Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT June 8th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Together, we read the poem “The Explorer” by Gwendolyn Brooks (posted below). This text stimulated many questions about the spaces we exist in and the “quiet places” we search for, particularly in the context of our current national and international events. “We are all looking for a quiet place,” observed one of our participants, as this poem highlighted for them the interplay between the personal private to a larger, broader social context. “It’s a poem that sends the reader into spirals,” commented another participant, highlighting the mental and sensory “work” the poem requires us readers to do, as explorers “sifting through” “the fabric of life” and “the general confusion” that comes with it. Together, we explored the “complicated connotations” of the word “noises” in the first line: what kind of noises is the explorer moving through? We noted how “noise can be subjective”: what someone hears as noise could be, “music”, “dissent”, or “neutral sounds” for someone else. We experienced comfort in the “velvet peace”, and someone commented how this made us aware of the “texture of the things around us”. We found ourselves wondering about the different dimensions in which peace can be achieved, both in the exterior and the interior realms. Many of our participants were drawn to the end of this poem, “fearing the choices that cried to be taken”; as someone observed, choices are “made”, rather than “taken”. In the eyes of some of our participants, the explorer in the poem unites people to make choices together… only to find no peace and no quiet rooms to negotiate and decide the next steps of the journey.

For our writing activity, we dove further into the “choices” the poem raised for us. We wrote to the prompt “write about the choices crying to be taken.” Our readers reminded us of the feeling of smallness we may feel in front of the insurmountable height of some choices, whether in the past, in the present or the in future. “How do I move forward from this virtual time?” asked one of our readers. Throughout our dialogue, some participants shared a sense of relief at the thought that “we are not the only “ones” that have choices”, as well as the strong sense of responsibility that comes with knowing that “choices impact those around us”. At the end of our conversation, we returned to the image of the explorer, moving through the world one step and one choice at a time. In the words of our participants, we left each other having “awakened the explorer in [us], especially after spending more than 75 days in lockdown” and reminded that “we are always exploring”.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, June 10th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

- Gwendolyn Brooks (1959)

Somehow to find a still spot in the noise
Was the frayed inner want, the winding, the frayed hope
Whose tatters he kept hunting through the din.
A velvet peace somewhere.
A room of wily hush somewhere within.

So tipping down the scrambled halls he set
Vague hands on throbbing knobs. There were behind
Only spiraling, high human voices,
The scream of nervous affairs,
Wee griefs,
Grand griefs. And choices.

He feared most of all the choices, that cried to be taken.

There were no bourns.
There were no quiet rooms.

Published Harpers Magazine, September, 1959