Jan 20

Blot Lit Reviews: The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction for Beginners by Michael Gillan Maxwell

parttime shaman
The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction for Beginners, Michael Gillan Maxwell
Unknown Press, 2015
Reviewed by Julie Demoff-Larson

You know when you really like something you are reading when it inspires you to find out more. It’s like  when you discover a bit of knowledge, something that intrigues you, and set sets you on a journey. Your  own personal journey back to a simpler time. Back to your youth before you learned all the bullshit you  need to unlearn. This is exactly where Michael Gillan Maxwell takes his audience in his collection of poetry and art found in The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction for Beginners.

In Maxwell’s “Opening Incantation,” he begins with a little tongue-in-cheek, take what I am about to tell you lightly banter, reminding us that our gods and “spirit guides” are really just commercialism dictated and born from hours of viewing pleasure decided and predestined by the hands of marketing geniuses. And according to Maxwell this is obviously established at an early age as he states:

“Tonto,Twinkle Toes and Tinker Bell,
the heebie-jeebies, creapy crawlies
things that go boomp in the night
the spirits of language and radical receptivity
step into the light and guide us”

Yet, at the same time he reminds us that what is in the Handbook are inate ideas that can be traced as  far back as we can “take our first thought and follow down the Byzantine maze until we no longer recognize it as ours.”

Broken up into Exercises, Maxwell simply lays it all out on the page, poignantly stating what needs to be done to live, love, succeed, and give well. He covers all the essential lessons to living the life of a “shaman”–which is to say anyone and everyone can do this, no need to be an actual shaman. Maxwell takes us back to our youth when we all kind of kept it simple. Take “Exercise 6-Things To Do Before Going To Bed” for example:

“Walk down to the lake in a blizzard
leave poems in public places
Make up your own words
turn off your cellphone
Make nonsense noises
chant incantations
Take photographs
Bang on a drum

This youthful message spreads. It is infectious because the message isn’t just for ourselves but to share with others. Maxwell says to “Go to Walmart, smile at the cashier. Buy a pencil from a blind man, adopt a highway, help a  punk rocker cross the road with a chickn stapled to his chest.” By god, “Put more effort into figuring things out.” Can I get an Amen to that? And we shouldn’t just let the words sit there on the page and stiffen from our lack of action. Poetry exists to move us into a new place and Maxwell’s theme throughout is pretty
apparent when he offers this little ditty in one of the many untitled prose pieces scattered throughout the collection:

“Message in my Fortune cookie: Wake up, pay attention, celebrate small things.”

There is a lot to take from Michael Gillan Maxwell’s The Part Time Shaman, and if renewel doesn’t interest you or simplifying your life in this mad ass world, then pick it up for the vibrant art work that has delighted my color whore needs. And if that doesn’t make you happy, Maxwell offers a wonderful money back guarentee…but not without something in return from you.

1 comment

  1. John Hammer Maxwell

    Hey Judy, thanks for the insightful review of a must own and then of course, read, book from a master wordsmith. His art work spread throughout is pretty cool, too. Michael is my cousin so I can tell you all this talent is just genetics. But I am glad he shares it. I only wish everyone would embrace this lovely little book. It can only make things better.

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