Hugo House, a Seattle hub for writers, hosts a free monthly writing circle through the library, and I’m committed to attending every one this year (as long as I’m in town). The West Seattle circle is run by Jeanine Walker, a poet who also works in the local schools (she has spent lots of time in the classroom with my son and I always enjoy her encouraging comments on his work).
Initially I was a little disappointed that the writing circle closest to me is focused on poetry, not something I’m generally drawn to writing, but a half-dozen sessions with Jeanine over the past 18-months have changed my mind about the value of poetry in my own writing practice. Just as I’ve seen improvements to my portrait work by shooting street work or landscapes, writing in a different way develops different schools.
The latest writing circle I attended this week, and I particularly appreciated the way working within a specific form, the abecedarian, coaxed something new and different out of me.
I’m going to start sharing my work from the writing circles here. They’re written in 5-10 minutes, very-little to no editing, and the only intention I have is to keep deepening the idea that I am someone who writes. I am a writer and here is what I’ve written recently.
The first is the “warm up poem” she has us write at the beginning of each circle. It can be anything we want, any form we choose. I received some troubling/frustrating news right before we walked into class and it was cathartic to write out my feelings in the moment, combined with the feelings generated when a woman in the circle introduced herself and said she has been writing about birds she watches in her yard, “I’ve been watching a one-eyed finch, it’s the second time he’s visited”:
The flood of adrenaline that comes with the news
Here in this calm room I feel out of place
There is no one chasing me, where is the race?
The woman who saw the one-eyed finch
What was her demeanor today?
How would she describe her 2019?
She saw the finch twice,
Not because the finch came just to her
She wasn’t trying to keep pace
Abecedarian Pleading for A Communal Approach to Living
All of us here in this room must
Buy in to the idea of
Community in order for the
Effect to take hold and
Form the bonds that
Joy. I, (like you, yes?),
Know all too well the feeling of
Lack that comes from
“Play nice” is what Ms. McCullough taught me in kindergarten. I ask myself the
Question, is Ms. McCullough still around? We
Really need her right now.
Some will say, whether they are an authority or not,
That I am the problem as much as anyone. I would never claim to be
Unaware of my faults. (In fact, I rank as the
Very best critic of them.)
We’ll never get anywhere if perfection is required.
‘Xtra important in this endeavor is the willingness to say
“Yes, I know I have
Zero ounces of perfection contained in my form. I am here with an open heart, can we try together?”