Celebrating with Warriors 1st

1211181926a

Warriors 1st Ribbon Cutting Poem

Veterans and entrepreneurs need resilience

To avoid damage or falling prey to manipulation

God helps us envision perseverance and abundance

In the face of depression and suicide

And all sorts of heavy stuff.

 

Kindness leads to success.

Love gingersnap pizza (that’s unique!)

Be fearless! Click, click, click

You are royalty

Understand that your creativity will heal you.

Be curious and intrigued.

 

Warriors First celebrated the holiday season AND getting their own 501c3 letter.  Partners gathered to toast the creation of their own nonprofit organization,  to meet each other, and to enjoy fabulous coffee. Poetry Heals collected words from the participants and created this poem. A wonderful night!

Poetry Heals Write a Poem in Gaza City

Poetry Heals connected with students in Gaza City through the technical machinations of Share Studios  . Two members of the Gaza Poets Society stepped inside the portal space in Gaza City as I stepped into the big, gold shipping container parked on the campus of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. We started chatting and I asked them what was on their hearts. Turns out “on your heart” is not an idiomatic phrase in Arabic. So I explained…. And that was the beginning of the translations.

The poem that resulted is what I could write down as they talked, trying to explain their poetic world.

The Gaza Poets Society 

We are 35 poets! With hopes and dreams.

We have a mix of emotions on our hearts —

Sorrow, Joy.

Our hearts sometimes feel empty of emotions.

We are very young, and we have lots of dreams.

We have dreams, but we can do nothing.

You can learn about our hopes and dreams.

How different we are; we are the same.

 

We are a place for the young aspiring poets.

We write in Arabic and English.

We publish our poems.

Poetry from Palestine is our FaceBook page

We want the whole world to hear our voices,

That is why we write.

The portal is our Celebration of life;

It is how we connect with the world.

If we can connect with students all over the world, it will be great!

I was joined by the folks in the photo above: an artist who brought a sculpture and a painting, a spoken word performer how shared a poem and a writer who also shared a poem. We heard poems from our new friends in Gaza written in English and in Arabic. Our conversation ranged from the meaning of the word “lullaby” to how poems are experienced when you perform them.

As they said in their poem,  “How different we are; we are the same.”

 

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!

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.

“Do I have to write if I sit down?”

A table full of poetry writing tools proves to be a magnet for veterans working on addiction recovery.

“Of course not. You can just hang out with us.”

That is how Poetry Heals started for two residents of Crawford House on Wednesday evening. They are living at Crawford House while they attend the Veteran Administration’s  substance abuse program. Trying to get sober and stay that way this time.

So they came into the conference room where two other people were writing away. I showed them our book of fill-in-the-blank poem templates and some sample poems that grew out of them.

I explained, “This is what everyone is doing.  Just working on a template.”

These two were really waiting to clean the conference room.  Each resident has a job to help maintain Crawford house in some way:  clean up meals, clean up the building. So they had their clear plastic gloves on, ready to dive into the guest bathroom.

After a few quiet minutes, one of the guys in gloves asked, “Hey, can I have a pencil?”

Kevin had picked,  the “I Thought You Should Know” template. With his gloves on, he got started. Austin wanted a pencil, too. The room went silent. Five heads bowed. And I just about grinned my face into a cramp.

At first, only the house manager and I were in the conference room. All the residents had ducked out with “I don’t write,” “I’m too tired,” “I am sick.” But as we sat there and talked, the manager started to write. And then the others literally trickled in. If I had worked only with the manager, I would have been satisfied. She has stuff to work on. But then there were 4 men, all struggling with addiction and some with homelessness, too.

Kevin filled all the blanks and announced, “I’m done.”

“Do you have any more to say about the poem.”

“Yeah.”

“Well you’ve come this far with your feelings, you better finish it up!”

He pulled out a piece of paper and kept writing for another 15 minutes.

Kevin read his poem about how he is sorry he had  been a lousy role model for his younger siblings and how he wants to get together with them again. Austin wrote about how his addiction has his number. Jim wrote about how he is addicted to loving his family, and that’s a good thing. Gilbert wrote about how he wants to be a better person. They listened to each other, they celebrated each other, they smiled and they want to do more of this poetry writing thing.

The evening broke up with a couple of guys taking blank templates to work on later. The plastic gloves had come off somewhere along the line, so they were put back on. Time for chores. Everyone helped me pack up.

Echoes of “See you again, soon” “Thanks for coming” “I’ll be here next time, too” sent me back into the cold night with a very warm heart.

 

 

“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.