Michael Hurley's Pre-Retirement Rant
(Yes, my shelf life expires 20 January 2018. Grief counsellors are standing by.)
"Never give someone a sword who hasn't learned to dance."
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift..
Be here now.
Weird & wonderful experiences as a crazy, footloose 19-& 20-year-old escapee from the Matrix and The Hunger Games, hitchhikin' across Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal & Rivendell tilled the ground for what would become my greatest interests as a prof: Canadian literature/film/music & World lit/film/music. Who knew? I guess travel is still in the cards for the doc: Maui as well as New York have been recent destinations, and I’ve had the good fortune to study with shamans from Peruvian, Tibetan and Anishinaabe traditions. And Alberta has been calling lately, so my courses & my life journey still dovetail nicely.
During my '06-'07 sabbatical, I went out to Calgary to represent RMC/CMR at the service for the late Capt. Nichola Goddard (a passionate English major who was a delight in class). After retracing Nichola's forays into the Rockies, I journeyed from Montreal to Paris, Rome, Athens, Crete (you gotta go there) & Egypt. I also accompanied the 2009 Battlefield Tour of Europe as "poet-in-residence" (or in-transit). These days, back from a 6-month sabbatical, I’ve been working with shamans in both the Peruvian and local Anishinaabe lineages as well as folks like palliative careworker/author/Orphan Wisdom School founder Stephen Jenkinson and, as always, spiritual trailblazers Ram Dass & Krishna Das. Ripples from these & other expeditions (including ones courtesy of meditation & yoga) will doubtless find their way into my poetry & stuff as well as into the classroom here at Hogwarts--where I hope to meet you one day.
It doesn't seem to hurt cadets who will serve this country at home and abroad to look through the window that art offers into our own mindset & culture, not to mention that of, say, Afghanistan, Iran, Africa, or that fascinating region of the globe, Central & South America (and Trump's America). Anyway, here's how one of our greatest writers, someone I've invited here four times to date--Margaret Atwood, married to a former CMR cadet & general's son--weighs in on the matter: "If writing and reading novels have any redeeming social value, it's probably that they force us to imagine what it's like to be somebody else. Which, increasingly, is something we all need to know."Gibson is the primary lens through which I ponder Southern Ontario Gothic novelists from Atwood to Urquhart in my forthcoming book (in which I pay homage to former students). I’d have no clue re any of this had not the prescient and gifted Dianna Symonds convinced a very reluctant grad student to take James Reaney’s “Ontario Literature and Culture” course way back in the 70s when such a course title and aspiring writers like Alice Munro, Atwood, Gibson & co. regularly drew dismissive laughs. How things change…
My colleagues in both the academic & military wings of this university tell me it's crucial to establish one's credibility at the outset of blurbs such as this, so let me note that I've been eminently prepared to cope with day-to-day life at RMC thanks to occasional stints as a stand-up comic and amateur clown & a cartoonist, as well as being the spiritual runt at retreats led by Tibetan lamas, Buddhist monks & nuns, Hindu pujaries, Sufi whirling dervishes, Zen fools & wise aboriginal Elders conducting sweat lodges. Did I mention psychiatrists contacting me to do my schtick or present my poems as therapy for folks? How could I not end up teachin' poetry to the military?
I specialize in the play of the Imagination, especially as it manifests in the following: Canadian literature & art; world literature from Afghanistan to Zaire; 20th-century & contemporary writing; the planet's sacred scriptures & mystical writings.
Poets have unimpeded access to intuition and imagination, two faculties our military needs today to develop in order to think outside the box and to survive in an era of irregular warfare…It's amazing how many bad generals don't read poetry and how many good ones do. -His Excellency John Raulston Saul, RMC/CMR, 4-5 Feb., 2004
Current research or projects
The University of Regina Press will publish my 350-page manuscript focusing on the novels of Graeme Gibson in the context of Southern Ontario Gothic, as Margaret Atwood calls it. I recently completed three 10,000-word articles: on Margaret Atwood’s last three works; Steven Heighton’s latest novel The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep; on The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens. I’d like to write articles on the following: Al Purdy's casual, humorous, even funky poetry expressing spiritual insight while keeping "religion" at arm's length; the writings of one of the most quoted Canadians of the 20th century, Northrop Frye, on yoga, mindfulness, meditation & all things Zen, mystical & magical.
Recent media appearances and publications
- TVO's The Agenda With Steve Paikin ("Ontario Writers") 3 June 2015
- Poetry & short stories: "The Crazy Wisdom of Grandma Nuthin'," "Grandmother Moon," and "Old Granny in K-Town" in The Wisdom of Old Souls. Ed. Bonita Summers. Kingston: Hidden Brook Press, 2008.
- "AnorHexia" The Inspired heart: Edition 3. Ed. Melinda Cochrane. London: Melinda Cochrane International, 2014.
- "Goddess" and "Poem for Andrea" in The Inspired Heart: Edition 2. Ed. Bruce Kauffman. London: Melinda Cochrane International, 2013.
- "Poem for Al Purdy," That Not Forgotten. Ed. Bruce Kauffman. Kingston: Hidden Book Press, 2012.
- "James Hillman's Acorn," in 'Scapes, Poetry & Company: A Kingston Community Anthology. Ed. Diane Dawber. Kingston: Hidden Brook Press, 2007.
- Critical article: "Negotiating with the Dead, the Living Dead, and Assorted Canadian Monsters: Graeme Gibson's Fiction within the Context of Southern Ontario Gothic." Australasian Canadian Studies. Vol. 24, No. 2, 2007.
- Conference paper: "Male Communication Patterns: The Expression/Repression Dichotomy." The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy Conference. Kingston. 2009.
"How does one teach poetry to the military?...How did Hurley's style evolve? 'It came naturally,' he says with a laugh. He came to RMC in 1988, invited by the chairman of the department. He never teaches the same class twice. He goes in with a general idea of what he wants to cover and takes his cues from the class. 'There is structure in form and design, because that is my discipline, but it is also responsive to the moment. I have to be present at where they are, where I am at and what the book asks of us at that point. It's the Zen of teaching,' he says.
Although he jokes about teaching poetry to the military, he takes it seriously and has been aghast at recurring suggestions over the years at the college that the humanities need to be cut back to fill more of a service function, like teaching students how to write memos. Hurley feels it's vital to humanize the warriors and peacekeepers we send out in our name, sensitizing them to the ethical, moral, intellectual, spiritual and practical issues raised in literature.
His proudest moment was when he received his award for teaching excellence. As he walked up to the stage at convocation, the cadets rose to salute him-the long-haired yin to their close-cropped yang-in front of thousands of parents, generals and the defense minister of the time. -"Passion & Preparation: Top Teachers in Action." Kingston Life Magazine. Winter 2002/03
Read more about Dr. Hurley in his self-titled interview in e-Veritas: "A Poet and an Eccentric Prof."
Courses taught by Michael Hurley
- ENE331/333 World Literature (331: Central & South America, the Caribbean, Africa; 483: Afghanistan, Iran, India, Nepal, Tibet, Australia, New Zealand)
- ENE350/352 Canadian Literature and Film
- ENE210 Reading the Contemporary World
- ENE100/110 Introduction to Literary Studies and University Writing Skills