Song of Ourself
VOICES IN UNISON
Photographs by Emma Hunter
Inspired by their participation in a creative writing course led by acclaimed author
Martha Beck, 138 women from five continents came together to assemble an anthology of their work—searingly personal and soaringly universal—that, as a whole, offers a portrait of being and a platform for belonging. Song of Ourself: Voices in Unison is a diary of empowerment, a guidebook to overcoming strife, an ode to the overlooked, and a bridge to the beyond. More than anything else, it is a friend to any reader in need.
Arranged into stages of Awakening, Becoming, and Connecting, this collection traces the transformation from the individuality of “myself” to the reciprocity of “ourself,” proposing an ideal of oneness and the paradigm shift necessary to attaining it. Featuring poetry, prose, allegories, prayers, and other varieties of thinking-with-words, Song of Ourself combines lyricism and humor with heart-wrenching vulnerability. The ensemble stands as a testament to the power of language to effect personal, interpersonal, and collective change.
As a group, we are proud recipients of the Bronze Medal, General Fiction/Literature,
in the 2020 Living Now Book Awards.
"I CELEBRATE MYSELF, AND SING MYSELF,
AND WHAT I ASSUME YOU SHALL ASSUME,
FOR EVERY ATOM BELONGING TO ME AS GOOD BELONGS TO YOU."
- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
The title of this anthology derives from Walt Whitman’s famous “Song of Myself,” an existential celebration of identity and communion. At the end of the first stanza, Whitman declares oneness as his fundamental principle: “for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” The speaker throughout finds himself embedded in the experience of all—the animate and the inanimate, the living and the dead, the past and the present. Boundaries are erased; I dissolves into We; Self is recast as Ourself.
Ourself is not yet a word recognized in the English language (and was not a term Whitman used). But we felt it necessary to capture the ideal we are striving for: not an aggregate of multiple selves, but rather one shared self, expressed and vitalized through the many. This notion counters certain conventions for defining subjectivity and collectivity, but when challenging cultural norms, a new vocabulary is often needed.
The concept of ourself lies at the heart of this anthology, in content and form. While each author is recognized alongside her piece, the book as a whole is intentionally anonymous, for how can ourself bear any one constituent's name?The cover imagines the inherent relationality of being as an interconnected web, and we sequenced the texts to bring out repetitions, mirrors, and echoes. In a song of ourself, difference inhabits sameness. Plurality reflects unity.
What would the world look like if ourself was the model for living? This book does not answer that question, but it does invite you to join us in finding out.
Kindred Spirit, 2017
By Tracey Hewitt
Mixed media and collage on watercolor paper
OUR VALUES, YOUR BOOK
The idea for this anthology stemmed from the innocent desire for inclusion. Having seen how detrimental it can be when people feel their voices aren't worth being heard, we wanted to create something that actively challenged the hierarchical impulses that so often govern our interactions with our own self concepts, our communities, and our environment. We asked for written submissions (limited to one entry per person) and were clear from the start that every piece would be included. Over months, we worked closely as a team to collaboratively edit the texts and stitch them together such that the curated whole forms one continuous song, to which every voice contributes equally.
With inclusivity as a guiding principle for the project, we were eager that whatever we made be widely accessible. We are thrilled to share here the FREE digital edition of Song of Ourself, generously made available to the public by Dragolin Indie Press. Please download a copy and circulate as widely as you like (in accordance with copyright stipulations*)!
For information on the print edition, click here.
Cover photograph by Emma Hunter
*Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.
Any circulation of the publication, in part or in whole, must comply with all copyright law. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, for commercial use. Noncommercial uses are permitted in so far as they follow standard copyright law, including full attribution of the author(s) and publication details.
For permission requests or inquiries, please contact us.
A FEW WORDS TO LIVE BY
We will be rotating excerpts from various pieces in the anthology to give you a taste, so keep coming back for more!
The invitation is this —
Whatever the burden, wherever it came from,
carry it in your capable arms,
wrap it with your wild curiosity.
Live as if you chose it.
a note on time:
The words included in this anthology were composed in 2017 and were revised and assembled the following spring. The digital edition entered the world in June 2018, and we did not amend any text for the print publication in 2019. A lot of time has passed since the final copy was approved, and, naturally, the lives of our contributors have changed. Many details of the personal landscapes articulated in these pages do not reflect their authors' present circumstances. Nonetheless, we have decided to keep the original words we compiled in tact. Over whatever lifespan this project has, our participants will continue to change, but this book can serve as a time-capsule, a memento for us of a sacred and formative experience. That experience can never be relived, but it can be reflected back to fortify a path forward.
One author said she winced when re-reading the biography appended to her piece: by the time the book arrived in her mailbox, the words she had used to describe herself felt foreign. Still, her writing is entirely the product of who she was when she wrote it, and it now serves as a concrete marker of just how significantly her life, and sense of self, have evolved. So, for anyone who no longer identifies fully with the protagonist of their past (which is, well, everyone?), we give you this book. Dissociation invites empathy. Maybe you will see yourself in another person's story. And maybe that will help you feel less like an isolated body on a battlefield, and more like a teammate in a communal project of continuous movement and creation.
Copyright © 2019