Theophany: I ask god to slide into my head quickly before I do

Hello, have you ever considered letting god into your life? What about just one of the Greek ones turning up? They used to do it a lot, but I guess they don’t get out so much any more.

Today is Philip Whalen’s birthday, or would be if he were still alive. To celebrate, let’s take a peek at Invocation and Theophany:


The whole poem can be read here. The poem is about the invocation, the desire of a poet to bring forth a god to appear in front of him. The first and second verses are about his frustrations, his desperation to make something happen with his word. He’s in the right place, by the sea shouting for deities who represent the deep. And they arrive, in procession — undercut by a conch-honk.

And they ascend, without a glance his way.


This is a very natural way for creative people to approach something like writers block — to ask for some divine help, to experience something unseen to record, to give back “the absolute freedom of action / my own mystery and weight carrying / independent beings…”.

But there is something loose in this in wanting to be consumed by an experience — to be submitted to the sea, to see a god, to be possessed — to give over to someone else to drive what’s in you that your hands can’t ladle out.

Which is similar to a poem published by our (and everyone else’s) fave, Kaveh:


Kaveh is, as always, the best. Here he’s talking about his letting slip of the reins, and hoping someone else with pick them up. Here the request isn’t to be consumed by a moment of divinity and to feature in their story which would tie them to some grand and cosmic point. Here, instead, is the request for:

“God to slider into my head quickly before I do.”

Which apart from be entirely perfect, is about a self in competition with a god to drive the poet. Kaveh is living the moment and not struggling for divinity, and instead this invocation is about a race to possess the body to tell the story.

After all:

“It’s difficult to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having”

Both are looking for their place in the world to have some meaning and that for the stories they tell to have a weight beyond their own existence.


This week I discovered that there is new Four Tet:



Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own #41 — it’s my birthday today (20th October), I am becoming like a well worn pebble in the stream of life (perfectly spherical). Feel free to try and skim me across the lake, at your earliest convenience. You can read old issues of ETTO here. You can read about my life as a dwarf here. You can tell me about typos here. If you would like to climb inside my head before I do, or take me to the beach to see gods ascend, feel free to reply to this email.

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