Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Plato
April is both National Poetry Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month. A few years ago I noticed that intersection and thought, That sounds like writing ourselves whole month. So, every April, I like to take a little time and reflect on these intersections that we who are trauma survivors who write walk within every day.
I have just returned from helping to facilitate a training of new AWA writing group facilitators. During the five days I spent with these folks — each of whom already knew how powerful it could be to write openly with others, taking risks with content and craft — I reflected on my own trainings, way back in 2001 and 2002.
I had never participated in anything like an Amherst Writers and Artists writing group when I showed up, shorn and ragged and scarred and scared, for my first facilitator’s training at Pat Schneider’s home back in the summer of 2001. I only knew that writing had saved my life, and I wanted to work with others for whom that might also be true. I’d taken one creative writing class in college, and one poetry workshop outside of school, and I’d never quite felt like I fit in any space that called itself “for writers.”
Pat’s method was a surprise and a revelation to me. This was a place where you could write whatever you wanted and no one could ask you if it really happened like that. No one could demand that you tell them more. No one could turn you away for your words. Your words would be welcomed and honored immediately. Continue reading →
Good morning, good morning. The winds have picked up everything and hidden it around the lawn — the planting containers, the seed packets, the gardening gloves, the puppy’s ball. These hot winds always confuse me — I’m still getting accustomed to the Santa Anas.
We are having a sick day today here at Writing Ourselves Whole, but before I tuck myself back onto the couch with a cup of tea, I wanted to offer you a poem:
Posted onApril 29, 2014|Comments Off on no one else can understand why you’re crying
At yesterday’s Write Whole meeting, I offered this Sarah Kay poem as one of our prompts (the video is 18 minutes long, but we just used the poem she performed at the very beginning to spark our writing). Then, after the group left last night, I sat down and made a short recording of my response to this poem — this is what it sounds like in the writing group after we’ve written together: we read our words to one another straight out of our notebooks, and then allow others to witness our words, sharing what they heard us say, what stayed with them about our writing. Here is what I wrote:
(Consider using either video as your own prompts today — what stays with you? What sparks a response in your body? Where do your own words want to begin?)
Comments Off on no one else can understand why you’re crying
Monday was our first meeting of this spring’s Write Whole: Survivors Write group. For the second of our writes that night, I offered a series of three sentences/fragments — the idea is to choose one (or let one choose you), and let your writing flow in response. Here were the prompts:
When was the last time I told my story? It is the responsibility of the writer to… I don’t want to write about…
I used the second of those for my own writing; that fragment was inspired by Grace Paley’s poem “Responsibility.” Here’s what I wrote:
Outside, the city is still quiet at this pre-five-o’clock hour. The wind haggles all the trees, tossing them around, telling them dangerous stories. Yesterday when my sweetheart and I were out for a mid-morning run, we looked at the bruised-cloud sky and said, doesn’t it seem like rain? But, of course, it’s California — we all know it doesn’t rain in springtime. Oh, wait. Surprise.
~~ ~~ ~~
What to do with this knowledge that our living is not guaranteed?
Posted onApril 21, 2014|Comments Off on dreams and driving and springtime
We are far too busy to be starkly simple in passion. We will never dream the intense wet spring lust of the toads.
– from “Toad dreams,” by Marge Piercy
In my dream, I am preparing for a workshop in an unfamiliar space — I’d been planning to move the group to another place, my office or something, but then I woke up from a nap and the group was meant to begin in under an hour, so I had no choice but to set up where I was — and anyway, that’s where the people were coming to; I’d never mentioned to anyway that I might move to another location; how would they know where to find the group if I moved? So I clean up, set up snacks, and put the poems and other handouts down on the writer’s chairs. Then I go downstairs to wait for folks to arrive — down into a warehouse space, filled with boxes. It’s a small group, only four or five people. One man arrives, and he says he’s changed his mind, thanks anyway, but he doesn’t think he’ll be joining the group. Someone else hears him and tags along out of the warehouse back into the night. I wonder if I’ll have enough people to write with, whether I’ll have to cancel the group after all.
The next Write Whole series begins this evening — I’m not surprised that I’m having this sort of anxiety dream. These are the concerns of facilitators: do we have the space set up right? Are folks going to join us? Will what we offer be enough to keep people in the room?
Good morning, good morning. It’s a Saturday and I let myself rise without an alarm. In my dreams — I can’t remember my dreams, actually. Maybe they will come back as I write. My hands are dry and rough from gardening last night, and my body is a good kind of sore, the sort of sore that says I’ve been working in it. Yesterday I found pea and clover sprouts when I went down to water the garden — and the zucchini’s already putting out flowers — things are happening down in that good dark. I dug up a patch of hard-packed yard out in front of the house, added some planting soil to the clods that I broke up by hand, and then planted poppies, zinnia, and the native gardenia that I got from my friend Alex and have moved now three or four times. I clipped some pieces of salvia, lavender, and mint from the backyard and have put them in jars in the kitchen window to see if they will sprout. Once they’re ready, I’ll add them to this little garden coming together out front.
When I fell asleep last night, the house smelled of actually-sour sourdough bread — I made a couple of whole-wheat oat loaves yesterday, and though they didn’t rise as much as the white-flour loaves have (and are still nothing close to the chewy, holey sourdough that I get in restaurants or from the market), they have a tight crumb and taste fantastic. I will admit that when I opened the oven door to peek at them toward the end of the baking time, my heart fell — they looked like the sad, dense (and inedible) loaves I always got when I tried to bake sourdough in Maine. But these turned out to be actually tasty — they just weren’t terribly fluffy. I guess that’s not surprising with whole wheat.
as far as I remember, changed in no detail, the moment vivid, intact, having never been exposed to light, so that I woke elated, at my age hungry for life, utterly confident—
– from “Vita Nova,” Louise Glück
“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
The puppy is in her sleeping place and I am in my morning room. The passion flower vine bursts open with a new face every daybreak. This morning I have thin decaf and an achy body that wants to move. This morning I am ready to go dancing. This morning I am ready to give everything up. It is late — the sun is already well up over the hills. The sourdough starter bubbles on the countertop, the birds push their morning songs into the traffic-clotted air. I am a tangle of nerve endings and possibility. Something inside me is ready to jump. I put dry fingers to the keyboard, then pull them away. The pen sits idly on the blank paper, ready for me to try another way. What majesty do we have to offer into the world? What sunlight can issue forth from us that can compare to the sharp dazzle of the hummingbird’s rubythroat flashing alongside the green knives of the firecracker lily? How can poetry find you if you’re not interested in sitting down? Give me a poetry with musculature, with tendon and bone. Give me a poetry that moves, a poetry that crowds itself all the way off the page. Give me a poetry willing to run alongside me, willing to catch up, willing to take my hand and pull me on when I’m tired, give me a poetry that can keep up. Give me a poetry that wants leaps in in the air, fissures morning, tears all the assumptions asunder. Give me a poetry that haggles the bees, that tempts the mockingbirds, that horns in on shame, that will whisper louder than the voices of loss clotting my eardrums. Give me a poetry that drapes itself about my shoulders, that pushes itself through my earlobes and elbows, that wants all of my attention. Give me a poetry that won’t be ignored. Give me a poetry that stands up on the table, kicks over the glasses of tea, steps in the butter and avocado with its dirty workboots, and takes all of our breath away. Give me a poetry that’s rude and demanding. Give me a poetry that breaks things, breaks in, sidles and insists, claims, orates, and relinquishes. Give me a poetry for today. Continue reading →