another marathon behind me

For the fourth year – the last three, consecutive – I have enjoyed the challenge of writing 12 poems in 12 hours. I was surprisingly relaxed this time around, even to the point of considering pushing myself to do the full 24. But my new puppy had other ideas about my availability. So in addition to providing her own prompt, she has challenged me/us to be ready to tackle the longer marathon by next year. In addition to offering a wide variety of prompts (and this year, each hour’s prompt included at least two options – one verbal, the other visual – which I sometimes combined in my response), the marathon offers an immediate community of like-minded poets writing, reading, commenting on and most of all, encouraging one another on a private Facebook page during the process and in the days following. It is in the days following that the reading/feedback starts in earnest. Some connections made during this intense period of time continue over the months until the next year’s marathon. Others exist in the bubble of this single week in June. Some are utterly transient, the chance comment seen or responded to when someone is hurting, frustrated, jubilant.

No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with 12 -24 new writings to ponder, revise, scrap, repurpose. It’s all good. Raw material, yes. But more, it awakens something inside. In particular, after this pandemic year of isolation and inner-dependency, those 12 hours opened up possibility and connection. I was reminded of how much shared interest and curiosity there is in the international writing world. At some point I’ll get the statistics – how many participated from how many countries. For now, I am basking in the microcosm of lives shared on my tiny computer screen, spanning the globe, time zones, ages and every/anything else you can name. We shared favorite snacks, music selections, memes, tears, side stories, background stories, what was working and what was not, photos of our space or view or first draft … All of this, plus all the original poetry. No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with a lot more than they started with.

Huge gratitude to the annual organizers, Jacob Jans and Caitlin Jans, for their tireless devotion to furthering creativity around the world, And for their transparency in sharing their own limitations, enlisting the support of others to continue this fine tradition of poem-making and sharing.

divided we fall – I

constitutionbanner-unitedwestandllcI pen this post with compassion and concern for the emotionally triggering rhetoric swirling about us like so many tops. My intention is to seek shared understanding from which to move forward.

The news – fake, real, and alternative –seems designed to and interpreted as creating divisions, assigning blame, obfuscating truth. We are all in this turbulent mix. Whether we identify as Republican or Democrat, pro-life or pro-environment; whether we are more concerned about our basic humanity or our next paycheck, how our food is produced or how it will make it to our tables; we are all Americans with a mix of legitimate concerns which defy the neat categorizations of the past.

And I believe messaging is what is dividing us, far more than substance. Because the messages create an either/or extreme of acquiescence or defiance, admitting neither debate nor inclusion of difference. This is not how democracy works.

I understand why it seems refreshing, after eight years of stalemate in Congress, to witness a flurry of action in such a short time. I was as frustrated as the next person at the hobbling of the last administration. But the answer is not wanton destruction of what we stand for as a people, as a nation.

Can we not advocate with BOTH passion AND civility? Can we not embrace difference for what it teaches us with honest debate? Can we not possess BOTH a moral compass AND respect for facts?

We cannot allow ourselves to be led into unbridgeable polarization. Blind opposition to one another’s humanity can only lead to dehumanization and violence. In that, we all lose. Let us instead seek out opportunities for respectful communication and discourse.united-we-fall

continuous quality improvement

Quote

credit - 123rf.com

credit – 123rf.com

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tagline.”

Historically I am a seeker of, among other things, better ways to do what might present itself to me. This has not always proven useful, ensuring for instance my inability to do anything the same way twice. Like recipes, which are only a suggestion. Trying different methods to engage or discipline my children. Approaching my spouse with the idea-of-the-day to remain novel and interesting. In fact, whatever was in front of me seemed to require nimble re-definition and re-working in one endless challenge to do it afresh. This can prove quite exhausting over time.

I recall my father once confiding that he rewrote his ‘Chem 105’ notes each and every year – 40 of them. I did the same with endless writing group agendas, even though I could easily have reused them. I believed that continuous updating would keep the materials – and perhaps more importantly, myself – vibrant and engaging for each subsequent group.

I apparently adopted a way of living that pushes-pushes-pushes me. To outdo myself. To extremes of busy-ness. To extremes of fatigue. Without even giving myself a break between improvements. Can you imagine living in a house under constant construction
f-o-r-e-v-e-r with no end in sight? Welcome to my world.

credit - ehow.com

credit – ehow.com

But now that I’m attempting retirement, and fully understand that there are no medals for over-doing, I need to release this overdrive-drive-drive to enhance, change, make more beautiful or functional. For too many decades this drive has filled the primary landscape of my heart. Today it will only drive away those I cherish and wish to keep close in my heart.

Embracing what IS is a far greater gift. It also allows me to move into arenas where I need not be The Sole Responsible Party. After all this time, that’s a sweet release indeed. While I feel challenged by this sea-change required of age-old behavior, I will rise to face it in my old age. With humility and trust that, in deed, continuous quality improvement has its limits.

weaving the threads

“Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item — an object, a symbol, a place — in each part.” – Today’s DP Challenge

rock cairn by ocean

I am due to report on the results of using a contact form to get readers’ opinions about cairns – their artistic, functional and expressive functions. The short summary of what I learned is that their ephemeral nature is what makes them beautiful. They can be reassembled to suit the moment’s mood.

Colorful stack of expressive words

Weekly I lead a circle of women in prison writing their lives – for better, for worse, for creativity, for healing. Their piles of words express where these women have been and where they are headed. They speak to the moment’s mood. Their words can be reassembled, as I do each week by rearranging lines of writing into one united poem. This ‘found poem’ takes on a wholly new meaning from its respective referred-to-parts. The authors delight in the challenge to see where I will take the collective meaning of disparate and unrelated phrases and feelings from one week to the next.

black-and-white graphic of women in a circleLast night, I was treated to a surprise  reunion dinner in honor of my return to my writing roots among Women Writing for (a) Change writers in its hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.  A third of our original Wednesday writing group from 20 years back reassembled itself around a corner table at a local Italian restaurant. As I surveyed the glowing and ageless faces of these women I love like sisters, women who are a part of me, I felt layers of years and shared experience pile higher and higher. A monumental stack of worded moments, laughter, meals, losses and dreams as testimony to our coming-of-age as a community of becoming-conscious women. Though on separate journeys, we remain joined by our shared passion for words. One moment, one mood, one meeting at a time.

patience and inspiration

Last week was one of my favorite weeks of summer: five days spent with young women in grades 8 – 12 at “Writing Camp for (a) Change!” During those days, we challenge one another, learn from one another, support and encourage one another. Girls and adult facilitators alike.

A favorite exercise this week was personifying Patience and Impatience; and having pairs create a scenario in which patience/impatience meet and work something through together. Another prompt of the day was writing about an experience of patience, inspired by Kay Ryan’s poem of the same name. This is what came to me in the first fast-write of the day:

PATIENCE
a landscape of inclusion –
you, me, wide
and sustainable –
a ribbon of waiting
that winds toward the finish
bearing fruits and gifts
beyond imagining,
a feast of color
hard work and insight
harvesting a solid life
from far and near.

swb