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.

 

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