Monthly Archives: June 2010

poets can only show us the mystery of light

Yesterday was the last meeting of the Art for Recovery Healing through Writing workshop for this spring session.  One of the prompts I offered was a list of quotes from Alice Walker’s, “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens”:

  • Only justice can stop a curse
  • Creation often needs two hearts
  • Our best poets write poetry full of holes
  • I am so tired of waiting […] for the world to become good

This was my response:

“Our best poets write poetry full of holes,” for our best poets put themselves into their poems, through their vision and lineage, the breath of their metaphor and memory, through the detail they recount and forget — they put themselves in their poems, and they know, the best poets, that we are all full of holes, that that’s where our light sines through and out, that we are imperfect and we need the connection of others to resolve and decorate us, to flush out and fill in what we can’t do ourselves.

Our best poets can only show us the mystery of light, they pull out of morning and find the starlight in dawn, they give us the echo of sparrows on an otherwise silented concrete neighborhood at 5:50am, the rizz of a passing cyclist and one downtrodden neigh borhood dog with unkempt blackbrowngrey fur and the brightest brutish face, they give us cement front lawns filled with buckets of flowers, concrete driveways with multicolored snapdragons for weeds, they show us what possibility feels like when we show up at our once-upon-a-time favorite cafe at 6am and the lights are still down, the doors still lockied, and the city blows its frigid soaking summer breath all over shivering underlayered you —

And so, because you understand about the holes, you let the cold in, you know that all the experience you can suffer or contain can only come out in your art, is all grist for the mill that is you, and you inhale deep the thick fog, you shake with lack of sleep and the drill of being alive, you watch the joggers in their tight brazen architecture, their skin that says I move too fast for the cold to catch me. You watch the streetcleaning machine make its humping wet way doiwn Divisidaro, you let the gossamer sheen of jasmine into your lungs, knowing this is all there is, and being wildly joyful.


Trauma longs for mystery but can only be its angry white self

This is from today’s Healing through Writing workshop, at the Art for Recovery center (a program of Mt. Zion’s Cancer Resource Center). The prompt was a metaphor making exercise: we created a list seven prompts, each of which contained the name of an illness, a common verb, and a noun, creating a sentence like: “trauma cries like a cow” or “breast cancer bleeds like a pen.” Here’s my write:

Trauma jumps like a star, falling over and across the page, across the sky, across through the brother and sister stars—trauma pushes open the places that weren’t supposed to be open, sheds light where before there was only an arc of black sky.

Trauma rends things, tears me, but what’s true is that after – after – I’m more open.

Here’s where I’m always left, in this reconciliation: how can it be that what was so awful could have left me a person I like now, softened, surprisable?  Something I wish never would have happened, would over and over go back in time and change if I could, and still here and now I am grateful for this one life, just as it is and was.

Trauma walks in like a gun and douses like rainbows, sets down its bags and stays awhile, lives like motion and time, names new histories than the ones you thought you were going to have had.  Trauma moves the goal posts and sings off key and drunkenly at the karaoke machine, trauma eats with its fingers and makes a mess on your clean kitchen floor. Trauma unlocks all the echoes and waits for no trains to come, it takes off at a run for the next moving car and then leaps.

Trauma longs for mystery but can only be its angry white self, trauma separates the white from the yolk and then smears everything together on the backs of your eyes, occluding all clear recollection, stopping the distance, the horizon, from coming up on you fast, stopping tomorrow from being visible at all.  Trauma lessens the possibility of memory by feeding you drinks and shouting in your ear then it’s gone and your sweltering in a cool silent room and the curtains billow in the evening shade breeze and you wonder how you got here and what this sticky stuff is on your hands and you don’t understand yet that your angry beating heart will be the one truest friend that you have for years.

Writing the Flood begins this Saturday, 6/19!

Just a reminder — this new, monthly Saturday afternoon writing space commences this coming Saturday, 6/19! This new group is in direct response to the folks who’ve been wanting a general-topic writing space — read on for more info, and then visit our Contact page to reserve a space!

Writing the Flood

Open the gates and let your writing voice flow

A half-day, open-topic writing workshop!

Third Saturday of every month

beginning Saturday, June 19, 1pm

Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long. This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice. You can expect to end the day with: a several new pieces of creative writing, feedback from your peers about what’s already strong in your new writing, and some new writerly community!.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $25-50, sliding scale. Limited to 12.

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in San Francisco in an accessible space, a half-block from BART and on many MUNI lines. Pre-registration is required — please write to jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org with questions or to register.

About your facilitator: Jen Cross is a widely published freelance writer. She’s a queer incest survivor who used writing as a transformative and integral part of her own healing process. She’s a certified AWA Facilitator, has led writing workshops with survivors since 2002, and writes with folks about trauma, sexuality, and more.

All I’ll ever do

Write write write writeThis is from the Art for Recovery/Healing through Writing workshop last Thursday — the prompt was a poem from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, (“Words For It”), and then we started with the phrases, “I wish I could take language and…” or “This is what I want my stories to do…”

This is what I want my stories to do: I want the stories to do the work for me, I want them to go back in time and change what happened, I want us to be able to breathe again.

What I want is for my stories to open me to you — I want you to see what I hide. I want you to look under the metaphors and sentences for the scraps and facts of me. I want you to see what’s left of my childhood behind that poem. I want you to welcome my badness with open arms, the way you welcome the sing-song of my lines.

I want my stories to explain things you didn’t understand about me, to straighten out your confusion and misperceptions, to unlock the doors I hide behind, keeping myself from you. The stories are a false front and yet they are everything — I’m nothing that’s not exposed there, all my facts are there, my neuroses and nurseries. I want you to quit examining me and look in my writing instead for answers, for clarification.

I’m clouded today, and drifting; as much as I want to write for other people, deep and true who I write for is me. That one audience, to explain self to self. How blissful when someone else looks in to this locked cage and seeks out a separate score of answers. We can’t find any history here, no index to this body of words, and I know I’m more than the printing on the page but this scout of expression is all I truly have time for these days.

(This isn’t making sense — I’m just trusting the process, scooping up and laying out what words my consciousness offers me, always and especially when they don’t make sense. Too much attention paid to sense-making, not enough settling the score with nonsense.)

What you don’t want to hear is how I’m not ok, how I want someone else to write this me-story, even though I know it’s only in the process of doing it that I can ever hope to discover who I actually was, and am. “I wish I could take language and” have it do its job, just one time clean and honest, convey to you what I’m really thinking. But we have to keep dancing, you and me, words and Jen. It’s all I’ll ever do.

updated contact page!

Hi all!

Thanks so much to a diligent commenter, who let me know that the Writing Ourselves Whole contact page wasn’t working! I’ve made some updates, and our “Sign Up/Contact” page is back up and running.

Thanks and looking forward to writing with you soon!
Jen

Summer workshops with Writing Ourselves Whole

(Please feel welcome to forward this information —  thank you!)

Happy June, all!  There are a bunch of writing opportunities this summer: the familiar Write Whole (for women survivors of sexual trauma) and Declaring Our Erotic workshops on Monday and Tuesday nights, respectively, and a new workshop starting Saturday, June 19: Writing the Flood, a monthly general-topic writing workshop open to all!

And see the end of the note for info about the workshop I’m offering at FEMME2010 (don’t forget to register soon!)

Contact me at jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org for more info or to sign up… I can’t wait to write with you!

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Writing Ourselves Whole Summer 2010 Workshops

This July, re-engage with your writing self!
Join us in one of our exercise-initiated and non-judgmental AWA writing workshops:

Write Whole: Survivors Write
Monday evenings, 7/12 – 8/30
Open to all women survivors of sexual trauma

Declaring Our Erotic
Tuesday evenings, 7/13 – 8/31
Open to all (18+, please)

o    In the Write Whole: Survivors Write workshop, you’ll gather with other survivors of sexual trauma to create new art and new beauty out of life’s difficult and complicated realities. Learn to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words!
Remember: identity categories like ‘woman’ and ‘survivor’ are self-defined!

o    In the Declaring Our Erotic workshop, you’ll try your hand at some explicit erotic writing, and, in so doing, will get more comfortable exploring and talking about sexual desires, explore the varied and complex aspects of sexuality and desire, receive strong and focused feedback about your new writing!

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in San Francisco in an accessible space, a half-block from BART and on many MUNI lines. Spaces are still available, though limited, and pre-registration is required! Fee for each eight-week workshop is $225-300, sliding scale; payment plans always available.

Please write to jennifer (at) writingourselveswhole.org with questions or to register!

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Writing the Flood
Open the gates and let your writing voice flow
A half-day, open-topic writing workshop!
Third Saturday of every month
beginning Saturday, June 19, 1pm

Many of you have asked about general-topic (i.e., not focused on a particular issue), and this space is for you.  Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long.  This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $25-50, sliding scale. Limited to 12.

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in San Francisco in an accessible space, a half-block from BART and on many MUNI lines. Pre-registration is required — please write to jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org with questions or to register.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Fierce femme survivors at Femme2010!

Mark your calendars for August — this one’s gonna be fierce: Femme2010: No Restrictions. August 19th – 22nd, 2010, Oakland Marriott City Center,1001 Broadway, Oakland, California 94607. A multi-threaded conference and forum for those who think about, talk about, and create Femme as a queer gender and identity!   www.femmecollective.com

In the middle of soaking up and celebrating femme solidarity, struggle and complexity, I’ll be offering a writing workshops-space for femme survivors of sexual trauma, where we can begin to explore the ways that our femme-ness is informed by experience of sexual trauma, and how we grow and unfurl in and through that internal environment.

See you there!
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To write with us, contact Jen at jennifer@writingourselveswhole.
For more information, please visit www.writingourselveswhole.org!

Amazing writing opportunities at PSR this summer!

Reposting a message I received from the folks at the Pacific School of Religion (I might not have looked there for transformative writing experiences, but just look what I would have missed!) If you’ve never had a chance to write with Pat Schneider, and you can make this workshop, I’d encourage you to sign up right this minute — it’ll change your life.

best!

Jen

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http://www.psr.edu

PSR’s Summer Session runs July 5 – August 13.  http://www.psr.edu/summer

For all Bay Area writers and followers of Pat Schneider:

Creative Writing Workshop with Pat Schneider.
The purpose of this workshop is twofold: (1) to enable the artist in each person to become more free, more able to write, and (2) to model a methodology for using writing to create a healing community. There will be an additional, optional session on Tuesday evening, open to the public, for the showing of the 23-minute international award-winning documentary film Tell Me Something I Can’t Forget, and a discussion on how to use this workshop method to empower low-income persons and others who are under-served. There are no required readings or papers for this workshop, but prompt attendance at all sessions will be considered a serious responsibility. Pat offers an optional private conference to each workshop participant, including, if desired, response to 7 pages of double-spaced unpublished prose or three poems. Manuscripts should be given to her at the first meeting of the workshop.
$960.  Monday-Friday, August 2-6, 9am-1pm, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.
http://www.psr.edu/summer-2010-schedule | 510.849.8267.
Email summer@psr.edu to request enrollment. Limited enrollment of 12 students.

Also of interest to writers and poets:

Writing as Healing Ministry class with Sharon Bray
Writing is an art form that belongs to every one of us.  It is also a powerful tool for healing.  In recent years, a growing body of research shows that the simple act of writing down thoughts and feelings helps people with chronic illness improve their health.  But the healing power of writing extends well beyond physical illness.  Writing also reduces stress, discharges complex emotions and helps us gain perspective.  When we suffer pain or loss, writing about our feelings can help to relieve our burdens, establish a perspective, and cope more effectively with life’s hardships.  Writing helps us integrate our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It can be a kind of prayer—one in which you don’t ask for anything, except to know your own experience and to make meaning of it.  “Writing as a Healing Ministry” is designed to provide an overview of the field of therapeutic or healing writing for lay ministers, clergy, healthcare or helping professionals.  In this intensive week-long course, we will explore how writing can heal ourselves and others.  Class activities will include an overview of  the research on therapeutic writing, review of several different writing methodologies used to help individuals heal from pain, suffering and trauma, small group discussion and individual writing exercises.
$345.  Monday-Friday, July 19-23, 1:30 pm-5:30pm, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.
http://www.psr.edu/summer-2010-schedule | 510.849.8267 | summer@psr.edu.
The Unrealized: Poetry and the Sacred class with Albany poet laureate, Christina Hutchins.
Does the “unrealized” inform contemporary Christianity?  For many artists, poets, composers, and inventors, the mystery of the creative process evokes both awe and a faith sufficient for performing the often painstaking labor of bearing something “new” into human experience. For five intense days together, we will explore the sacred and ancient mystery of being “lured” toward/into the “never-before.”  In-class poetry writing and reading provide models for our own experiences of “the unrealized.” Both beginning and experienced writers are welcome.
$345.  Monday-Friday, August 9-13, 9:00am-1:00pm, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.
http://www.psr.edu/summer-2010-schedule | 510.849.8267 | summer@psr.edu.

Poetry as a Spiritual Practice Saturday workshop with Ellen Bass, renowned Santa Cruz poet, author and teacher.
Like prayer, poetry is a path to seeing the divine in the ordinary. All poetry had its roots in religion—as ritual for both celebration and lamentation. And poetry continues to ask the essential questions: who are we? why are we here? where are we going?  In this workshop, we’ll talk about poetry as a spiritual practice and read some poems which reflect this. Then we’ll write our own poems by paying close attention and striving to be accurate through the use of detail and description. There will be an opportunity to share our poems for those who wish to do so.  Both beginning and experienced writers are welcome.
$155.  Followed by a free public poetry reading by Ellen Bass.  Saturday, July 10, 10:00am-4:00pm, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.
http://www.psr.edu/summer-session-2010-workshops | 510.849.8267 | summer@psr.edu.

Poetry Reading with Ellen Bass, renowned Santa Cruz poet, author and teacher.
Ellen Bass gives a reading of her poetry, including works from her latest book.  The Human Line, Bass’ seventh book of poems, startles with its precise detail, intimate images, and wild metaphors. Bass brings attention to life’s endearing absurdities, and many of the poems flash with a keen sense of humor. She also faces many of the crucial moral dilemmas of our time—genetic engineering, environmental issues, continuous war, heterosexism—and grounds her vision in the small, private workings of the heart.  This event follows Bass’ day-long “Poetry as a Spiritual Practice” workshop.

Free.  Saturday, July 10, 4:30pm, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.  No registration necessary.
http://www.psr.edu/summer-session-2010-workshops | 510.849.8267 | summer@psr.edu.

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a new memorial day

This is a write from last night’s Write Whole workshop — as a prompt, in light of it being Memorial Day, I asked us to consider what or who we’d like to have a whole day to remember or recognize:

I want the entire country to come to a stand still in recognition and honoring of all of us–the ones who wear the breath of baited battle, the ones who got shoved open for our mother’s enemy, the ones who learned too hard to slam shut.

I want banks to close, for tellers and secretaries to type up and print out little signs on plain white paper that get taped up to the insides of office doors, signs that read: “We will be closed in remembrance of all those who have been affected by sexual violence.”  More than fifty percent of the staff will recognize it as their own personal holiday.  Another quarter or third will wonder why they’re so sad, but won’t remember.

I want a day when the leaders of our country have to use the word rape a something other than a euphemism.  I want all the survivors to get a paid day off, with money sent to the survivors who don’t have jobs or paid work, so that they can go to the hot tubs or sauna or beach or just sleep in til 2pm. I want people to feel a little queasy about holding a BBQ on this national day of remembering and mourning —

I want it to stop, I mean, just for one day, for the fathers and teachers and aunts and babysitters and brothers and priests to be hamstrung just enough by the irony of their attempts to perpetrate on this day of all days that the ones they were about to violate will have a chance to get away — and they will be free, on this day, to take that chance.

I want rape crisis workers to get a day off and not feel guilty about it, because there will be no calls that they’ll miss, no passed-over intakes, no hospital visits at all on this one day a year.  And no backlog to be made up for on the next day.  For one day, I want us to visit the planet of honoring and remembering how we got through every fucking day til this now, and the planet of here’s what the world feels like without rape, without constant creepy violations of your body, your growing, your space, your breath.

On one warm spring day, I want all the flags dropped to half-mast, and then pulled off the poles entirely: this isn’t a boundaried remembrance, not a state or noational honoring, this is that holding every human up and sayting I’m sorry.

I want good deviled eggs and ambrosia salad and sack races and no clothesline project — not that I don’t want to hear the stories, but that what I want echoing around us is the opposite of mourning, that thick flow of gratitude, from all corners, for 24 hours, for every single one of us and all that we have done to survive.