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The Stories of Poetry Heals

French familyPoetry Heals had some great stories this week.  In this photo, we have a family from Nice, France who wrote poems in French and English. They were visiting friends who live here, and you really can’t tell who is who.

We also get to continue our work with troubled teenagers.  We received a check from the Sheila Fortune Foundation to teach Poetry Heals workshops with youth at Inside Out Youth Services and Landmark School.

But I think the best story is about our high school volunteer and young man who has been living rough in Manitou for a few months, Seth. Seth and our volunteer chatted as they lugged the potters wheels into storage and were later seen walking down Manitou Avenue. The volunteer’s grandmother is a good friend, and she told me Seth had been staying with her for a few days. “Oh damn,” I thought. But she was glad about it.

Our volunteer had a tough start in life, and his grandparents have custody of him. He is plenty bright, although he has a learning challenge or two. He is flunking out of high school and is pretty rebellious. When the young men arrived, Grandma demanded Seth bathe and wash his clothes. After that, our volunteer and Seth discussed life, having issues with authority and the consequences of being rebellious. Seth got in his face about it; “What is it worth to you? Do you want to take off? Lose your family?” Seth did take off and has been on the streets for 6 years. He doesn’t regret it, but it has been hard, lonely and occasionally dangerous.

My friend actually thanked Poetry Heals and me for bringing Seth and her grandson together. She wants to make sure her grandson continues to volunteer for us. Seth’s grandmother  sent money to my friend so he can buy a bus ticket home, grandma to grandma. Seth plans to leave on Monday.

The moral(s) of the story is (are) : A local teenager had a positive volunteering experience plus a bunch of other stuff. A grandmother got to show her grandson what compassion looks like. A street person got a shower, a bed for a few nights, clean clothes and a way to actually get the money his grandmother wanted to send him. The police had one fewer person on the street to watch. The business people on Manitou Avenue had one fewer person in front of their stores. Poetry and Pottery provided the place and time for good things to happen.

Pretty good story, huh?

 

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Poetry and Pottery Builds Community Bridges in Manitou Springs

The officers were frustrated, but it seemed like business as usual. They had missed the culprits. And then they saw Robert under the pavilion, sitting at the writing table. The officers approached Robert and asked him if he could help them out with the cat callers.

“Robert, I wonder if you can help us?”

Every Wednesday afternoon in the summer, Poetry and Pottery appears in Soda Springs Park in Manitou Springs. Potters and writing mentors set up pottery wheels, a kiln, and tables full of writing materials for anyone who want to come express themselves in art. We have about 50-60 people a week participate in the two hours we are set up: writing poems, making pots, and enjoying the company of others who are doing the same thing.

Robert has become a regular participant this summer. Healthy looking with a well-kept beard and a happy smile, Robert lives rough somewhere in the mountains around Manitou Springs. We always serve soup with protein in it, and he relies on it to help him regulate his diabetes. His illness is otherwise untreated.

Although Robert lives alone in a tent away from others, he is a steadying influence when he is on the street. He helps the other unhoused people find what they need, provides encouragement, and he tends to calm people down.

He says he doesn’t write, but he does talk. I’ve acted as his scribe a few times as he talked about life and getting along with others. I am not sure if he can read and write, but he enjoys it when I read back to him what I heard him say. “That does sound like a poem!” he chuckles.

During Poetry and Pottery two weeks ago, two police officers came through Soda Springs Park. I greeted them and asked how they were. They had been called because some of the street people were cat calling women tourists along Manitou Avenue nearby.

“Of course, we were another call when this one came in, and we had another one to get to first.”

The officers were frustrated, but it seemed like business as usual. They had missed the culprits. And then they saw Robert under the pavilion, sitting at the writing table. The officers approached Robert and asked him if he could help them out with the cat callers.

“I’ll talk to them about it,” I heard Robert say. “We have some new, young guys, and they are real knuckleheads.”

The police officers thanked Robert and walked away with a handful of flyers about Poetry and Pottery to share with folks as they continued their rounds. We could all do each other a favor today.

When we started Poetry and Pottery three years ago, Mark Wong, the pottery part, wanted to take back the park, to make it a positive community place. Manitou Springs had had some violent incidents at Soda Springs Park; Mark wanted to change that. I, Molly Wingate, wanted to provide the street people with a tool for processing some of their trauma so that they can be more at ease, make better decisions, and know that the community cares about their wellbeing.

We had hoped that people from different parts of the community would connect and collaborate on making art and making Manitou Springs more livable. And we have seen other some evidence — fewer problems between the police and the street people and more locals joining the tourists and street people at Poetry and Pottery. But the sight of the police asking Robert for assistance during Poetry and Pottery was pretty clear evidence that we are building bridges and expanding the idea of community. They worked together to keep the peace.

Maybe I’ll get Robert to tell me a poem about it.

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Teen Writers Take Over Class

Landmark Community SchoolI had written a writing prompt on the white board before I went to fetch the students for the after school writing group. Landmark Community School is a safe place for teens in recovery from addiction. The kids are terrific.

“What I would l like to change?” was the prompt. Jason and Aubrey* sat down on one side of the table and I across from them, a typical teacher spot. I mentioned that there was a prompt on the board behind them and that we could write a group poem if they liked. Jason picked up the marker, walked straight to the board, and wrote that he wanted to change the laws about medical marijuana. Then he handed Aubrey the marker. She wrote “the juvenile justice system.” Jason stepped up, added numbers to the list, and added #3. This went on until there were 13 items listed. Including “my resistance to change,” and “schools thinking everyone learns the same way.”

The teacher, me, didn’t move. I said, “Thank you, can you be more specific? Help me understand.”

The students had taken over and used the opportunity of a blank white board for their own purposes. And we had a poem of sorts. When they wrote on their own, one used a fill-in-the-blank template, while the other wrote freely. She didn’t want to share her work, so I asked her to read it to herself.

“Make sure you’ve been concrete, get to something you can pinch.” She bowed her head, scratched out some words, replaced them. Soon there were arrows to the margins with words racing down the edge. She looked up. “If you are taking the trouble to write about something, you might as well get down to it,” I said. She bowed her head again. And when she lifted it, said, “I like it.”

Jason wanted to read his new poem while Aubrey quietly found her folder and tucked in her poem. I will keep my promise not to read what is in their folders without their permission. Jason now has at least one poem without the word “fuck” in it. “See you next time.”

*These are not the students’ real names.

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“I think I’ll get back to writing, now.”

Finally we settled into writing poems using the fill-in-the-blank templates Poetry Heals carries around in binders. These templates help writers look at their feelings. He picked ‘Relationships,’ and added,”But I don’t write anymore.”

At first, he was busy fixing mocha drinks for everyone and chattering about everything. He wasn’t sure he wanted to stay for the after school writing group at Inside/Out Youth Services.

Then he sat down and played a writing game with the group a few times. His first contributions were goofy, a little off topic, and intended to get a laugh. Then he worked to make his additions really connect with the stories we were creating out of random characters, scenes, and props. Not so many edgy jokes.

Finally we settled into writing poems using the fill-in-the-blank templates Poetry Heals carries around in binders.  These templates help writers look at their feelings. He picked ‘Relationships,’ and added,”But I don’t write anymore.”

So I chimed in, “I’ll scribe for you. Take a look at the whole poem and see where you want to go with it.”  A few seconds passed.

He snatched up a pen, “I’ve got it, now.”

And for ten minutes, the room was quiet as four writers and two Poetry Heals mentors wrote.

“I’m stuck on this one,” he nudged me to look at an empty blank in a line.

“Ok, what happens if we change ‘parent’ to ‘friend’, does that help?”

“Got it.” and then two minutes later, “I’M DONE! I want to read first.”

As the other writers wrapped up their work, he fiddled with a word or two. But he was almost bouncing out of the chair before he smiled and proudly read his new poem.  We clapped, snapped our fingers, and did jazz hands. He beamed.

As others read, he listened hard. He smiled and clapped for them.

“This is actually fun! Can I have a few more of the fill-in-the-blanks?  These are really good to work on…..stuff.  I think I’ll go back to writing.  I wrote before my break up, I wrote for her. But I haven’t since then. Thanks.”

He processed some of his life’s troubles and is willing to do it again. At Poetry Heals, we call that a big win.

 

 

 

Our First Book! Poetry Heals: Collected Poems from Poetry and Pottery

Poetry Heals is about of using poetry writing to process and start healing trauma, but we can produce a product, too. Our first poetry collection includes poems by all sorts of people who sat down and wrote during our free, summer-long art event, Poetry and Pottery. Residents, street people and tourists. Spurned lovers, joyful grandmas, silly sisters. Everyone is welcome, that’s our motto.

My idea of poetry   book (2)

is sitting out in the woods

listening to the stream running

a bobwhite a bobbin

a swallow a swallowing

and a state trooper on the bullhorn

and down the hill

we’re going.

by Kelly

 

I love reading these poems and hearing again the voices of people taking the time to reflect on their lives or our writing prompts — sometimes both. What surprised me is how other people react to the book when they pick it up.

“I really can’t put it down; look at me!” said a psychologist I was talking to about bringing Poetry Heals to veterans in legal trouble.

“Here’s a picture of my teenage son reading your book,” texted a Mom who bought the book at our third birthday party.

“Well this is cool,” said an independent bookstore owner from San Francisco.

People become absorbed in the poems. These are not fine art poems. Most of them are free verse, and all of them are real. “No roses are red, violets are blue” as I always say at the start of a workshop. I’m known for “giving the eye” when people are skirting the issues in their poems.  These poems can get gritty, and they seem always to bring relief to the writers.  A little magic lives on these pages.

So, I you’d like your own copy, please click here to our swag page. You will become absorbed in the poems and support Poetry Heals.  What a deal!

Poetry Heals Turns 3 Years Old

cactus spring 2018

Poetry Heals is turning 3 years old. I am simply humbled. Dozens of people pitched in to help create this thriving nonprofit organization. We have a board of directors and everything! So many have encouraged me, guided me and have now taken ownership of this effort to help people who are hurting to live better lives. These folks are awe-inspiring.

As are the people we work with. Veterans who are fighting to be sober, active duty airmen who are living in the stress of service; homeless people getting their feet under them with new jobs and shoes, street folks who haven’t bathed lately. Teens in recovery from addiction, LGBTQ+ teens just kicked out of their homes; tourists visiting Manitou Springs, residents in wheelchairs experiencing grief. We hear, “thank you,” “this brings me such peace,” “bless you.”

We want to celebrate everyone. We are having a party on September 25, 2018 to celebrate three years of building community and helping people find their way to some peace and better decisions. Please join us.

Poetry Heals Turns 3!

Manitou Arts Center

Tuesday, September 25, 2018   5-7 PM

Refreshments, cash bar, a short program, and cake!

Poetry and Pottery Builds Community Bridges in Manitou Springs

“Robert, I wonder if you can help us?”

Every Wednesday afternoon in the summer, Poetry and Pottery appears in Soda Springs Park in Manitou Springs. Potters and writing mentors set up pottery wheels, a kiln, and tables full of writing materials for anyone who want to come express themselves in art. We have about 50-60 people a week participate in the two hours we are set up: writing poems, making pots, and enjoying the company of others who are doing the same thing.

Robert has become a regular participant this summer. Healthy looking with a well-kept beard and a happy smile, Robert lives rough somewhere in the mountains around Manitou Springs. We always have soup with protein in it, and he relies on it to help him regulate his diabetes. His illness is otherwise untreated.

Although Robert lives alone in a tent away from others, he is a steadying influence when he is on the street. He helps the other unhoused people find what they need, provides encouragement, and he tends to calm people down.

He says he doesn’t write, but he does talk. I’ve acted as his scribe a few times as he talked about life and getting along with others. I am not sure if he can read and write, but he enjoys it when I read back to him what I heard him say. “That does sound like a poem!” he chuckles.

During Poetry and Pottery two weeks ago, two police officers came through Soda Springs Park. I greeted them and asked how they were. They had been called because some of the street people who were cat calling women tourists along Manitou Avenue nearby.

“Of course, we were another call when this one came in, and we had another one to get to first.”

The officers were frustrated, but it seemed like business as usual. They had missed the culprits. And then they saw Robert under the pavilion, sitting at the writing table. The officers approached Robert and asked him if he could help them out with the cat callers.

“I’ll talk to them about it,” I heard Robert say. “We have some new, young guys, and they are real knuckleheads.”

The police officers thanked Robert and walked away with a handful of flyers about Poetry and Pottery to share with folks as they continued their rounds. We could all do each other a favor today.

When we started Poetry and Pottery three years ago, Mark Wong, the pottery part, wanted to take back the park, to make it a positive community place. Manitou Springs had had some violent incidents at Soda Springs Park; Mark wanted to change that. I, Molly Wingate, wanted to provide the street people with a tool for processing some of their trauma so that they can be more at ease, make better decisions, and know that the community cares about their wellbeing.

We had hoped that people from different parts of the community would connect and collaborate on making art and making Manitou Springs more livable. And we have seen other some evidence — fewer problems between the police and the street people and more locals joining the tourists and street people at Poetry and Pottery. But the sight of the police asking Robert for assistance during Poetry and Pottery was pretty clear evidence that we are building bridges and expanding the idea of community. They worked together to keep the peace.

Maybe I’ll get Robert to tell me a poem about it.