One Word
Works: A One Word Podcast
WORKS | Ep. 3
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-58:24

WORKS | Ep. 3

Brian Funke shares a poem and reflection; we talk about the joy in consistency and the power of failure.
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Hey everyone,

Welcome to Episode 3 of WORKS, the One Word podcast where I share a piece from an artist I admire, and then we sit down to talk about it.

Today, we’re sitting down with Brian Funke, the poet behind Poetry and Process. What strikes me about Brian’s work is that he’s so comfortable sharing the inner workings — the themes and reasons why a poem came about — to his audience.

This is no small thing. I am often terrified of doing this! It’s as if peaking in the oven would make the entire cake disappear.

Below, you’ll find an original poem by Brian, followed by his “Reflection” essay that dives into the process, layers, and meaning behind the poem.

Enjoy.

You said: A poem

0:00
-1:35
Tonight,
as I pull
the lamp chain
I am moved
from the dark to
the light
surrounding
my aloneness
because
you
were there.

We walked
sunny January streets
with egos in hand,
and I saw
yours slip
from your grasp
when your hand moved
to loosen your
buttoned coat
and a confession,
Joy,
floated from
your now free chest
through unchoked throat,
climbed to your lips,
a hope
and a blessing
misting the air,
settling into
our pockets
and lungs.

Your word
was life,
a moment
inviting me
to toss
ego aside
without regard,
and reciprocate
with trust
who I am.

The heavy weight
of truths escaped
created no burden,
just a reminder
to unhurry our stride
and breathe
who we really are
deep into every
corner of our
body of friendship,
relationship made
through honest expression
and felt experience,
a simple exchange
of sound and breath,
the foundation
for creating
a life
of joy.

You said: A reflection

Whether through effort or flow, lived experience is the foundation for beautiful art. Even more important, living fully into our experience is the best foundation for life.

Process

Sometimes an artist sits down to create with an idea already percolating to the surface ready to be sipped. These are lovely events that can leave the artist full of inspiration and confidence. However, in my experience, the creation of art is more often a tenuous process, one of self-examination, self-doubt, wondering how to start, and believing that what we created in the past was a fluke.

This is why dedication to craft is critical, even when we are not sure where the keyboard or brushstroke will take us, and especially when we are struggling with doubt or frustration. Working during those moments and letting what will come arrive as it wants to allows the artist to not only create an expansive repertoire but could serve as inspiration for the next project, even if the project of today is not something that will ever leave them satisfied. The raw experience of creating with consistency will serve as fuel for moments of unbridled inspiration.

Living is a form of creation that we all participate in, whether it is in creating relationship, experience, or a product. How we walk through our life, even when we are not in the overt act of creation, influences the quality of what we create. Being open, mindful, and vulnerable in our day-to-day lives provides a detailed awareness that builds the ability to examine our recent lived experience in our art and is often the fuel for our most genuine creation. How close we are to those moments, whether the amount of time elapsed between an occurrence and sitting to work, or providing ourselves honesty about a situation, matters when it comes to portraying one moment in time in a truthful and beautiful way.

I wrote this poem in January of 2023 after an everyday walk with a close friend. It was a relatively warm late afternoon with no clouds and low sun casting long shadows. As it was shortly after the start of a new year, the conversation centered around the future and our desires for it. There was meaningful discussion about work, kids and marriage, and what we wanted to continue, improve or leave behind. The conversation went long enough that deeper themes were beginning to emerge but were not directly expressed, until my friend dove in and moved the conversation to an underlying current that what he was seeking was to touch joy frequently in the midst of an everyday life full of challenge, demands and struggle.

It was a very honest and vulnerable expression, and a brave step that opened my ability to be vulnerable in exchange. Up to this point, only two or three people knew I had started writing poetry, even though I had been writing for two years. To share this new hobby felt threatening for me as it was something raw that lacked polish, and I have always been one to want to only show the polished sides. My friend’s moment of honesty served as the catalyst for something in me to move, and to share not only that I had begun writing but to ask if I could share a few pieces with him, as a way to help him learn more about who I am.

This poem is the story of that walk and that conversation. The piece was written over four days, and I promptly sent it, along with another poem I had written the preceding summer, to my friend. His response was entirely made of encouragement and wonder. The result was I felt seen and we both walked away from this series of moments knowing each other better than we did before. Sustainable things grow slowly, whether it is a personal project, a relationship, or the ability to tap into joy in a moment’s notice. Whatever it is that we desire to grow, let’s take a small step of vulnerability to bring it into being today. Let what comes from it come, and tomorrow, take the next small step. Remain open and honest and watch as something beautiful emerges.

Themes

Tonight,
as I pull
the lamp chain
I am moved
from the dark to
the light
surrounding
my aloneness
because
you
were there.

The first stanza explores the experience of turning off a lamp as the evening winds down. We see someone who is lying down to sleep, and as they turn off their lamp, even though they are cast into a dark room, their being is moved into a bright place because of their experience with a friend earlier that day.

The poem could stop here as this meaning is too important to overlook. Our modern world is one where we are very connected through our work and technology, but growing counts of people report feeling isolated and alone. We fear deep connection. We have lost contact with local communities that we used to spend our entire lives in as our global mobility has increased. We do not know where to go to find a close friendship, and when one carries potential, we lack the patience to build a close relationship. Once formed, we lack the resilience to suffer through a hardship that will inevitably come in any long-standing relationship.

Among these challenges that appear more chronic than ever in our modern world, this stanza brings a message that one relational interaction in any day can move someone into a place that is illuminated. One moment can be a strong place to build a friendship from.

We walked
sunny January streets
with egos in hand,
and I saw
yours slip
from your grasp
when your hand moved
to loosen your
buttoned coat
and a confession,
Joy,
floated from
your now free chest
through unchoked throat,
climbed to your lips,
a hope
and a blessing
misting the air,
settling into
our pockets
and lungs.

Your word
was life,
a moment
inviting me
to toss
ego aside
without regard,
and reciprocate
with trust
who I am.

What is it that keeps us from connection? While there is not just one answer, when we package it together, we can name it Ego. Fearing a wound to our ego prevents us from speaking honestly, asking a big question, and offering our whole self to another. It is the limiting factor when it comes to our ability to connect with others.

Any loosening of our grip on the ego is a step toward a more relational life. There are many intentional practices that can help us let go, such as journaling, meditation, and walking in nature among others. Whatever our practices are, there are also times where we inadvertently set our ego down, or in this case, it may slip from your grasp. When these happen, some of the most beautiful moments of spontaneous revelation may follow. If it occurs in the company of others, deep connections are poised to form, with an invitation to continue the walk into this newfound place. We can cling to the connection with the other instead of some story about ourselves that we trap in our mind.

The act of setting the ego aside is a generous act in the giving of yourself and a gesture that invites a reciprocal opening from the other. When we hold a secret or feel closed off to the world and encounter someone who stands open, we are more inclined to let go of the weight of that secret. Vulnerability begets vulnerability begets vulnerability.

The heavy weight
of truths escaped
created no burden,
just a reminder
to unhurry our stride
and breathe
who we really are
deep into every
corner of our
body of friendship,
relationship made
through honest expression
and felt experience,
a simple exchange
of sound and breath,
the foundation
for creating
a life
of joy.

Maintaining a private life that was designed to be shared is a heavy burden. To not share life with others allows our mind to run away unchecked with worse case scenarios and rumination. What we see in the final stanza is that when spoken, what felt like heavy weight transforms in the air. Instead of burden, a posture of presence (unhurry) and lightness (breathe) exist.

From this, two pictures of relationship are drawn. We hear of a third body, which is the entity that is alive between the two individuals, something that has a being of its own. We explore a foundation, one that is deep as a strong foundation must be, but curiously not made of concrete or stone but of sound and breath, both things that are fleeting and cannot be held in our grasp. It is this third being, the foundation that is light and has a life of its own, that can be a source of the joy sought by my friend that initiated the intimate exchange.

In closing

I hope this poem provides encouragement to invest in the relationships you have and to take the brave step to form new ones as you walk through life. Wherever we are on the introvert/extrovert scale, none of us are meant to walk alone. The effort that goes into building friendships will be worth it. I am continuously amazed that when I spend time with people who are willing to open up, I never regret the time spent with them. Even when I considered cancelling a gathering because I was tired, stressed, or felt like doing one of a thousand other things, once I have settled into the time, the life it brings is astounding.

May you be surrounded by connections of joy.

-Brian


Thanks for listening to the WORKS podcast. Make sure to check out Brian’s publication — he has a very welcoming community there and it’s a great place to talk about poetry or just vibe to Brian’s poems.

See you on the next one,

-T

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One Word
Works: A One Word Podcast
I'm Taegan, the filmmaker behind One Word, a series that documents my life one word at a time.
Every episode of Works, I share a work from an artist I admire, and then we sit down and talk about it. But our conversation can lead into topics such as: writing process, parenthood, being an artist in a digital world, and much more.
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Taegan MacLean
Brian Funke