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?

 

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.

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.