Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT August 19th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Our text was “Last Writes” by Sandra Becker, posted below.

After two participants read the poem aloud individually, we read it a third time silently as a group. Participants noted how the poem’s metaphorical language, wry tone and confident humor help make a serious subject not only bearable but darkly funny and surprising as an inroad to consider revising one’s narrative: “The poet refers to the darkness but excuses it if it’s well written.” One participant associated the poem’s word play and profanity with a comedy club or spoken word performance; someone else saw/heard it as a meditation, a “railing on limitations of free will.” The group made a meta-level connection between the philosophy of not being a perfectionist with living/writing/singing off-key.

The conversation continued, exploring the work the poem does: bringing light to a dark subject, providing an opportunity to look at “hard stuff” and effect personal change, linking subjectivity with sensitivity. Aligned with the narrative medicine principle of representation, the group paused to explore the end of the poem (“hope via indecision,” “an intellectual exploration with no resolution”), a place where the narrator gives up the idea of perfectionism, and “takes the pressure off in a beautiful way.”

Our reflective writing was to the prompt: “Write about something off-key.”

We had five individuals who shared their reflective writings. There was a broad range of interpretation starting with a take on the dark humor of the text with an imaginative narrative about the organs of a body having a discussion. The next share set an immediate tone of expectation exploring the child’s ideal with a narrative revealing the differences between adult and child perspectives. Another reflection went right to the subject of suicide directly addressing, through poetic description, patient differences both in being and circumstance. This was followed by a reflection about meeting a man diagnosed with schizophrenia. Our participants’ comments observed that through the eyes of this patient we see something new and that if we look closer we may see something we hadn’t seen before. The final shared writing was about a runner struggling to complete a marathon. A man appears off to the side some distance away – he calls to her by name saying “you can make it, you can make it.” No one else had seen this young man cheering the racers on. The last line “I believe in the unexpected” was commented on as a magical ending, which caused a bit of goosebumps; a wholly different take on something off key.

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.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, August 24th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Last Writes by Sandra Becker

Swallow bleach — too painful,
go up in flames — lifelong fear.
Ah, a gun with a two-hour safety lesson
(I must get it right this time).
I’m pro-gun for euthanasia.
This really isn’t meant to be morbid.
When discussing poems, films, and books,
I’ve always told people I don’t care how dark
the subject as long as it’s well-written.
I’ve not chosen a day or time yet, so this may be my   last poem.
I’m giving it a shot (unintended pun).
I’m aiming (shit!) for truth, yes,
but, more importantly, it’s a poem, for God’s sake, so
veracity to poetic elements is most important.
So far, strong opening with a good hook, an unexpected turn.
Puns ease tension if used sparingly.
Revision essential to get it right.
Tense — present, of course.
Pacing — that of a waterfall bound to its given course.
Stanza breaks — none. One life, all connected, eternal.
Music — well, it’s life, silly — imperfect, can’t have everything.
Unfathomable, unpredictable, impermanent life.
Is that how God wrote it, and, Lord knows,
I’ve always been quite the perfectionist.
Why not loosen up, break some rules, have a little fun?
Sing off-key, but sing.

Last Writes by Sandra Becker.
The Sun, Last Writes, C. Bursk Copyright © 2020