Jack of Many Trades

D is for Dictation

Originally posted: 2014-02-20

He asked, "What are you here for?" And the spooks replied, "We're here to give metaphors for your poetry."

-Jack Spicer on Yeats in his first Vancouver lecture

The concept of dictation is associated with the Berkeley Renaissance poet Jack Spicer, but he pointed back to Yeats as a source. Under other names, though, the concept is quite common among writers - the idea that your story, your images, your words are given to you. They are inspired from without.

In a pagan context, they could certainly be inspired by deities, but this kind of inspiration is not limited to deities. In fact, where it comes from is a secondary concern much of the time. Spicer would tell you that it doesn't matter where it's coming from, and speaking purely in terms of Theos Logos I would agree. I don't know where my inspiration comes from. I don't know how I why I am allowed to hear the stories I retell. I offer to the Firebird and to Sarasvati but that's more for the ability to produce something with it.

Later in the lecture, Spicer says something that's likely to sound familiar to spiritworkers and those who discuss their godphones: "I just don't think that whatever the source of energy is gives really very much of a damn about you. It wants to keep you in good condition, just like the farmer wants to keep the cow in good condition. Or the butcher, or the rancher, and then the butcher wants to keep the steer in good condition until it's butchered."

The point is, as always, the story.

Spicer goes on to describe the process of figuring out what dictation feels like, how it is different from regular poetics. It's a process of discernment that's likely to sound somewhat familiar to spirit workers: learning that you're listening to something, learning to listen intentionally. When practicing writing as a spiritual discipline, as a part of Theos Logos or any other practice, listening is a key skill.

That's not to say there's no artistry there - taking what you're given and turning it into something finished is an art. Listening is an art of its own.