I Have Discovered Mythopoeia!

Although I’m not entirely sure I know how to pronounce it. I’ll have to find out before I start flashing it around in public.


I was shocked to discover an indigenous population inhabiting my newly discovered conceptual landscape. I thought it was all mine, but apparently a whole host of amazing writers, including many of most favourite, had made it there before me. Upon consideration I decided this was a good thing, the sign of the promised land is that all the people you like are there.

I think mythopoeia is the ideal I am struggling to achieve in writing. Almost everything I have ever written has been in someway related to myth, either born from, commentary on or trying to become. ‘Mythopoeic thought’, the pre-rational dreamtime that the ancient myths sprang from, is much what I think a reader experiences when they ‘escape’ into a really great book.

I’m gathering material under the title ‘Urban Mythos’ at the moment, a kind of alternative ‘Just So’ stories for the urban world. I’ve lived in urban environments of one kind or another for my entire life, and the longer I do so the more I realise they just don’t have any sense. I’m fascinated by the ways people mytholigise urban environments to try and make sense of their chaos, from cyberpunk writers like Bill Gibson, to urban sports like skateboarding and parcor that literaly transform the physical environment. I think theres a story in this stuff somewhere, if I can just dig it out.

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

4 thoughts on “I Have Discovered Mythopoeia!

  1. I’m excited that you have discovered mythopoeia. Jay’s right about the pronunciation, though I would add that the stress goes on the next-to-last syllable. (Here’s an audio file: [tinyurl.com/2ao5qu].) I had a similar, overwhelming experience a few years ago when I discovered the same thing.

    C.S. Lewis has this to say about such moments: “Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest … which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure … ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one'” (Four Loves, Friendship).

    I have added your site to my feed reader, and I look forward to hearing how mythopoeia changes your life.

    Take care,

    (PS: You may also hear people pronounce it mith-o-PAY-ic.)


  2. Hi Randy,

    Fantastic! I’ll take that as my pronunciation from now on.

    The relationship between Lewis and Tolkien must have been a very special one to have produced two such powerful mythic writings. I do tend to believe neither Narnia or Middle Earth would have been quite the same without the other.

    Thanks for taking the time to coment, I’ll be sure to look in on your website.


  3. Hey Damien,

    Yeah, it’s a sparsely populated but dense place, and it has long, long roots. I wrote an MA investigating the ‘underworld’ of the urban environment, which comprised a piece of creative writing (consciously mythopoeic, if that’s entirely possible) and an accompanying philosophical exegesis (chock full of references to the kinds of thinkers who have helped to map the territory, as it were, like Freud and Jung, Levi-Strauss, Eliade, Campbell etc.). I’d be glad to send it your way if you’re interested – as far as i know it’s a unique hybrid of academic research and creative writing in this particular genre.

    Enjoy your travels across the psychic landscape, Geoff.



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