the introduction to the book:

Spirituality and sexuality are long overdue for a re-connection. Somehow in modern life those two great sources of passion have fallen into conflict. There was a time when respect for the Sacred Feminine was a way of life. Down through history, even patriarchal cultures like that of ancient Rome had a place for the concept of Bona Dea—the Good Goddess—a figure suffused with life, and linked with the pleasures of sexuality. Before that, in the Egyptian personifications of Isis and Osiris, sex was celebrated as an experience leading to resurrection and the soul’s immortality.

Contrast that to today, where demonized sex is presented over and over in terms of negativity: lust is a vice, nudity shameful…the hungers of the body considered to be violent things, to be tamed in the name of decency. Needless to say, I don’t agree with that vision of passion.

Throughout our separate careers in the arts, Samarel and I have championed the beauty of sexual feelings. The glory of the flesh when set alight with fires of the soul. In this book we explore that, shaping a journey that moves from loneliness and isolation to the reclamation of sexual power, to the tempering and humanizing of that power. The lovers we portray are framed in both darkness and light—ultimately, we hope, finding balance.

That we chose a woman for the embodiment of that journey is done in full awareness that our perceptions as men will be tested—carried far into waters that echo the ocean-deep strength of the Sacred Feminine. And if the images burn brightly enough to even partly illuminate those waters, then so too can we join our lovers in journeys of transcendence; incandescent in our desires and their fulfillment; crowned with fiery halos; finding heaven, in each other’s arms.

So I spread Samarel's twenty images in front of me, and started to order them in a way that I thought fit the goals of that journey. Beginning with loneliness and a desire for empowerment...

Cut me free
from all that is hesitant in my soul.
I have pulled the stars from the sky.
Let the steel of night itself
become my sword,
severing me from weakness.
A dark incarnation
will be the first step.
Filled with frenzied joy;
wanting nothing more
than to scream each climax
into the void.
Sky and city crash together;
all lights of home
may be left behind.
The part of me
that sadly longed
for an embrace to anchor and fill me,
feels instead the dizzying ascent
into the liquid black heavens.
I will be borne
on the razor’s edge.
Let me become that which cuts
but never bleeds.

The images take a dark turn: an exploration of desperate and hungry sexuality.

So she rises.
All generations
have had a name for her.
Inanna, Lilith,
Kali, Nox;
woman of scarlet and obsidian.
She brings the release
that comes from surrender to her.
She answers to no god.
Approach her as you would
a pillar of fire;
with respect born of time
in the cold dark,
coupled with the lust for heat.
She is subtle,
her face curtained in liquid strands
behind which her eyes wait,
knowing you.
She does not suffer fools.
Seraphim and magi
might speak to her
as they would
to a coyly smiling sphinx;
considering what words to choose.
Hoping to coax from her
all the secrets of evening.
Lovers of this goddess
are bold and foolish at once.
She eats them alive,
after telling them the word
which sets their souls to flight
on crippled wings
that tremble with ecstasy.
Call her what you will
before you die in her arms,
parting that crimson curtain of her hair
to see the deadly, loving
abyssal and beautiful eyes,
knowing you.

Though intense, those feelings are ultimately unfulfilling, and the journey continues to a place of self-awareness...

perhaps there was
too much sound and color,
too much heat and speed.
Perhaps the ache,
the unquenchable thirst of want,
struck too hard;
dragging me down
even as it raised me up.
I overwhelmed my loneliness
by enlarging myself;
embracing the persona
of a goddess who stands alone.
I banished emptiness
in a dizzying vision of raw sex.
Perhaps I missed
a true answer for loneliness,
for emptiness.
But where, where do I go?
In what shape?
How red should my lips be?
Ensanguined, like blood?
Can I still hold the black
of the night sky, of the abyss
in the pupils of my eyes?
Can I still be Nox, Mother Night;
still be Lilith, Wife of Knowledge?
Yes, yes, the answer must be yes.
But there must be more.
A deeper legacy to claim,
that knows…what?
The heart?
Or perhaps
just the simplicity of love.

...and a re-connection with body, soul, spirit and nature.

Life bursts from every pore.
A sensual communion
carrying the seeds
of nature’s fierce will
to join, to bond, to create.
The burning strength
she has carried within her
spreads upward
along the graceful lines
of her legs, her sex,
her stomach, her breasts.
Everything that has known
the joy of growth,
finds a new home
in the heart of her body.
She is bronzed
by rays of a sun
that blazes
behind her own eyes;
tendrils of energy,
having risen to her crown,
dip down again,
caressing her
in the crackling aura
of life, life, life.
Of all the goddesses
she has touched,
bringing them into herself,
it is Persephone in Spring
that possesses her now.
Stolen by a dark lover
and carried to the underworld,
she returns,
to embody the welcome
of a world
uncurling in silent heat.

From that place, the joining of a couple both sexually and spiritually can happen (and does, as the book concludes).

We must never forget,
or forsake this bond.
Never lose
the consummation
of our joined souls.
The secret words of sex
are no mystery.
Take and offer.
Receive and offer.
listen for the sound
of pain to be soothed;
dreams, so fragile
to be nurtured.
We must remember
the dark,
and how harsh the sun is
in our eyes,
when we have lingered
too long without light.
Yet how healing
the warmth of sky,
the warmth of our flesh
when we yield up
our hibernating spirits
and awaken.
We must never forget
that to be uncaring,
can leave wounds
all but impossible to heal.
We must remember
what it feels like
when our bodies are joined,
in brief moments
of completeness;
echoing an eternal joining.
Love me as I love you,
here standing
in the divinity of passion.

Those are just a few of the poems and artistic vistas in the book. Creating this vision with Samarel was exciting and illuminating, and we hope that others will enjoy following the journey that we crafted. To a place, as I wrote above, where we can find heaven, in each other's arms.

Eros: The Divinity of Passion is available here:


Visit Samarel's website HERE
Visit R. Paul's website HERE


sama said...

Stunning page i must say...really.

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

I love the last poem, R Paul. It's the one I can most relate to, and wish...

Very beautiful, very powerful. The artwork is awesome as well.

R. Paul said...

Samarel, many thanks! I had stunning imagery to present, with your astonishingly beautiful art. I am so immensely proud of, and delighted with our book together. What a privilege to create it with you.

R. Paul said...

Lisa, the last poem says it all to me, too. Of all the things we learn as people, as remember and embrace the joys of caring love must surely be the best.

Big hug for you,

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

So true. Love and death really cause a person to think, to dig deeper into who they are, discover what their purpose is in this world.

In my opinion, if we manage to touch one soul with our words or a kind gesture, our lives have not been in vain.

Read a book once that moved me deeply, and pretty much summed up how we transition through the seasons of our lives. Although I'm not a poet, and the words are rough and inadequate, the poem is titled "Seasons of Life."

From time to time, I look back on it, knowing I've done my best, but still harboring regrets.