Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Time for Reflection and Renewal

I'm honored to present a "Day Poems" workshop at the April 2014 National Association for Poetry Therapy conference in Arizona. Here's why.

In 2002, when I moved from a Mojave mesa with a sweeping view of Joshua Tree National Park to a drafty house on a noisy corner of Bakersfield, I sank into a tangle of emotions. I knew I'd reached the nadir of misery when I yelled at my dogs and they cringed in confusion.

Days stretched into weeks and I couldn't find a job. I gardened, cooked, walked, met neighbors, read, wrote...and every afternoon the walls closed in on me until I couldn't breathe. One day in 2003, at loose ends, I browsed the internet looking for anything poetry related. In the weird way of the web, a site popped up, the National Association for Poetry Therapy. I'm not the first or last person to be drawn in by the organization's logo, pegasus on a purple background. I missed the stars I used to see from my desert patio and the winged horse, mythical creature and constellation, filled a need.

The organization was holding a conference in Miami. My mother, worried about my sorrowful state, offered to pay my way. Gratefully, I went. The conference sessions are a blur, but I remember the attendees--friendly, curious, committed to using words conscientiously, hopeful, sincere, smart, witty. A woman who knew the city took me by taxi for Cuban food and a night walk on the beach. I joined early risers for yoga under the Florida sun. The following year I attended the Costa Mesa conference where keynote speaker Li-Young Lee changed the way I think about silence.

In the year between conferences, inspired by the example of others bringing poetry to unlikely places, I offered writing workshops at Bakersfield's main library. Some of my students became friends.

When I moved to Sacramento in 2004, the arts community opened the door wide for me and I enthusiastically entered, working as a teacher and as a teaching artist in schools and a prison. I concentrated on writing, editing and publishing and let my relationship with NAPT lapse. But I missed it.

I'm dedicated to poetry as an art of skill and imagination: I've been exploring poetry for as long as I can remember as a student and teacher of literature. I'm also intrigued at how reading and writing poetry makes space in life for wonder and possibility and well-being.

My wants are simpler than 12 years ago. I read and write poetry, practice yoga, and help others read and write poetry and practice yoga. The Day Poems workshops are at the heart of what I believe is our welfare as individuals and members of a species: the ability to listen and notice, to engage empathetically with the human and non-human world around us, and create something from our experience that helps us understand ourselves and another.

Hope you can attend!

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