You Make The Culture
Thought-provoking ideas for a more interesting life through song, poetry, contemplative arts, and psychology, distilled from Jackie Henrion's radio show "Songs-Voices-Poems" on 88.5 KRFY
Hello Old and New friends,
This is a new channel for me to connect in a different way to listeners and readers who enjoy a little entertainment with their thoughtfulness. Every two weeks, I’ll distill a number of gems from my weekly radio show Songs-Voices-Poems on 88.5 KRFY. Many people ask, “Where can I hear a podcast of the show.” You can’t. Unless you tune in on the radio or the internet at krfy.org live stream Sundays at 7 pm, you miss it. Mostly because of copyright restrictions. I considered making a book of the scripts and playlists, but after eight years of weekly shows, the manuscript exceeded 750 pages. Great for a door stop. Since the Substack platform is interactive and complementary, it makes more sense to share some of the best material here. No muss, fuss, tuning in, or fighting with your partner about signal or volume.
The newsletter title “You Make The Culture” is taken from an Amy King poem in her published collection The Missing Museum. Professor King is one of my favorite poets and and literary activists. She is a relentless advocate of increasing the publication of women writers. The history of radio has also been unbalanced in the same way; both with respect to women artists and radio DJs. She inspires me to help turn our great ship of culture by articulating my own view, curating compelling lyrics, verse, and connecting with others, when she says,
I will walk with the sharks of our pigments if that's what inconclusive data requires, until we leave rooms that hold us apart.
To set the tone I’ll start with “May I Suggest,” a song written by Susan Werner of the group Red Molly. The link to YouTube comes via CD Baby, which is a great site to purchase music from independent artists. One of the founding members of the group is my friend Carolann Solebello, a loyal member of Jack Hardy’s Songwriters Exchange in New York City. You will see her at the lower right hand corner of the YouTube image as you listen to her contralto contribution to the three part harmony. Carolann now pursues a solo career as a songwriter and performer rooted in her own practices of yoga and meditation.
I’ll be organizing the sections of this newsletter based on Daniel J. Siegel’s “Wheel of Awareness.” Siegel, a psychologist, author, and founder of the Mindsight Institute based on his research at UCLA, suggests we can be more in touch with ourselves if we focus our attention in the following four areas:
The Five Senses
It’s hard to imagine a more visually arresting place than Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint Idaho. If I ever lack for inspiration, this is the view in my line of sight; the anthemic “purple mountain’s majesty.”
When I look out, I’m reminded of Emily Dickinson’s iconic poem (#466) that I keep close to my heart. So close, I can recite it by memory. When I look at the text, I’m alway fascinated by her capitalization for emphasis and frequent hyphens, as if refusing to use conventional punctuation.
I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors – Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky – Of Visitors – the fairest – For occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise –
I’m curious to know if you can recite a poem you enjoy? I invite you to let me know in the comments.
What does depression feel like inside your body? I remember a time in my life, I was not able to name my feelings. But I’ve learned that it’s an important awareness to help identify the internal physical sensations. I wrote Birthplace of Diamonds in that state of mind. With a glimmer of understanding that this internal sensation is also a deep source of creativity. This recording is an early one and since then, the chorus has matured to:
Birthplace of diamonds, millions of years
Unearthing the diamonds, millions of tears
The hurt place of diamonds, the dirt disappears
Leaving a brilliant shine –
Can you name an internal sensation? How does it affect your body?
We know our mental experiences as thoughts, often so noisy that we call them “monkey mind.” During a meditation retreat, our guides advised that the goal was not to “get rid of thoughts,” but rather to “observe them,” allowing them to pass through like multicolored bubbles from a fat-cheeked child. When we develop this capability, we create a spaciousness that leads to better listening skills – and a generosity of spirit.
The iconic American poet of the 1800's, Walt Whitman, raised in Brooklyn, New York, wrote a 52 stanza, free verse poem called Song of Myself. Revolutionary in it's focus on himself; thoughts, warts and all, it begins with the well known invocation:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume, you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
More than a hundred years later, in 1971, Brooklyn-born Neil Diamond released a song called "I Am..I Said" in a slightly different declaration of self. If you don’t subscribe to Apple Music, here’s a video on YouTube. His song has the mark of therapeutic counseling to rebalance and quiet his mind despite an intense music career. This song feels like a search for new roots, which leads us to the next section.
Perhaps no other aspect of our well being is as important as our connection to others. For example, I’ve been a member of the weekly Sandpoint Monday Writers, a high point of my week, and a secret source of energy for my writing. One of the members, Robens Napolitan, is the only person who gives me her reaction to every single one of my radio episodes. In the radio world, that’s a rare loop.
Siegel’s writings indicate that the primary parental bonds lie at the root of our identities. The songs we hear with our family, at camp, schools, or with our partners, create associations and bonds. Yet as we mature we learn that we can also choose connections that support our growth as well as our independence.
Two songs come to mind: One Voice by Ruth Moody of the Canadian group The Wailin’ Jennys, and We Shall Be Known by Karen Longaker of the Chico California Duo, Mamuse. Harmony in song embodies communion. Perhaps you will feel the pull as you listen. Similar harmony is found in songs of ancient Greece, eastern Europe, Spanish moors, the Baltics, Tibet, the Celts, Appalachia, and Russia. This resonance may help us transcend the paradox between peace of mind and war. Those who initiate war seem to have forgotten how such waste scars the human race. Even those who serve have this understanding, as you might see in United States Naval Band’s rendition of One Voice. This is how the personal is political; How we come to awareness in this quadrant of Siegel’s Wheel. As Amy King says in her poem “You Make The Culture:”
"I wish I could sculpt a healing street from a blanket of guns. The way the sun drops behind a one-armed cop & we default to believing in voices…"
By reading this newsletter, know that I hold you in my thoughts and our connection is important to me. I appreciate any comments or feedback you might have about “You Make The Culture.” I will also be grateful if you share it with others. As the poet William Carlos Williams said in Asphodel, That Greeny Flower & Other Love Poems
“It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
Thanks for your time and your participation in this experiment,