Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I appreciated reading your response to the Poet from Missoula who queried about the efficacy of poetry advice columns, especially the one in The Paris Review. I appreciated your response and agree with you whole-hardheartedly — whatever works! Just because we’re poets doesn’t mean that we should all die on bar stools.I do however take umbrage at your provocative yet passionate sentiment that,

“Anyone seeking solace for personal problems should go to a real therapist to feel better, and not to a fake poet-therapist dispensing advice without a license, when that poet (because he or she or they are a poet, after all) is likely just as screwed up and confused as the poor person crying out for a nice, fuzzy poem to chill their nerves.”

I am a poet with a shingle— a.k.a. “a fake poet-therapist dispensing advice without a license.” (Not to be confused with poets with shingles.) And I think you are mis-understanding our purpose in the world.

I am a poet who has entered the despised and fraught business of being a mindbody coach who integrates hypnosis, energy healing, and life coaching for souls in need of anti-therapy. I am, in the words of Patricia Smith, “a white woman schooled in the Coo.”

How did this happen? Long story short: The halls of academia sequestered me to teach Comp 101 classes for the rest of my life because I neglected to get a PhD (back in the 90s, studying with Robert Creeley, Susan Howe, and Charles Bernstein — none of whom have PhD’s— it seemed possible that the path for a poet could be forged through writing poetry, teaching poetry, and hanging out in bars with poets. In other words, I missed the sign of the times which clearly read: Poetry=PhD or BUST!) I have a kid, and a house, and a dog —Academia did not give me a home in which to nourish my craft (in the Occult sense). So, I invented my own school of Hypno-poeia. I could not stop writing poetry. And, I had to make a living somehow!!

Here’s why poets with shingles are not to be feared:

1) You think poets are fucked up? Well let me tell you that after having hung around them for the past ten years, therapists are equally fucked up. You think that because someone has a PhD that they aren’t manipulating their way through life with their so-called skills? We are all fucked up!! This society is beyond fucked up! No one is sane! So stop looking for sanity. It doesn’t exist.

2) Being a poet means I am really good with language—and therapy is first and foremost about language. (Oh — you thought therapy was about your problems? Without language, your problems are somatic, unconscious, and beneath the structural surface of the world.) In my case, I was schooled by L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e and if I took away anything from the unreadable (oh, I mean “unintelligible” theories of the 90s, it was that the “reader” is activated when language is ambiguous. Enter hypnosis — language that takes people to a place “beyond language” where a whole different mind wakes up and helps solve problems. Why not go to someone who actually understands your penchant for out-thinking every one of your thoughts?

3) Poets with shingles do not charge $300/hour to sit across from you and nod. The more degrees a person has, the further they sit from the actual body they are supposed to be healing. Have you noticed that?

4) Poets with shingles are the new trend in holistic health care as more and more of us are thrust from the halls of academia into the hinterland, the fringe, the land of unchartered possibility in order to create worlds in which imagination is in alignment with love. Isn’t that what poetry is supposed to be doing?

5) Poets with shingles are taking on the very lonely and deeply unappreciated political task of rescuing Eros (creative, life-force energy which every human is born with) from the assholes on the political right who have sequestered that energy into “positive thinking” and “positive psychology” and the word “positive” in general.

Their approach: “think positive and pretend the structures that support racism, homophobia, sexism, and class divisions aren’t real. It’s all in your power!”

Our approach: “the structures that support racism, homophobia, sexism and class divisions are real. In order to survive, fight, and maybe even thrive you need to protect your body and keep your mind in alignment with your chi, your inner goddess, your life-force, your woo, your kundalini, your mojo. There are a lot of words for it — what’s yours? Whatever it is, don’t let them take it away from you!!”

I’ll think of more reasons for you to embrace Poets with Shingles! In the meantime, there are a lot of us who are alone on our own little islands in the middle of the ocean where tortured souls reach out for a raft that does not involve medication or “advice.” We lead them into the trance of super-consciousness. We do our best.

That said, if you have any advice for me, I’d love to hear it! It’s lonely out here sometimes.

Kristin Prevallet

Poet, Educator, Conceptual artist, Mindbody Coach

P.S. If this is a correspondence that you find of interest, I’ll send you a copy of my book Trance Poetics. I would welcome your thoughts.