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A Way of Seeing

Perception, Imagination, and Poetry

John Allison

160 pp.  

Lindisfarne Books


Published:  May 2003


We usually think of imagination as a fanciful, whimsical faculty that has little to do with reality and truth. This beautifully written book by the Australian poet John Allison shows how ordinary imagination can be intensified to become an organ of cognition—a path of development to real knowing.

Allison shows how poetry—poetic knowing and seeing—can reveal aspects of the world invisible to science. Three lucid chapters describe the path to true imagination, where attention is the key. First we must practice it, then we must become aware of the processes involved in it. Learning to experience “poise,” we must come to terms with the shadow—or all that says “No” in us. The combination of attention, equanimity, and assent opens the world in a new way.

Allison then examines how poets have actually developed and practiced the kind of “deep seeing” that “image work” involves. For this he draws on William Shakespeare, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Novalis, John Ruskin, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Octavio Paz. The author concludes with a sequence of his own poems that exemplify the philosophy and practice he has developed.

  • Preface: “A Way of Seeing”
  • One: “Developing Imagination”:
  • Attending to Attentiveness
  • Experiencing Poise
  • Developing Imagination
  • Owning the Shadow
  • Getting It
  • Two: “Poets and Imagination”:
  • Freeing Imagination from Fancy
  • Negative Capability
  • Deep Seeing
  • Instress and Inscape
  • Heartwork
  • Three: “The Poetic Image”:
  • Another Way of Seeing Things
  • Four: “Seeing Things”:
  • Living in the World
  • Connections
  • Three Portals of Imagination
  • Otanerito Triptych: Crossings
  • Indwelling the Overlap
  • Catlins Gateway
  • Reflected Light
  • Seeing Things II

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