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The non-profit organization I founded on December 14, 1993 turns 25 tomorrow and we are going to celebrate. SPLAB started as It Plays in Peoria Productions and had a mission of creating radio interview public affairs programs. At the height of that mission, our weekly show aired on 18 stations. Affiliates at one time or another included KING-FM, The Mountain, KZOK, KJR-AM and FM, KMPS, (all in Seattle), KGON-FM (Portland) and Village 900 (Victoria.) 

In addition to a look back at what we’ve done over 25 years, tomorrow night at the White River Valley Museum, we’ll celebrate the museum’s acquisition of over 15 bankers boxes of reel-to-reel tapes and CDs from our historic broadcast era (1993-2005) and a few tapes from before that. You can see the interviews we did at www.splab.org/listen.

In addition to a discussion of the museum’s plans for the archive, Hilary Pittenger, Curator of Collections for the WRVM, there will be the official launch for the book American Prophets, some of the best interviews conducted over the years, transcribed and published in a beautiful (if I say so myself) collection that includes history, prophetic insight and moments that helped shape my life. 

Jared Leising has graciously agreed to be Master of Ceremonies. Barbara McMichael of SoCo Culture will discuss what SPLAB meant to the culture of South King County in the years we were based there and facilitating programs (1993-2006). Former Auburn Mayor Peter Lewis, who helped us fund many of our programs during the early years, will discuss SPLAB’s legacy in Auburn. Jason Wirth, Professor of Philosophy at Seattle U, Zen Priest, scholar, translator and author, whom I interviewed in 2017, will give the keynote. He previewed that yesterday as we strolled though Kubota Garden, and will talk about the ethos of the organization as exemplified by the work we have done over the years, over 600 interviews, facilitating the visits of many amazing poets: Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Sam Hamill, Anne Waldman, Andrew Schelling, Ethelbert Miller, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Jerome Rothenberg, Nate Mackey, Brenda Hillman, José Kozer, Adrian Castro, Joanne Kyger, George Bowering and others. Conceiving of and producing the Cascadia Poetry Festival and furthering the deep ecopoetics stance inherent in bioregionalism in Cascadia and an awareness of Cascadian poetry with efforts like Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia.

My Mom will be attending, visiting from Chicago, as will my Sister Barb. 

Doreen Mitchum, of 4Culture, who coordinates Arts Projects and the Touring Arts Roster, said by email a few weeks ago: “…Do you know how special it is to have an arts org. last for that long? You’re in an elite club my friend!” It feels like something special to hit a quarter of a century in existence. We have large goals for the next five years, including continuation of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, expansion of the August Poetry Postcard Fest to 1,000 participants in 2019 and eventually 10,000, two new anthologies to be released in 2019, more interviews, more books of interviews, more support for other bioregional poetics efforts like what is happening in Cumberland, BC, with the Cascadia Poetics LAB and who knows what else?

So, huge gratitude to everyone mentioned here, everyone who has helped SPLAB exist and create unique and (we think) visionary programs. People like Danika Dinsmore, David McCloskey and Lana Ayers, 4 Culture, ArtsWa, Humanities Washington, the City of Auburn, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and many many more, and those who have attended, or participated in any of our events. People who have taken time to make individual contributions. Our gratitude can not be adequately expressed. Huge thanks to all SPLAB Board Members, past and present, including Joe Chiveney, Nadine Maestas, Peter Munro, Matt Trease, Lisa Fusch Krause and Cate Gable. Huge thanks to Bhakti Watts, Thomas Walton and Elizabeth Cooperman. Huge thanks to you and a thousand blessings. This has been such a gift in my life. I hope to see you tomorrow night.

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One Mind (Impersonal)

The launch of AmericanProphets, my book of transcribed interviews mostly taken from the years of the syndicated radio show I hosted and produced between 1993 and 2004, has been not only a cathartic event for me personally, but has also reconnected me to former guests who have received their contributor copies.

One of them is Larry Dossey. He’s read the book already and said:

Dear Paul,

I’ve read American Prophets with delight. I’m honored to be included. What a great service you have provided. As if you need something else to read, attached is an article of mine published in the current issue of Tikkun magazine, “The One Mind.”

Happy Holidays,

~ Larry

What he sent for me to read was:

It is an essay brimming with perceptions demonstrating how focused Dr. Dossey has been on the topic of human consciousness since that 2000 interview we did and years before that certainly. It is such a huge bit of validation regarding my antipathy toward the materialist haze we find ourselves in and in favor of the poetics to which I have been dedicated for the last twenty-five years that are also in opposition to the materialist paradigm.

He essentially tracks the development of the theory of One Mind in the Western world, the notion that we are all connected to a sort of global brain, including Hegel:

In the 19th century, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel called distant mental exchanges between humans “the magic tie.” He believed that “the intuitive spirit oversteps the confines of time and space; it beholds things remote; things long past, and things to come.”

Dr. Dossey documents the failure of contemporary science to come up with a valid theory that explains consciousness, because science is stuck in a materialist paradigm that defends Newtonian science dogmatically, as Rupert Sheldrake (another of the interview subjects in American Prophets) has spent his professional life proving. Dossey writes:

Materialism asserts that consciousness is somehow produced by the brain and is confined to the brain, the body, and the present. This view of consciousness has become so hegemonic that it is almost heretical in some circles to question it. However, this view of consciousness suffers from two severe defects: the sheer poverty of evidence that brains produce consciousness, and the enormous human costs of a world that is sanitized of a spiritual outlook, which the materialist dogma forbids. No human has ever seen a brain or anything else produce consciousness, and there is no accepted theory as to how this could happen. The link between a brain and consciousness is as mysterious today as it was when Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in 1886: “How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the djinn when Aladdin rubbed his lamp in the story.” … the materialist view of consciousness is empirically bankrupt.

The scientists he quotes suggest that there is something very important missing from science and that the materialist paradigm is akin to a “superstition.”

The poetics that seeks to connect with this global brain have been known as many different things: Projective Verse, Organic Poetry, The Practice of Outside, Impersonal Voice, the received poem &c. &c. When writing, when doing any kind of art, we can tap into sources much larger than ourselves. When one has had the experience of art that is created in this way, going back to that which is limited to the human ego is unsatisfying. The book American Prophets tracks my own exposure to many angles of this basic notion, especially through some of the best 20th and 21st century U.S. poets who helped develop theories of poetics that assume this stance-toward-poem-making as Olson described it in 1950.

Purchase a copy of the latest print edition of Tikkun and see how artfully Dr Dossey weaves the different threads together to give us a way out of the materialist worldview that imperils the very biosphere that sustains us.




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Unconventional Nelson

10.20.2018 – I told the UPS clerk my Mom’s first name was unconventional.


Lesbia Nelson & Paul E Nelson Jr.

When Bhakti and I were in Chicago last September, my Ma, Lesbia Nelson, was having lower back pain and so I offered some of my CBD salve. She tried it and loved it so I left the jar with her, but when I got back to Seattle, she wanted more. I told her I was not sure it was legal to mail it, but then realized I could send it by UPS, so she sent funds for the salve and shipping, I got the salve at the marijuana store and put the two jars in an empty yogurt container and wrapped it with paper from a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.

I went to the UPS store and the clerk asked me what was in the package and I told her “skin cream for my Cuban Mother. Her first name is unconventional” I told her. She said “no problem” and filled out the address form, which was easy because I had shipped things to Ma before from the store. When the clerk handed me the shipping form so I could verify it was accurate it was addressed to: Unconventional Nelson. I should have taken a photo, but instead I said: “No, my Mom’s first name is… well, let me spell it for you.”

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