Holding a space for writing is similar to teaching choreography and improvisation. I have the luxury of no syllabus. I lie in bed the morning of the class and imagine each person. I think of their writing styles and desires. I think of what we have been working on, what I hear on the radio. I go to the library, scroll through my shelves, or on line. Then I reach for a book, poet, a poem. I consider it as I go about my day, make copies and create a prompt for the week. There are sort of side-poems or books I lend to students. That’s what my teachers did for me. That’s how I found my favorite poets. They were handed to me.
People arrive from work, driving in traffic, and we briefly sit , have tea and a snack. Then we write. The shift in the room after a few minutes of writing is visceral. We look at a poem; a new poet is introduced. We write again, this time longer. (The two periods of writing reminds me of sitting for two periods with walking in between. It’s like returning to a Yoga position after doing other positions, but there’s no right side or left side to writing a poem).
Last week we sat outdoors as the sun went down and we wrote the leaf, the patch of dirt that was in front of us, how the light changed what we saw. Then inside we read what we had written the week before. People made copies for each other.
I am amazed by the quality of writing, tenderness and intelligence of people. We all have rich, intense inner lives. Hearing people’s poems and essays pops my assumptions. Poetry appears from space, like how dance appears. Poems concern themselves with here and here (even if “here” is a memory). I spend half the writing time waiting, listening and I trust that something will happen. It’s like meditation that way–an undoing happens. There’s humor underneath that kind of realness.
My dad used to come home from work and lie on the bed before changing clothes or doing anything.
My mother would sometimes shout out, into the house, “Roger,where are you?”
”Laying Flat, ” he shouted back.
He just said what he was doing. The laying flat poem.
There’s no figuring it out or getting it. I mean to say, poetry is not a riddle. It’s a poem. It’s language. Words. One, another. In a fresh way. Surprise! A being. I can read a poem over repeatedly, over the years, and it reveals itself to me,as I change. The poem waits. More like–a cat– than a puzzle. Can I be that vulnerable as to write as a child?
This practice doesn’t care where I start or what I write. For three years I wrote “water” on the top of the page and let my pen go. When I was in grad school a lot of my writing begins, “the sun is slanting in here on the blue rug.” Oh no! The blue rug again!
This Fall the topic is memory gardens. The title is from Robert Creeley’s book. We’ll see what form is needed to hold what we write.
Or we’ll begin with a form, a map, list,a place, and find a spot and write about what we see in front of us. We’ll try hybrid, the collage, and consider borders. What is falling to pieces? What is left? What was spoken? We don’t always have to invent something new. We can wait, rest, see what returns to us.
People say the veils between worlds is thin in the Fall. I could easily miss this, continuing in my certain trajectory. Or I could pause, find a corner, sit down, breath out, and pick up my pen.
You are invited into this room. Please join us.
~ o ~