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.”

 

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.

“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.