PERSONAL: Born in Kansas City, MO; daughter of Russell W., Sr. (an attorney) and Joanne (a professor of music) Baker; married Roderick Townley (a writer), February 15, 1986; children: Grace. Ethnicity: "English/Swedish." Education: Purchase College of the State University of New York, B.F.A. (dance).
ADDRESSES: Office—P.O. Box 13302, Shawnee Mission, KS 66282. Agent—Sandy Choron, March Tenth, Inc., 4 Myrtle St., Haworth, NJ 07641. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Poet, author, and freelance writer. Yoganetics, Shawnee Mission, KS, founder and yoga instructor, 1977–.
MEMBER: Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
AWARDS, HONORS: Hackney National Literary Award in Poetry, 1998; first place, Kansas Voices Prize, 2001; poetry fellow, Kansas Arts Commission, 2002; Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement, Purchase College, 1977.
Perfectly Normal (poetry), The Smith (New York, NY), 1990.
The Breathing Field (poetry), Little, Brown and Co. (Boston, MA), 2002.
Yoganetics: Be Fit, Healthy, and Relaxed One Breath at a Time, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of monthly column "Natural Fitness" for Kansas City Wellness, and monthly column "Bodywise" for Kansas City Live; guest columnist for Ingram's and Newsweek. Contributor of several hundred articles, essays, and poems to periodicals, including Cosmopolitan, Parents, Paris Review, Orion, Midwest Quarterly, Piano and Keyboard, Yoga Journal, and Kalliope.
SIDELIGHTS: Wyatt Townley told CA: "Professionally I have straddled two worlds all my life. Besides being a poet who has spent most of her life hunting down words, I am a yoga teacher who trains minds to muscles. It has been a stretch. What does the nonverbal discipline of yoga have to do with the supremely verbal art of poetry?
"Both rely on metaphor. As yogis, our job is to put the body into a poetic state where it can move beyond its imagined limitations. The power of metaphor does this, dissolving boundaries as it describes one thing in terms of another. Simply, the body responds better to imagery than to anatomical directives. Even the names of yoga poses—tree, locust, cat, triangle, cobra—deliver the body somewhere it is not.
"In a way, writing poetry is exactly like studying yoga, a delicate balance of doing and undoing. As a poet, I'm trying to (un)do on the page what I (un)do on the mat. The goal is to disappear into the form, whether corpse pose or Petrarchan sonnet. So the task becomes one of translation, from the nameless to the named, from visceral to verbal. Like a well-executed yoga position, the poem works opposing muscles concurrently: while one muscle group surrenders (the poet's receptivity), the other contracts (the crafter 's proficiency). The simultaneous act of surrender/command places the artist in a disarmed state, yet one of natural balance.
"Ultimately, in both poetry and yoga, we want to be transported, to move and be moved beyond the confines of our little worlds. Really, these arts are forms of transportation. If the poem is worthy, with all its nuts and bolts in place, it can be as powerful as a rocket. But will it fly?
"That will be decided by each reader who rides it. While poetry and yoga are different vehicles, they take us to the same place. We're heading behind the form, behind the scenery, behind the language we've manufactured and manipulated, behind the body we've disciplined and decorated, to a wordless realm we have forgotten to remember, a depth of grace where poetry is yoga and yoga is all. We're heading home."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Yoganetics Web site, http://www.yoganetics.com/ (July 28, 2004), "Wyatt Townley."