Endorsements & Reviews
Reviewed by Margaret Fedder , November 3, 2015
Those looking for a fresh way to approach self-help would do well to engage with this volume.
The Everywhere Oracle, by Caryl Ann Casbon, is a unique offering that combines poetry with exploratory questions intended as a guide to personal understandings of the pieces within. Also included are suggestions for how to conduct a group session or circle that employs Casbon’s poetry as a means of supporting others on their spiritual paths.
Casbon’s poems are clear and direct with lines laced with images of the natural world. The herd of female elk in “Wintering Through on the Seventh Hole” and the frogs croaking in “Summer’s Time Keepers” are memorable, as are the haunting—but somehow also inspiring—moments that illuminate life on the prairies of Saskatchewan.
What the pieces collected here do best, however, is open doors of exploration. Casbon’s subject matter—and the language she addresses it in—is easily relatable, with little that is too complex or difficult to comprehend. And that’s the intent: for poems about change, about aging, about the nature of being, about soul and spirit to lead others to their own deeply held feelings about these same things.
There are questions at the book’s end for each poem; individuals or groups working with the volume are asked to reflect on their answers and then journal their responses. One question following the piece “Crossroads of the Emergent Self,” for example, reads, “When you read this poem, does a ‘shape shifting’ time come to mind from your own life?” Casbon gets even more specific, with questions that ask about clearing out the garage, about the holidays, about the body.
These specifics, however, often become metaphor. Being asked to consider the clutter in the garage is also to be prompted to wonder about what we hold onto within ourselves that we could let go of. Similarly, “slip[ping] into warm waters” leads to a question about cleansing and purifying our inner lives. These accompanying questions—and the self-knowledge they inspire—greatly enrich the experience of Casbon’s poetry.
The Everywhere Oracle’s uniqueness as a book of both poetry and spiritual guidance is most certainly its greatest appeal. Those looking for a fresh way to approach self-help would do well to engage with this volume, as would any group or circle working to manifest soulfulness in the modern world.
FROm The center for courage and renewal
AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS, MARCH, 2016
The Everywhere Oracle: A Guided Journey through Poetry for an Ensouled World
by Caryl Ann Casbon
Deadwood, OR: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2015 142 pages, GBP£9.53, USD$14.99
Reviewed by Karen L. Erlichman
A collection of soulful poetry is a gift of the spirit, and a collection of soulful poetry that also includes reflection questions for meditation and exploration is like having a spiritual companion to walk with you through every poem. Caryl Ann Casbon’s luscious collection of poetry, The Everywhere Oracle: A Guided Journey through Poetry for an Ensouled World, is this very gift.
Casbon is an author, an ordained interfaith minis- ter, a spiritual director, and a longtime educator. For the last twenty years she has
served as a leader, mentor, and
program designer for the Center
for Courage and Renewal with
its founder, Parker J. Palmer, in
Seattle, Washington, USA, and
she has also worked as the project
coordinator for the Anamcara
Project through the Sacred Art of
Living Center in Bend, Oregon,
USA. Poignancy, courage, joy, and
wonder infuse her writing.
The Everywhere Oracle is careful-
ly organized into two overarching
chapters with the themes of “The
Alchemy of Change” and “Poems
for the Inner Life.” Each chapter
includes three sections preceded
by a thoughtful introduction in
which she invites the reader into a
between the poems and the soul. In turn, Casbon opens every section with a short paragraph and a blessing for the reader: “As alchemists, or guardians of the Mysteries of change, we seek the Holy in the midst of disruptions, loss and transition, especially when it is painful, for therein lies the gold. While not all change means growth, there is no growth without change.... My sincerest wish is that these poems speak to you, to your soul, and your evolu- tionary relationship to the alchemy of change, close-up” (2–3).
Casbon sets the theme for each chapter and section, and like her poems, her introductory remarks lead us up the ladder to dive into the warm pool of poetry. The first chapter, “Where Time Is Calling You Now: The Alchemy of Change,” follows through a line of change across the life cycle and sets the stage for the second chapter, “To Live Inside an Ancient Rhythm: Poems for the Inner Life.” She generously shares snapshots of her own inner life and outer journey, inviting the reader to do the same. Her poems include poignant personal topics such as fam- ily, alcoholism, pilgrimage, aging, death and end-of-life, and interfaith spirituality. In the introduction to chapter 2, Casbon describes her first memory of a “Felt Presence” as a four-year-old child, and she identifies that memory as “the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the world of
the Spirit” (37).
One of the unexpected
gifts in The Everywhere Oracle is the appendix, “Reading The Everywhere Oracle with Others: A Guide for Soulful Engagement in Community,” followed by a set of reflection questions to accompany every poem in the book. The group guidelines are based on the Circle of Trust approach, developed by Palmer and the Center for Courage and Renewal. One of my favor- ite poems in the book is a short piece called “Partnership with the Unseen”: “To know how to wait for guidance / after asking, / just awhile, / like overnight, / for the clear voice of sanity / that floats in
like mist, / a soft touch on the inner skin / of your know- ing. / Partnership with the Unseen, / astonishing Grace. / An apprenticeship to the Messengers, / singing a chorus of intuition in your soul. / Divine Indwelling” (46).
One of Casbon’s accompanying reflection questions for this poem is: “Has there been a time recently when you were aware of ‘astonishing Grace’ in your life? Create a list of ‘Astonishing Grace Moments’ across your lifetime” (85). The Everywhere Oracle is more than a volume of poetry; it is a guidebook for spiritual directors and seek- ers alike. Spiritual directors, teachers, clergy, and retreat
Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction
FROM PARKER J. PALMER, AUTHOR OF LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK, THE COURAGE TO TEACH, A HIDDEN WHOLENESS, AND HEALING THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY
“Listening to and lifting up the human soul has been my life-work, and I know the power of poetry to speak the soul’s voice. So I opened Caryl Ann Casbon’s The Everywhere Oracle with high expectations, all of which were fulfilled. Casbon’s poems contain strong storylines, humor, lovely turns of irony, questions and colorful metaphors that offer windows into her soul while simultaneously inviting readers to explore their own.
Original, deceptively simple, and easily accessible, these poems celebrate the mysterious unfolding of the inner life and point towards the guidance, clarity and meaning to be found in our everyday encounters. The Reader’s Guide at the back of the book extends that celebration beyond the individual reader to fellow seekers, offering people a way to be in soulful community with each other at a time when so many are hungry for exactly that experience.”
FROM: SUSAN PLUMMER, PH.D, AUTHOR OF DEEP CHANGE: BEFRIENDING THE UNKNOWN
Calling The Oracle a book is rather a misnomer. It is more like having a living, truthful, playful and wise storyteller in your presence! You will find Caryl Ann Casbon's poems dancing off the pages into your heart, awakening new dimensions to your experiences and world that perhaps were always close at hand but just out of reach. You will laugh and cry with her, and her self-compassionate honesty will inspire you to do the same. Caryl Ann's ensouling poems and her way of making them accessible through each chapter's introduction and reflection will nurture our great longing for the truly Intimate and the truly Real.
FROM DR. RUTH SHAGOURY, MARY STUART ROGERS PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION AT LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE, AUTHOR OF 12 BOOKS ON WRITING AND LITERACY
“I am fortunate to be an early reader of Caryl Ann Casbon’s poetry. From her writing workshops to her retreat settings, when she has shared her work, her poems have resonated deeply with me and I return to them often and use them in my own writing workshops and literature classrooms. Her poems sparkle with insight and wisdom, and often, her gentle humor. Caryl’s poems are a true offering: accessible, yet with great depth that invite connections for the reader. Her poems are the kind likely to make fans out of her readers, as their subject matter deals with loss and difficult transitions, and also love and the many pleasures of the imagination.
I am grateful that she is generously offering to share her work more widely through this collection, and the added framework for those of us who choose to use them in group settings.”
FROM NANCY ILENE GUMP, MFT, PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
Caryl Casbon’s book is a find for seekers of spiritual wisdom in secular life; its pages, a satisfying interplay of shadow and light. It is deeply personal, yet universal. The poems are pearls - each one is a beauty that stands alone. Strung together they elegantly encircle a life well lived. I look forward to sharing them with my clients.