Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 21, 2013

Terry Wooten: Stone Circle celebrates 30 years

Local columnist

---- — “Fire is an old story.”

— Gary Snyder

Poetry, ritual, dance and drama ... they all have the same roots. For thousands of years, poetry was spoken around fires at night. It was used to entertain people, to teach and inform them.

All our early history (herstory), myth and ethics were transmitted orally in poems or stories. Now most everyday people have lost touch with it.

What I’m trying to do with my art and Stone Circle is bring poetry back home. There is an added power to poetry when it’s spoken rather than read. And the fire and the boulders are important elements.

You can’t sit around a fire and not want to hear stories. We’re wired that way. It’s in our DNA.

Nobody really knows why ancient people built stone circles. But I know why I built mine. It was for folks to gather and listen to poems, songs and stories in a special place, where the words are the focus.

You don’t have to be a great poet to speak at Stone Circle, but you can be. In a circle there is no first or last. It’s like having a work of art in the meadow behind our house, and it comes alive on summer Saturday nights.

This summer, to celebrate our 30th anniversary, a film crew from Barcelona, Spain will show up to shoot a documentary on Stone Circle’s influence and future. The big filming nights will be August 10 and 17. NMC instructor Steve Quick and students will be doing the sound recording.

My wife and I have made many friends the last three decades; both poets and audience members. Stone Circle alumni from around the globe are returning to perform and be interviewed, or just to listen. If you’re interested, please come and join us.

An old friend from my pre-Stone Circle days, writer, poet and filmmaker Patrick Pfister, will be the director. Along with films, Patrick has published two books of short stories by Academy Chicago Publishers about his travels around the world. This month he has a collection of poetry, “El Camino and Other Travel Poems,” being released by Literary Laundry Press.

Patrick is a very fine writer, though he doesn’t recite his poems by heart like I do.

I’m a performance poet, but I dwell in a writing room full of books. We’ll be spending a lot of creative time together on the Stone Circle film this summer.

Below is sampler of Patrick’s work. “Nomad” is from a more recent collection.


Nomad (Barcelona)

A man pitches a cardboard tent

onto the pharmacy’s marble threshold.

He sleeps next to four asphalt lanes

that are all accelerator and no brake

while his shopping cart waits nearby

like a faithful donkey.

From stone balconies, curtained eyes

peak down into his dreams

of rolling steppes and flying deer.

Until the moon glows in marble

for the first time.

Days later, a neighbor tapes an obituary

to the trash container

he foraged through every night.


Afoot and Lighthearted

(El Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage)

We love the Camino.

We want to walk it forever.

We love how tiny puddles spray

freshness up into us.

We love the Sun on our backs

and the Moon in our eyes,

and we walk between them,

wondering what is breath

and what is wind.

We love how the world is for us.

We feel part of it all.

We want to walk until we are not

who we were,

or who we thought we were;

we want to walk forever.

We love the Camino, and

what is it but a light we once knew

and cannot forget?

We want to walk to the end,

to the world’s end,

and plant a seed

in a field of stars.


Mekong Ferry (Vietnam)

No one says a word.

They chew sticky rice and watch

the water buffalo watching them,

their ebony eyes rooted

somewhere beneath their bodies.

Fishing nets hang from branches,

thin curtains veiling thick forests.

Still no one speaks.

At mud villages we land

and offload catfish, poppy seeds,

lotus buds and rosewood.

Saffron parasols

shield the stone Buddhas

at Luang Prabang.

One by one we disembark

in a silence

older than the trees.