Monday, March 4, 2013

Sustainable Creative Practice with Caroline Harvey

Guest post by Ethan Smith, Berklee College of Music Library Student Assistant, Music Business Major, Performance Poet

I first met Caroline Harvey, Berklee professor and renown performance poet, when I started attending the Berklee Poetry Club. After my first meeting, I knew that the room was a place where self-expression was encouraged and the atmosphere was the most welcoming place I had experienced since I began my Berklee career. This safe space was nurtured into being by Caroline when she first came to Berklee as an Artist in Residence and a Visiting Teacher in the Liberal Arts Department in 2009. Caroline worked with her Liberal Arts colleagues and some interested students to launch this incarnation of the Poetry Club, now called reVERB Poets. The poetry club has now existed for just over four years, and it has grown tremendously in this short amount of time thanks to Caroline's hard work and dedication to making the program a success.

Caroline recently gave a talk at the library based on her new original curriculum titled "Sustainable Creative Practice." Or in other words, how we as artists can create art from a safe space and learn how to continue our productivity throughout our careers while maintaining our physical and emotional health.

I took away many incredible life and career lessons from this event. Firstly, that "artists have a responsibility to document the human experience." This was especially revolutionary to me because in the past I myself have wondered, why am I putting so much effort into a passion that may never present itself as a career opportunity for me? Until now, I have used my work primarily to accomplish self-healing. While this is absolutely valid and a big part of what art can do for us, I've also realized that we as artists are serving and potentially inspiring others simply by sharing our stories. By documenting our own experiences, we are creating a historical timeline through our art. The same way that we look back on great artists of the past, people will someday look at today's artist's work and understand how the world was interpreted through their minds and eyes.

Caroline also has studied Buddhism faith and culture and presented to us what she calls the "Tantric Spectrum of Emotion," where love is at one end and despair at the other. She observes that humans tend to attempt to avoid despair altogether and work to stay happy all the time. And that this way of thinking does not allow for genuine art to be produced because when aspects of the human experience are ignored, we miss opportunities for expression. She states that "When we are not moving, we are not creating." This also moved me because again I was confronted with something that I had done in the past. I always thought it would be so great to be happy all the time! I now realize that no person can achieve this and if they are, they are repressing something that may come to the surface at some point and they won't know where to go from there, as they've never allowed themselves to feel despair.

Also during her presentation, Caroline spoke to us about the many parts of ourselves. She referenced the work of Dr. Richard Schwartz, the creator of a therapeutic modality called Internal Family Systems. She talked about our moods and inner voices, and how one part of self may attempt to be at the forefront of our mind or behavior, and we may feel ruled or "hijacked" by our different parts/emotions, depending on the day. She encouraged us to regularly identify the parts of ourselves so that when something does come to the surface-- an emotion, a desire, a memory-- we are aware of its presence and won't be taken by surprise, therefore giving us the ability to make choices and not feel blindly overwhelmed by a roller coaster of emotion. I believe this is an incredible tool for an artist to have. We are all truly emotional beings, and identifiably more emotionally aware than those in some of other professions. I will definitely be putting this into practice, so I may learn to keep myself under control, make healthier choices about how I live and create, and also know when it's appropriate to let loose in a healthy way.

I have learned a lot from Caroline Harvey simply by being around her as I've become more involved in slam poetry, and especially since she spoke at this event! I feel I've learned things that will stay with me and become tools that I can relate to my experience as an artist. I appreciate Caroline coming and sharing with us things she has learned through research and experience so that we all may become more sustainably creative throughout our careers as artists.

To read Caroline's full biography and see her work, got to

Some resources from which Caroline has studied and have impacted her work are available in the  Stan Getz Library:

Poets on Prozac: mental illness, treatment, and the creative process. Berlin, Richard M.
Call# RC451.4 .A7 P54 2008

To be an artist: musicians, visual artists, writers, and dancers speak. Colatosti, Camille
Call# BF408 .C65 2012

Yoga for emotional balance: simple practices to help relieve anxiety and depression. Forbes, Bo
Call# RA781.7 .F67 2011

Touched with fire: manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament. Jamison, Kay R.
Call# PD JAM1993 (CDC)

Musician's yoga: a guide to practice, performance, and inspiration. Olson, Mia
Call# ML3820 .O47 M8 2009

Creativity and disease: how illness affects literature, art, and music. Sandblom, Philip
Call# R702 .S26 1995

The 27s: the greatest myth of rock & roll. Segalstad, Eric
Call# ML394 .S44 2008

The creative habit: learn it and use it for life. Tharp, Twyla
Call# BF408 .T43 2006

1 comment:

  1. Watch this library session here: