Spring 2018: “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” Black History Month Event

Professors Clauer and Keith reading the three poems produced at the session.

What:

A single day workshop entitled “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” included in the 2018 Black History Month Committee activities.  I was asked to participate/create activity by Anne Heutche, then member of the Black History Month Committee. The committee name has since been changed to Black History Awareness Committee — I joined the committee Fall 2018.

Who:

Presenters: Professors Barb Clauer, Ravon Keith, and Jesse Draper (substituting in Anne Heutche’s African-American History class)

Attendees = open to campus and the community; Professor Heutche’s class attended and well as many students of mine and Professor Keith’s


What We Did:

For this session, I developed the following outline and activities:

Rough outline for the Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance BHM session – Monday 3.15.18 4-6p in the Centre for Engaged Inclusion

Welcome to BHM Event- Kevin Brown and Robin Moore

    1. Introductions — to the session and to moderators (Jesse, Ravon and Barb)
    2. Jesse and Ravon – Short historical intro to the Harlem Renaissance – General discussion of the concept of resistance: what do we resist? why?
        • What is it? how can it be effective?
        • Resistance now? Communal forms of resistance? (school walk outs, marches) Smaller/personal forms of resistance? Daily examples of their own?
        • Artistic avenues for resistance — transition back to discussing role of poetry in the Harlem Ren here? and then move to poetry activities
    3. Barb – Activities (leave at least 60-75 minutes for this part):
        • Watch Jamila Lysicott spoken word poem “Articulate” (4 min) — example of resistance poetry https://www.ted.com/talks/jamila_lyiscott_3_ways_to_speak_english
        • Jesse and Ravon – read four poems from Harlem Renaissance: “I, Too”, “Harlem” and “Let America be America Again” by Hughes, “America” by McKay.
        • Barb – Current resistance poetry:
          • Patricia Smith “What It’s Like to be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren’t)”  — have my former ENGL 201 student Baps Langeni read it and then her version.
          • Eve L. Ewing – “What I mean when I say I’m sharpening my oyster knife.” Written in response to a Zora Neale Hurston quote. Pull up poem- link includes picture of author and Hurston quote. https://www.poetrysociety.org/psa/poetry/crossroads/own_words/Ewing/
        • Warm-up writing activity — There is a fun warm-up exercise that might be good to do as a group exercise before the writing part.  One that always gets my students involved (and cracking up) is to have them randomly list 15-20 specific nouns (we could try to have them focus the words on the conversation we’ve just had about resistance) and then 15-20 active verbs (same thing re: our topic) then roll dice and connect nouns/verbs in surprising ways. (anyone have a 20-sided die?)
        • Split into 3 groups for 3 separate poetry writing activities; i.e. our own creative resistance – see handouts (Barb has them)
            • At each table time to respond to two prompts: “I am _____. For me, America is _____.” and “What’s it’s Like to be a _____ (for those of you who aren’t)”
            • Each of the 3 groups also get the first line of one of the poems we read and, as a group, each person contribute another line to a new poem.  “What happens to a dream deferred?” (from “Harlem”), “I, too, sing America”, and “Let America Be America again”
    4. Jesse, Ravon and Barb facilitating group work and then also available to read anything produced in the groups the students are willing to have shared (if they don’t want to read them themselves) — share plan to collect and produce something from what they’ve written.

The Poems:

Student-created poems using the first lines from “Harlem”, “I, Too” and “Let American Be America Again”:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it feel rage over being forgotten
     Or does it not give a fuck?
Does it wait for the door to reopen?
     Or does it wither?
Does it close its eyes like a dead body?
A dream doesn’t come to a sleeper
     Or does it?
Is it all nothing and no longer holds meaning?
Do you get one chance or two?
Like a butterfly
God’s proof that you get two lives.
I, too sing but not to
America
I, too, sing. America is a land
of mixed genres, where it
shouldn’t be judged on the person’s
point of view.
I, too, love myself, but unlike
you, I know when I’m wrong
and love myself strong.
We all bleed the same color
but, we are all separated.
I am the broken brother, but
unlike Humpty Dumpty, I can put
myself together.


I, too, sing America for
peace all over. Put down the
guns and pick up the love.
I am successful – technologically advanced.
I am the future, the innovators
of upcoming America.
I, too, sing American; I see
the potential you can be.
Let America be America again.
When people cared more about
each other and less about defense.
When people built bridges instead
of worrying about a fence.
Pretend with your benevolence
yet black can’t equal excellence.
Let America nourish and empower
Let America be America again.
Let me be me once again
no conformity, no difference
because of a “friend”.
Let everyone love everyone
again and all of us be equal
again and everyone be a team
again.
America lost to the sea
in the horizon without
regard to the past or the present.
Let American be America again
Let us all go back to being the melting pot,
where crime wasn’t labeled one race
and kids go outside and play on the slide
coming back home in one piece.

What Did I Learn/What Would I Change?

  • The “warm-up activity” listing nouns and verbs was too long/awkward in this setting
  • Lots of good beginnings in the warm-up prompts: “I am ___. For me America is ___.” and “What’s it like to be a _______ (for those of you who aren’t)” inspired by Patricia Smith’s poem. Should I have kept those or sent those with the writers? What will I do with them?
  • The workshop/poetry creation was filled with lots of energy and the poems produced by the groups had both immediacy and heft.
  • I learned that, if I did this activity again, I wanted to mostly focus on having the students interact with the poems of the Harlem Renaissance and create their own – i.e. short history/context set-up and longer workshop portion.

 

May 2018: Professional Development Day: Poetry Project Session

Session attendees playing with words

Who: Attendees = Dan Holt, Marcy Bauman, Sarah Steinhour, Meg Elias, and Matt VanCleave; Rob McLoone, Tim Deines, Jeff Janowick, and Regina Gong; Kali Majumdar, Anne Heutche, Ami Ewald, and Rosalie Petrouske

What:

From the 5/15/18 Professional Development Day proposal description:

Inspired by a session at the 2017 Imagining America Conference, our inaugural LCC Community-generated Poetry project began with the central question: “Using what you’ve learned at LCC, how will you engage with the larger community?” From this, the project evolved into a cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental, student-centered event that, so far, includes:

      • Four poems written by ENGL 201, Introduction to Poetry students using raw material produced in multiple courses (ENGL, HIST, PHIL, DMAC and THEA) and shared at StarScapes. The poems were written after a workshop on form/approach with current Lansing Poet Laureate and retired LCC professor Dennis Hinrichsen.

      • Interpretation of these poems by a student from the Sign Language Interpreter Program during the StarScapes readings

      • Performances at StarScapes of two of the four poems by students in THEA 143 Stage Voice for the Actor

      • Planned publication of these and future Community-Generated Poetry Project poems and other output using a magazine-like WordPress site on LCC’s Open Learning Lab OpenLCC sites

      • Video produced by DMAC 244 Media/Cinema Producer students covering various aspects of the project.

      • During this session we’ll present the specifics of the project, give attendees a chance to do some interactive work with the raw material we gathered, and share the student-generated poems from this year, as well as our ideas for future iterations of the project. In addition, with the idea that this project is infinitely adaptable, we hope to get input from attendees regarding: Where else might we go with this from here?


How:  My session/presentation notes:

Intro/context (10 minutes or less?):

    • Imagining America Conference Oct 2017 (What is Imaging America, LCC is a member institution and Melissa/Barb are campus liaisons, other IA LCC projects? Plans for future projects. Value of interdisciplinary projects/learning). IA Vision Statement: Publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars and community activists working toward the democratic transformation of higher ed and civic life.
    • Short description of the session Barb attended called “community generated poetry” (prompts Andrew Sullivan wrote around “Imagining America”, 5 volunteers to write from the session, met Sunday a.m., were each given a stack of prompts/responses, wrote a couple of stanzas, the final poem read at the closing ceremony of the conference – share my two stanzas?)
    • Tried a small version with my ENGL 201 class Fall 2017 – I wrote two poems from student responses to “America is/AMERICA acrostic” and “Poetry is/POETRY acrostic”. Students loved it but I wanted it all to come from them – raw material and the poem(s)

This semester’s project (10 minutes or less?):

    • Our inaugural LCC Community-generated Poetry project began with the central question: “Using what you’ve learned at LCC, how will you engage with the larger community?” From this, the project evolved into a cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental, student-centered project that, so far, includes:
        • Four poems written by ENGL 201, Introduction to Poetry students using raw material produced in multiple courses (ENGL, HIST, PHIL, DMAC and THEA) from prompts connected to our central question (around the concepts of: community, college, LCC and Lansing) written by professors of those courses: Barb Clauer, Jeff Janowick, Matt VanCleeve, Bonnie Sumbler, Paige Tufford and Melissa Kaplan. The ENGL 201 students read their poems at StarScapes.
        • The poems were written after a workshop on form/approach with current Lansing Poet Laureate and retired LCC professor Dennis Hinrichsen.
        • Interpretation of these poems by a student from the Sign Language Interpreter Program during the StarScapes readings (which prompted one of my ideas for future poetry projects)
        • Performances at StarScapes of two of the four poems by students in Paige Tufford’s THEA 143 Stage Voice for the Actor
        • Planned publication of these and future Community-Generated Poetry Project poems and other output using a magazine-like WordPress site on LCC’s Open Learning Lab OpenLCC sites
        • Video produced by Bonnie Sumbler’s DMAC 244 Media/Cinema Producer students covering various aspects of the project.
    • Feedback from students involved – share some of the ENGL 201 student feedback (bring hardcopy)
    • Some of our reflections? This was a major learning experience – lots to keep and things to change as well – already have a list of things I would do differently based on student feedback. I was nervous about some of the poems’ content and style but decided to just trust the students and the process we tried – i.e. handing over so much to them. This was a real learning experience for me on that front. What we did right = their words, their poems and their voice.

Let’s play! And see outcomes (25 min)

    • Give groups of 4-5 people small stacks of the raw material and some highlighters
    • Directions (enlarge and print out for doc cam):
      • Highlight interesting language/imagery, something that moves you or just that you notice
      • Stich those together to make a couple of lines of poetry
      • Connect those with other lines in your group to make a quick/rough poem from the material
      • Write it on the big sticky pad
      • Share remember these are “quickly-created community-generated poems” J
    • Show/read the student-generated poems from this year (on easels) with the caveat that they really need to be read by students.
    • Reflections? I’m learning to just DO things like this that are important to us. I wanted to try it on one of my classes and then on a bigger scale. I have amazing colleagues who were game and we worked together and ta-da something new exists that both faculty and students found valuable. Joy.

Future plans/ideas (5 min)

Some of our rough ideas:

    • Something with accessibility – this type of project encourages empathy; I think it might be helpful to hear from students with various needs what the concept of accessibility means to them. Also thinking about what it would be like for hearing students to see a poem only in ASL with no translation/captions.
    • Ongoing connections to OneBook using themes inspired from the books each year – coming up The Hate You Give
    • Service Learning possibility? Have students go into area schools and lead similar projects? (ex: college students talking to high school students about each of the groups’ concepts of the value of education?)
    • Any suggestions/ideas from participants?

Session Output:

Participants formed three groups and, using small piles of unmarked (i.e. not the ones the students had highlighted/marked up for their poems) questionnaire responses from the Spring 2018 CGPP, wrote three new poems.  It’s fascinating to me to compare the student-written poems to the faculty/staff-written poems.

Observations:

    • Similar phrases were collaged into both sets of poems
    • Similar tone in both sets but a certain “tightness” in phrasing and economy of language from the faculty poems
    • Slightly less focus on parking in the faculty poems 🙂

The Poems:

LCC is like a busy street that
   never sleeps, a home I don’t
   want to live in, constantly
   planning a wedding.
A beehive, all sorts, buzzing & humming.
A giant fishbowl, it’s a cozy little space.
Came 40 minutes early, still late to
   class, couldn’t find a parking spot…
   afraid to use the Gannon bathroom.
Staying up all night drinking coffee
So much potential, locked in conformity.
Oh say can you tell how my future will be?
   I hope I don’t regret this.

by Dan Holt, Marcy Bauman, Sarah Steinhour, 
Meg Elias, and Matt VanCleave
Anyone can go to college.
A bittersweet symphony,
A young person’s dedicated Hell,
A nightmare with a happy ending,
“She tried.”
Started from the bottom, now we here,
A kid at the starzone.
Cheaper than most places,
Meijer life statuses,
A ponzi scheme,
Of who they think I am,
I met my boyfriend outside of poetry,
I can’t get off.
It’s our shithole.
Maybe that’s ok.

by Rob McLoone, Tim Deines, Jeff Janowick, 
and Regina Gong
LCC stood proud, concrete exterior hard as
a shell, but inside she held a soft
happy secret
Your average student got a 100%
on a test that I never took & never
raised my hand
My future is bright and luminous
hope before life goes to shit
My life be like
a box of chocolate
money without inflation
remarkably, unremarkable
Get everyone to love one another
By watching them like zoo animals.

by Kali Majumdar, Anne Heutche, Ami Ewald, 
and Rosalie Petrouske

An epiphany I had and shared with attendees during the session: This project is amazing for hearing from populations in a way we haven’t or that they don’t get asked.  It’s important for the fact that the poems come from and are written by those within the particular population. Their words; their voices.

I enjoyed sharing the bumpy process for the first LCC Community Generated Poetry Project (Spring 2018 (Inaugural!) LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project) and that the main thing I learned was what is now Poetry Project Principle (link to page): Trust the students.

 

Spring 2019: “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” Black History Month Sessions

The poems ready to be read at the end of the session

Spring 2019 Black History Month “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” sessions March 19th and March 20th, 2019: These two, one-day sessions repeated many of the activities from the 2018 “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” sessions (link to post) but with a specific focus on the 2019 Black History Month theme of “Migrations”. Professor Ravon Keith began the session with some background on the Harlem Renaissance, and then I led the participants in poetry-related readings and activities.  Participants formed three groups and were then given one of three Langston Hughes’ poems. Inspired by and incorporating the first lines of Langston Hughes’ poems “Harlem”, “I, Too”, and “Let America Be America Again”, about 40 attendees overall wrote lines of poetry on their own and then collaborated in groups to use those lines to compose four poems.

The Poems:

Poems from 3.19.19 session

What happens to a dream deferred?
Is it swept like dirt under a rug?
Or does it spread like an invasive bug?
Or is it never really forgotten like a lost loved one?
Is it built like a tank, yet hard to hit?
Or does it shrivel,
like a plant without water?
Does it vanish,
like freedom that has perished?
Does it follow like a shadow,
or wash away on a rainy day?
Does it wash away because of life events?
or do you let your peers deter you away from it?
Or are you free to be as everybody else?
Does it disappear to the back of your mind,
reappearing randomly just to be pushed away again?
Or is it just simply that a dream so long deferred
becomes a dream no longer?


by: Zion Chisolm, Emily Castle, Cy Church, Charlese DuMond, 
Morris Luckett, Quan Tran, Kalyn VanWormer, Sydney Green
I, too, sing America
Although I am different.
I sing to millions and billions.
Tell that girl to get her own style
because I am unique.
You may not think –
But I already do
My occupation does not define me.
I laugh, cry, and hurt just as much as they do.
I forge ahead, my path, my own.
We are blessed by our heavenly God.
He has given us a new way to live,
A healing comfort of pain and mind.

by: Christopher Marral, Oscar William Navichoc, Tionne Heard,
 Alaina Dempsey, Retha Moore, Jalen Steele, Brand Bekke, 
Courtney Bryan, Skye Keeslar, Grace Thelen
Let America be America again.
Let our voices be heard
Let the judgements stop
Allow us to be 100% ourselves all the time
Let it be a place of joy
And not a place of pain
Back to a time with no discrimination
A place with no stereotypes
Where you can run around freely
No matter the color of your skin
Let America be America Again
Let it be a place where indigenous people
Are once again treated with respect
Let it be the true “melting pot” it claims to be
That gives everybody equality
Let America be America again

When did America officially lose itself?
Who’s not letting America be America?
But what was America?
Looking back in time, why would we want this?
Who does the repetition benefit?
Let American shape itself.


by: Ruby Edsall-Parr, Caleb Harrison, Ethan Mongean, 
Caleb Friddle, Rose Fox-Long, Emily VanElls, Serena Boak, 
Juhyun Lee, Marquis Jeffries, Kelsey Connor

 

The 2nd session poem inspired by “Let American Be America Again”

Poem from 3.20.19 (it was a small group and they chose to start with the line from “Let America Be America Again”)

Let America be American again
Let open-mindedness spark opportunity,
Let colonizers be free from strain
Inputting diversity and producing creativity.

(America is still trying to be America to me.)

Dreams have been dreamed
Love expanded from the land
Never kings wear fake crowns
And dares the destruction of someone’s hand

(America is something America will never be.)

“Let America be America again
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed
Let it be that great strong land of love.”

Let America be America again
When walls come down and bridges are embraced,
Where undocumented immigrants are
Connected with family rather than separated

Cold dreams, thoughts and tears
Washed away like dirty water,
The sweetness of my heart
fade into the darkness of my own loneliness

Let America be America Again
Without the violence, the pain, and the suffering.
Let America be awesome.
If I had a choice, I would take the flag and
Burn it, because it has so much bloodshed,
And create something new: a flag that’s clean.
Let America be great again.


by: Gary Cox, James Henson, Daniel Morgan, Prisca Mtimavalye,
Leticia Naverro

Feedback:  Responses from the feedback forms provided at the two sessions:

What did you like most about this event?

    • Reading the poems (x3)
    • Working on our own poems
    • Brownies were awesome, writing poetry was fun
    • Watching videos of 1900’s African American culture
    • The videos and the info given
    • The creative poetry
    • Community Poem (x2)
    • Feeding off other’s creativity
    • Incorporated subjects currently being taught
    • Creating poetry and watching videos
    • Learning history of black people
    • The combination of Black history and creating literature
    • Others opinions about America and how they live
    • Working with other to create art
    • The prompts and how they challenged my thoughts
    • The videos and poems
    • Enjoying with other people
    • All the unique things I learned
    • Opened my mind, got me thinking about how I could spread awareness about topics and writings

What I learned:

After the groups shared their poems, I read a couple of the poems created at the 2018 Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance event.  Participants seemed to enjoy the ways in which their poems, which used the same inspiration poems and first lines, were different but also echoed many of the same ideas.  If we continue to do this event, I want to remember to share previous poems in that same way and possibly leave time for the poets to talk about the connections and differences between the poems.

May 2020: Virtual Poetry Project Presentation (PA days)

Script & poems for PD Day Lightening Talk on the Spring 2020 LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project

Hi everyone. We made it to the end of Spring semester 2020, the most bizarre, stressful, sad and, I would also say hopefully, inspiring semester of our lives. After Spring Break, we all had to dig deep to tap into our resilience and flexibility and then try to extend that to our students as well.  I would say I drew inspiration from how resilient and determined our students were especially when it came to my own project the LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project.  How that turned out is what I want to share with all of you today.

Many of you were involved in this semester’s Poetry Project by sharing prompts with your classes early in the semester (show sample prompt page/paragraph).  The prompts were connected to concepts surrounding the vote since 2020 is the 150th and 100th anniversaries of the 15th and 19th Amendments, respectively, as well as the first year many of our students are eligible to vote in a Presidential election.

After I had a short pity party for myself that this semester’s project would have to change dramatically, I adapted the process to work online.  Normally, the process of collaging the poems from all your students’ responses, which is the raw material, makes for a really amazing face to face day with my ENGL 201 Introduction to Poetry class as they work together to find interesting language and weave together poems from all the LCC student voices represented by the responses, your students.  This semester, in groups on discussion boards, the students read the different topic responses, wrote their lines and commented on each other’s work to suggest connections. Then, and this is the part that’s the greatest departure from the regular process, instead of the students, in real time, in their small groups, finalizing a poem from their lines, I took the lines and suggestions for connections and collaged the poems from that.  Then I shared the poems with the poets and they did the final revisions/edits together, again on the discussion board.  So…here are those poems with a reading assist from my new co-workers this semester, my two sons.

 

Link to 2020 Learning Together Professional Activity Days Lightening Talk Video:

LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project

Link to “Vote and Your Voice” post — poems/authors

Conclusion:  Those poems will be posted on my OpenLCC website for the Poetry Project (poetryproject.openlcc.net) along with the student poets’ names and more details on the process.  I definitely plan to continue with the focus of this project, The Vote and Your Voice, for Fall 2020 and will continue to work on adapting the process for our Fall online reality.  This semester, like all the ones before with the LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project, and in some ways even more so, served to again reiterate the truth of the 3 principles that I have determined drive the Poetry Project: Trust the Students, Trust the Process, Trust Each Other.

 

Description for the Lightening Talk:

A short introduction to and description of the Spring 2020 LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project “The Vote and Your Voice” and the ways I adapted it this semester. Includes readings (with help from my sons Josh and Caleb) of the three student-community-generated poems: “Voting Is…”, “”Vote or the Enemy Rises: Lines on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage)”, and “the future is in our hands”. Please visit poetryproject.openlcc.net to see the poems with the student authors listed, as well as more details on this semester’s unique process.

 

 

 

Fall 2020: Visiting History Scholar: Community-Generated Poetry Activity (Virtual)

NEEDS PICTURE

Visiting History Scholar Poetry Reflection session: THURS 11/19/20 6:00-7:30p “Poetry and History: Community-generated poems”

The 2020-2021 Visiting History Scholar series invited Dr. Robin Morris to LCC’s campus Spring 2020 to engage with her work on the Conservative Women’s Movement which included explorations of anti-ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) activism. As with so much Spring 2020, plans regarding the series had to change drastically.  Professor Anne Heutsche persisted, and the engagement happened virtually Fall 2020 in a three-part series.  The last of the series included reflecting on the ideas and themes in Dr. Morris’ work through the lens of an historical range of feminist poetry/poets.  The following poems were created by participants in the Visiting History Scholar Poetry Reflection session via a community-generated poetry activity using the following steps/process:

 

  1. I read and then posted in the chat two “inspiration” quotes – one from a feminist poet/poem, and one from Dr. Morris’ work (either a quote from an activist or a quote from Dr. Morris’ writing)
  2. I then asked the participants to take a few minutes and write a couple of lines in response to the inspiration lines.
  3. Then the poets shared their lines in chat while I copied/pasted to another document as the lines were posted.
  4. Initially, I had envisioned then crafting the order of the lines together, as we would have done in a face-to-face session, but that proved unwieldy via WebEx
  5. So, after participants had shared their lines, I just read the lines in the order I had copied/pasted them.
  6. Somehow that worked and ta-da, poems! 🙂
  7. I have only slightly tampered with these poems where line breaks and adding/or modifying punctuation helped with flow/sense. I’ve also given each poem a title that marries concepts from the two inspiration quotes with what emerged in the poem.

 

The poets who contributed lines to the poems are: Barb Clauer, David Guard, Nea Harris, Anne Heutsche, Jeremy Hockett, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Erika Schieberl, Pamela Smith


 

Poem 1: Anger and Privilege

“There are so many roots to the tree of anger…/which me will survive/all these liberations.” (opening line + last 2 lines of “Who Said it Was Simple” 1973 by Audre Lorde)

“Why should we lower ourselves to ‘equal rights’ when we already have the status of special privilege? — Phyllis Schlafly (1972) re: her Anti-ERA stance

 

Who said it was simple

to push our resilient roots through patriarchal concrete

buckle the sidewalk and

forge our own path for the special privilege of this uphill journey?

 

There are many feathers in the wings of desire

hopes soar to become what we want

 

The righteous roots of feminist rage creep above the ground

and threaten to uproot the tree of equality and freedom.

Will woman survive this anger or will they be destroyed in the struggle?

 

The privileged picture equal rights a bed of smoldering ash,

stinking and sodden

I picture liberation privilege’s explosion,

a fury of flames,

spreading the sweet scent of freedom

 

What are the roots of this privilege?

From which tree have they burrowed

Into the soil seeking to nourish

A self-righteous and wrathful woman

 

There was no practice for this anger I felt.

Sudden, and unknown

“Hush, now”

But, the blood pushing through scattered veins had never learned how.

 

Liberation – no glory for me, special privilege – above what is usually considered privilege.

it posits how we will survive liberation

gender equality is a reduction

To leave swinging her sisters from its branches of liberation?


 

Poem 2: Sons and God

“wishes for sons” the title of a 1987 poem by Lucille Clifton

“Women have babies and men don’t. If you don’t like this fundamental difference between men and women, you will have to take your complaint to God.” — Phyllis Schlafly (1972)

 

Are you there God? It’s me, mother of sons and I have a complaint:

I cannot find the ear where I might whisper my wishes for sons

for my sons…

I wish them epiphany without blindness, revelation without suffering

but for others?

I wish the pain of childbirth, the haunt of assault,

keys poised as claws in self-defense as they walk in darkness

and the eternal weight of women’s collective memories:

epiphany by revelation

 

childfree women

desire fulfillment

wonton women

 

How men hunger to understand a women’s world?

To be able to create another life within herself is the power

that God endowed to women. She was pleased.

Sons long to return to the womb of where they sprang.

Sons wish to have the power of life.

 

My son, were I to ever have one, would be my baby too.

I’d show him how to swim against the world’s tide

And hope that one day others join him

 

reckless desire

all god’s creation

 

wide eyes to see all the ways of love –

brave hearts to feel beyond the fear –

For unknown reasons

would your god want any less for your sons…or daughters?


 

Poem 3: Human and Woman

 

“That she somehow is not a human thing…/A wing, a branch, an extra, not mankind—” (From stanza #6 of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1911 poem “The Anti-Suffragists”)

“Women who Want to be Women” — (WWWW) A Texas women’s group formed by anti-ERA activist Lottie Beth Hobbs

 

Can the hawk fly wingless?

Does the oak survive without its branches?

 

Her presence is unique to those who seek her company.

what is a woman, a man, a human

a woman who wants to be human

a man who wants to be a woman

As you see me.

a woman, as strong as her roots

 

Keep your rib, sir, I have my own, full breasted and meaty

Women formed from a rib, a bone and not a human thing.

Not of mankind, women are bones and part of the earth.

They will be worn down to ash and then provide

sustenance for women who want to be women

 

Tell me once more what makes me a woman.

Tell me what appearance will satisfy,

and bind me to this world once more,

As a woman


 

Poem 4: Living and Battling

 

“Live not for battles won./Live not for the-end-of-the-song./Live in the along.” – Gwendolyn Brooks 1991 poem “Speech to the Young”

“The women began fighting both battles in the name of the American family” — Dr. Robin Morris writing about GA STOP ERA – 1972 (the 2 battles = STOP ERA and abortion)

 

How do we understand anything beyond “battle”

cooperate is even an odd word with too much emptiness within it –

how do we measure our loot?

wagin wars to heal souls

I find happiness in every day. Lord I thank you!

who is the medicine woman

Where is my justice?

 

The women understood they were planting

the seeds of liberation for the next generation.

They were living to provide the words,

the stanzas the tools to survive and thrive.

Women know how to craft together families from the scraps of their lives.

The women were fighting by resisting, persisting and creating

songs that cry for battle seeking justice

 

I see nothing within the battle

It is from along the sides of the fight that the picture becomes clear

warriors of the quiet moment, the crying moment,

once in the battlefield graves, the fight fell away

and all the souls shared the same stars

leave no one behind

 

Fall 2020 Inaugural “Inspiration Exchange” Community-Generated Poetry Activity (Virtual)

Inspiration Exchange inaugural session: TUES 12/8/20 6:00-7:30p — Three community-generated poems: inspiration exchanged 🙂

Inspiration Exchange Description/Invitation (posted in the Star, etc.):  Join the Inspiration Exchange! Students have Finals Frenzy, but what about faculty and staff? Take a break at the Inspiration Exchange on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. The first in what will be a series of periodic gatherings open to all LCC faculty and staff, the Inspiration Exchange is a chance to share, to listen, to create, and to be inspired. Created and led by Melissa Kaplan with Anne Heutsche and Barb Clauer, the exchange is a casual, informal Webex get-together. We’ll share what’s been inspiring us and then share in a creative activity. Each month, a different faculty artist will lead such activities as drawing or doodling, movement or meditation, nurturing plants or nurturing pets, and more. This month, Barb Clauer will guide us in group-created poetry through her LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project. The Inspiration Exchange is a no-pressure, low key, come-as-you are gathering. Cameras on or off, bring a drink or your dinner, participate however you’d like – it’s a chance to unwind, connect and share in the community.

The following three poems were created by participants in the first Inspiration Exchange session via a community-generated poetry activity using the following steps/process:

  1. The three of us (Melissa,, Anne, and Barb) each chose and read a poem that inspired us for various reasons. Barb’s was Mary Oliver’s “I Go Down to the Shore”, Anne’s was Marge Piercy’s “To be of use”, and Melissa’s was Mark Nepo’s “Adrift”.
  2. Then focusing on each poem one at a time I posted inspiration lines we’d chosen from our poems
  3. Oliver: “And the sea says/in its lovely voice:/Excuse me, I have work to do.
  4. Piercy: “I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,/who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,/who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,/who do what has to be done, again and again.
  5. Nepo: “Everything is beautiful and I am so sad./This is how the heart makes a duet of/wonder and grief. The light spraying/through the lace of the fern is as delicate/as the fibers of memory forming their web/around the knot in my throat.
  6. Then after a pep talk that there are lots of ways to be creative, lots of ways to contribute, lots of voices in poetry, no pressure to share what you’ve written, but know whatever you share will be appreciated and weave into/support others’ lines/words, I then asked the participants to take a few minutes and write a couple of lines in response to the inspiration lines.
  7. The poets then shared their lines in chat while I copied/pasted to another document as the lines were posted. I read the lines in the order I had copied/pasted them and the rough poems emerged.
  8. To finalize the poems, I played with line breaks, line order and adding/or modifying punctuation to support flow/sense. I’ve also given each poem a title connected to the inspiration lines.

 

The poets who contributed lines to the poems are: Barb Clauer, Paige Dunckel, Faith Edwards, Meg Elias, Ben Garrett, Anne Heutsche, Melissa Kaplan, and Jim Luke


Inspiration lines used from Mary Oliver’s poem “I Go Down to the Shore”:  “…And the sea says/in its lovely voice:/Excuse me, I have work to do.”

And the Sea Says

And the sea says in its lovely voice:

Come with me and be my guest

see for yourself how your confusion

impedes your quest.

You seek the sea and seek the sand yet

you stay in no man’s land….oh see within little one.

 

The sun keeps shining, ignoring me.

I step into the wave and feel the pull;

the wave separates me from my misery

the work separates me from my paralysis.

To do and to be, to do and to be.

 

I wrote a poem about the ocean once.

I could not take my eyes off the curves of the waves.

It was not work I was thinking of in that moment,

but the call of the moon.

It’s a never-ending refrain,

and the shores are rocky

 

I’m still, but the world keeps moving, leaving me behind.

In the quiet of the woods

where we find growth and decay

is an evocative tug on our heart strings:

we come from and return to the earth.

Now I am thinking about missing the ocean,

face toward the mist

little toes to tickle, tears to catch.

 

From loss to hope Is not a straight path.

It winds through grief and anger.

It stops at hurt. Often it stops at hurt.

But taken together, riding with compassion,

we can make it through resolve to hope.

Excuse me, I have work do to.


Inspiration lines from Marge Piercy’s poem “To be of use”:  “I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,/who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,/who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,/who do what has to be done, again and again.”

 

To Harness Ourselves

We strain in the mud and the muck

to move things forward.

But when my mind is blank

and I can hold no more of people and work

I retreat to hold my dogs.

Breathe, close my eyes, silence

and receive unconditional love.

 

Gargle, girgle, gurgle goes the muck around my boot.

Stuck in one place and trying to free myself,

I giggle and call for help.

Help comes in the form of my dog,

Who is now stuck in the muck and tugging on my boot.

How will we free ourselves?

Stepping out of my boots,

I step into the muck which oozes between my toes.

Freeing myself, I work to free the dog

one step at a time, together.

I love dirt. The dirt. Never a dirt. Never just dirt.

Castilano’s Trayectoria del polvo, the path of dust.

It is a beautiful thing to think of dust moving beneath us.

 

I love people who harness themselves

who strain, who do what has to be done again and again.

But even more are those who do what must be done

not because it is time again, but because it ought to be done.

My hands are out, waiting to be taken;

pulled up, pushed forward. I’m here.

My shoulder wedges against yours as we pull,

together we are stronger.

Even distanced I can feel the yoke

constraining, focusing, biting,

patient in its weight.

 

Is it too soon to pull the blankets back?

To know it all goes on and be reminded:

bees must carry on to survive, and so must I.


Inspiration lines from Mark Nepo’s poem “Adrift”:  “Everything is beautiful and I am so sad./This is how the heart makes a duet of/wonder and grief. The light spraying/through the lace of the fern is as delicate/as the fibers of memory forming their web/around the knot in my throat.”

 

The Knot of Memory

Silk spider filament alone is air,

but filament on filament on filament

becomes a steel cable, tied to the past

tied to me. Beautiful in sunlight or rain.

The light is delicate and fleeting. At night it will be gone.

But the web of my memory encases my wonder

and grief that I may ever be with them.

 

I do not know what memories form or how to form them

but they are a thread, intertwined like a duet,

each fiber holding me together

I have a very personal relationship with fiber.

It is both sad and, while I would not say beautiful,

I would say delicate and strong, or strength forming,

like a web built to catch me that sometimes

entangles awkwardly around my throat.

 

I drive by people walking, laughing, fighting or just living

and I wonder: What’s the use of that? Who do you think you are?

A speck of dust in the universe, in my eye.

I say to myself, count your blessings…really? Seriously?

Blessings are everywhere and so is despair.

Why did I have to lose a child? Seriously?

 

My grief is weighing heavily on me

Ephemeral like dust,

weighing heavy on refugees’ backs

like the layers of clothes,

we wear to battle the bitter cold.

Who will win?

 

Transient like wind, turning shacks to shatters.

The cold starts to seep into my bones!

Then the sun hits my face.  The snow glistens.

The dogs yip in glee, bouncing in the snow!

In that holy moment,

The layers of sorrow melt, but stay a part of me,

soft like water, shaping granite.

 

Spring 2021 Malcolm X Symposium: Community-Generated Poetry Activity

Below are three community-generated poems from the Malcolm X Symposium held virtually Feb. 16, 2021.  The poems and the inspiration lines used in the activity were inspired by the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” and the  2021 Black History Month Theme: The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.


Our Song is Not a Solo

 

Stand with loved ones

Stand with all

Stand with me in sorrow

Stand with me in joy.

Today does not determine tomorrow,

And even if I fall, I am no longer alone;

There’s a landing with each other.

 

You fell but you continued to rise.

Hold your head up high,

Every day moving forward

Your voice matters.

Jonathan is not alone.

Quan is not alone.

To love is to share;

To share is to love

We can’t be wrong if this is where we belong.

 

Stand when you feel like sitting

Stand for solidarity even when there’s no popularity

Stand with love

Stand with sacrifice

Stand with humbleness.

 

West Michigan djembe rhythm binds us

Propels us forward in equity.

Lift each other, lift our voices

Carry our song to the past, present and future;

Our song is not a solo.

 

Poets: Sylvia J. Brown Jones, James Campbell, Maxine Hankins Cain, Barb Clauer, Michelle Curtin, Willie Davis, Jeanne Donado, Melissa Kaplan, Dara Mayhoe, Gezelle Oliver, Steve Robinson, Alice G. Thompson.


Untitled

In Lansing, Michigan

To love is to share

At Lansing Community College

To share is to love

We’re in this together

 

Poets: Barb Clauer, Jeanne Donado and Steve Robinson


Courage Embedded  

 

Even when I fall

and seaweed binds my mind

I see a fine shore beckoning,

the beginning of a story based on rivers of Shiny stardust.

Alone through a voyage, my ancestors came

Alone through time, with heartache and pain.

What they encountered, I cannot comprehend.

Their courage embedded; my heart is its home,

Their bravery lives on; I am not alone.

 

Stirred to love, understanding, and empathy

for my kinspeople, I shout never give up

always rise, forever rise in unconditional love.

We are resilient, valuable and strong

and will hold each other up.

Stand strong as family, stand strong in the wind.

I depend on the strength of my family

to help me stand once again

We stand for a better tomorrow;

We are stronger together.

 

Poets: Sylvia J. Brown Jones, Maxine Hankins Cain, Barb Clauer, Melissa Kaplan, Ronda Miller, Niall, Andres Olvera


Introduction to the Community-generated Poetry Activity:

Hi I’m Barb Clauer, English Professor and creator of the LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project.  I’m so glad to have been invited by Dr. Davis to be part of this evening.  This year, with the Poetry Project, I’ve been exploring how to create poetry together in virtual events like this. I (preemptively) appreciate your willingness to explore and jump in with me! No poetry writing experience needed, just a willingness to join your voice with others and try to interact with the themes and concepts from this wonderful evening secure in the knowledge that poetry is many different things including expansive and inclusive.

These directions will stay on the screen as we write:

    • Please take 2-3 minutes to write a couple of lines of your own in response to our “inspiration lines” (see below) which were part of an LCC community-generated poem expanding on the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”. (Hopefully all are ok with a couple minutes of quiet while we write! :))
    • Copy into the chat what you’re comfortable sharing; Prof Clauer will pull some lines into a quick poem to share. (I’ll do my best but we’ll also have the chat to go back to for whatever I inevitably miss :))
    • Inspiration lines: “Stand with loved ones/Stand with all/Today does not determine tomorrow/and even if I fall, I am no longer alone”

Information sent to the poets after the event:

Hello Malcolm X Symposium Poets!

Thank you so much for jumping into the community-generated poetry activity at the end of the Malcolm X Symposium 2/16.  Your willingness to share your voices and your trust in the idea that we could create something together is inspiring. In addition to the poem I read at the end of the Symposium, now titled “Our Song is Not a Solo”, I pulled other lines posted to the chat and wove those together into two more poems: a short one left untitled, and the other titled “Courage Embedded”

Spring 2021 Visiting History Scholar Series: Community-Generated Poetry Activity (Virtual)

 

The 2020-2021 Visiting History Scholar series invited Dr. Kevin Gannon, virtually, to LCC’s campus Fall 2021 to engage with his work on race, public policy, and history including his keynote “Baked into the Cake: Race and Policy in American History”.  Dr. Gannon was also a part of the May 2021 PA days in connection with his book Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto.  The last session of the Visiting History Scholar series included reflecting on the ideas and themes in Dr. Gannon’s work through the lens of an historical range of poetry/poets.  The following poems were created by participants in the Visiting History Scholar Poetry Reflection session via a community-generated poetry activity using the following steps/process:

  1. We discussed two poems in connection with the larger themes of Gannon’s work: Langston Hughes’ 1926 poem “I, Too”, and Patricia Smith’s 1991 poem “What It’s Like to be a Black Girl (for Those of You Who Aren’t)”
  2. For the poetry writing activity, I then read and posted in the chat two “inspiration” quotes – one from a poem and one connected to Dr. Gannon’s work. Overall the group engaged with 4 pairs of inspiration quotes.
  3. For each pair, I then asked the participants to take a few minutes and write a couple of lines in response to the inspiration lines.
  4. Then the poets shared their lines in chat while I copied/pasted to another document, trying to see themes and connections and group the lines together in some way.
  5. I then read the lines to the group. Somehow that worked and ta-da, poems!  🙂
  6. I have only slightly revised these poems from what I shared with the group 4/14 where line breaks and adding/or modifying punctuation helped with flow/sense. I’ve also given each poem a title that marries concepts from the two inspiration quotes with what emerged in the poem.

The poets who contributed lines to the poems are: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick, and Jim Luke

Poem 1: People not Problems

“But Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings.” (from Angela Davis’ “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”) AND“I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark/Dark gardening/…I call for you/cultivation of strength to heal and enhance” (from “To Prisoners” 1981 poem by Gwendolyn Brooks)

 

Prisons do not disappear problems,

they disappear human beings.

But human beings do not really disappear.

None of us is truly solitary.

 

I hear you history

I am you history

those imprisoned, those who accused

those harmed, those denied their freedom.

 

The emptiness is felt; we lose our men

courtesy of a system designed to collect them.

The problems remain the people do not.

They return, but without their full minds

 

I call for you

cultivation of strength in the dark: dark gardening

Where do we find solace?

Where do we conjure our strength?

 

Dark soil represents possibilities

for things to grow big with strong, deep roots.

Roots provide strength and connection to the past

But…strong roots can wreak destruction

Make us prisoner to the story told

and gardeners of our pain.

What are the roots of our humanity?

 

They want us to disappear, they want to bury us,

but hope blooms.

Tiller of my own strength,

pushing tendrils through concrete

toward the light

fruits growing out of oppression.

 

by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick, and Jim Luke

Poem 2: Choice not Accident

“History is not just stuff that happens by accident. If we are White, we are products of our ancestors’ choice. If we are Black, we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose.” (Gannon quote from the documentary 13th) AND “If we must die, let it not be like hogs/ Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,/ While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,/ Making their mock at our accursèd lot.” (Claude McKay 1919 poem “If We Must Die”.)

If we must choose

let it not be in ignorance,

puppets of history.

If we can choose –

choose to know.

 

I choose the choice made for me,

the accident of history,

I reject the choice made for me,

but not by accident.

 

How does the telling of American history change

If we are Black or White?

If we are Female or Male?

If we are Young or Old?

If we live in the West or East or North and South

 

Unaware is the way most choose;

let us all choose aware and conscious

and choose a path of growth and life

lest we be hunted or hunter

 

We are history, erased, not happening to me

If we choose a delightfully horrible (truthful) history of America

Must we die to being the “good” nation?

Must we die to our ignorance?

Must we die to our willful innocence

Does history continue to mock the ones who are silenced, forgotten, omitted?

 

We are strength, endurance.

We are history, although erased, we will remember.

standing up, back straight,

eyes front, soul calm.

No more accidents.

 

by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick, and Jim Luke

Poem 3: Who Gets to Be an American?

“What does it mean to be an American and who gets to answer that question?” (from Gannon Keynote “Baked into the Cake: Race and Policy in American History”) AND “I, too, sing America/…They’ll see how beautiful I am/ and be ashamed – / I, too, am America.” (from Langston Hughes’ 1926 poem “I, Too” lines 1 and 16-18

 

What does it mean to be an American?

The American melting pot

forges something homogenous

while deleting individual ingredients.

 

Ashamed to live in a nation where

we exclude, we hate

we chose denial

we refuse to recognize

the humanity in the other

What does it mean to be an American?

Resist melting into complacency.

 

I, too, imagine an America anew;

To live in a nation that

nurtures, includes

seeks truth, answers the call of justice,

that creates and builds a “beloved” community

 

American land is my home

in all of its beauty and tragedy,

in its hopes and dreams to be better.

It belongs to those who seek refuge.

It belongs to all of us and none of us.

We must acknowledge we occupy

this land that was loved once before us.

I am here on this land. To love this land.

I am american.

 

Who sings America?

Who gets to answer that question?

America is the cacophony

I, too, am America.

 

by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche

Poem 4: Seeds of Hope

“As teachers we are in the seed planting business” Radical Hope – A Teaching Manifesto by Dr. Kevin Gannon.  AND What are your radical hopes for the seeds you plant?

 

My radical hope is

for young girls to find self-love

for unshaved legs and happy hearts

for reflective moments and small joys

for memories of a life well lived;

a hope that we can all achieve that

 

I am a seed gatherer;

I gather knowledge and facts.

I am a seed sower;

I sow curiosity, kindness, and truths

I will turn into a seed of radical hope

that will be sown by the next generation.

 

Radical connectedness is my hope;

that our seeds’ fragile roots seek

and entwine with others’ roots

to pull knowledge and nutrients

from history’s soil.

 

by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche

Spring 2022: Writing Innovation Symposium Community-Generated Poetry Workshop

sticky notes of a poem in progress
A poem in progress

February 2022:  For Marquette University’s 2022 Writing Innovation Symposium and its theme of “writing it out” together, Melissa Kaplan and I presented a workshop titled “Empowered Anonymity + Creative Accountability: Community-Generated Poetry In Action” using materials created and gathered as part of the Poetry Project’s collaboration with LCC’s  Please Stay: A Call for Suicide Prevention and Awareness interdisciplinary project .

After honoring and sifting through anonymous student responses to the prompt “If depression were an animal, it would be a _______ because ______.” Jessica Edwards, Jenn Fishman, Rebekah Fowler, Jenni Moody, and Kristen Tetzlaff created the following poem.

The Beast

Deer run their whole life.

It has to fight, even hurt

itself in the process.

It can quietly take over your entire life;

you never know when its noise

will tear you to shreds.

 

Tigers sneak up and attack –

my head, like a lion –

you can still smile and suffer, grizzly bear,

like a panda because you would barely

be alive.

 

Like sharks, blood thirsty,

jellyfish sting as you swim in circles.

Octopus grab slowly draining your life,

they hide in deep waters, waiting.

You feel left behind, swimming

in your own thoughts with no way out.

 

Tick

tiger

murder of crows

angler fish

a panda

lion

donkey

sloth

termite

parasite

because it slowly grabs hold of you,

burrows, in the dark, cold, crushing lonely ocean.

 

Cats do not do, they lay;

black cat constantly circling you

it clings to and traps whatever it has.

 

Like a sad dog:

lots of damage in a small space.

It doesn’t communicate on the same

frequencies.

The last of its kind.

 

Like Lyme disease

like I was dying

from the inside out –

like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

it remains unseen

but not unknown.

The ravaging effects,

you would barely be alive.

Only those strong

enough to shake it off survive.

When was the last time you were happy?

 

A snake can come out of nowhere, always alone,

strangles, constricts, and slowly squeezes life out.

 

I am the loneliest animal on Earth,

suffering from isolation and

trapped, like I’m dying on the inside.

 

The world is constantly falling apart

through no fault of its own.

 

They continue coming back to get your things.

 

It won’t quit until you kill it yourself.

Why wait until darkness comes

to begin again?

the poem in sticky note and notepaper form
the poem in sticky note and notepaper form

Fall 2022: Imagining America poem “Migrating Scars”

 

Migrating Scars

 

My scars tell a story of forever arriving

They are the lessons learned, they remind me where I am going

…how I move matters.

My bones see differently now

Before me, drunk mother climbing mango trees; what could’ve been an avoidable encounter.

 

Rapture

 

My scars tell the story of resiliency, they remind me where I come from, the inheritance of immigrant labor

My scars tell stories of metal and bricks, shredding, shedding, erasing, transforming, they are laughable, they are brave.

Truth tears, share it, see it, feel it, know it

They remember what gets forgotten, of family and friends…

My father’s tomorrows filled with promise, they are bright…they are textured

 

A deep reality, claiming, I too can eat mangoes

My scars tell the story of wrinkled cigars, they are deep

Trans enough

 

My scars tell stories of youth and risk, seemingly preventable, bottled up in bottles of Brugal & Mamajuana with something that was too hot

too edgy, my scars are a sign of haste and hurrying, sign of permanence that came out of a moment where blood and breath and fascia and bone…

My scars tell the stories of brokenness that rushing resulted in.

 

Rupture

 

Into experiences and endeavors I was comfortable acting in ways I thought were harmless.

My chest breathes differently now; tired, weary, promise, and loss

moments when I experienced

 

They are reminders of resilience

They remind me where I have been.

 

Poets: Sharieka Botex, Jose Cotto, Katinka Hooyer, EG Gionfriddo, Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez

10.15.2022

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