Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST November 9th 2020

Twenty-eight people from Brazil, Canada, GA, MA, ME, MI, NH, NY, NJ, PA, and OR gathered on Zoom to close read the poem “Life While-You-Wait” by Wislawa Szymborska.

When the group was asked which words or lines first stood out to them, the responses included:

  •             The title “Life While-You-Wait” is repeated in the first line.
  •             The dashes make those three words an expression that urges the reader to quickly run    them together in a sound that happens in less time then it takes to sound “Wait.”
  •             On tombstones there is a dash between two dates representing birth and death. That’s   why some people use the expression: “Live in the dash.”
  •             There is no control, no way to make time go forward or backward or repeat.
  •             The word “raincoat” provides texture.
  •             It sounds as if life comes “nonstop”– like rapids in a river.
  •             The play/performance is “just happening” on a stage rotated by an unseen force.
  •             These words from theatre call to mind Shakespeare and “All the world’s a stage.”
  •             Other intertextual associations included: Waiting for Godot and The Truman Show

Questions were raised such as:

  •             Is this a sudden realization by the speaker of the poem?
  •             What is the age and gender of the speaker?
  •              Does the speaker of the poem have stage fright? Some of us identified with speaker and others thought that the speaker lacks confidence or might believe there is only one  “right way.”
  •             Several people reported anxiety as they encountered the poem, though were not able    to say, exactly, what in the poem elicited that feeling.
  •             Others warmed to the idea of improvisation, free-style dancing, the chance to choose to live life as a “joyous crapshoot” with hiccups and a frog in the throat, perhaps awkward and uncomfortable, or to let life go by.
  •             One person dropped into the chat the notion that an unscripted play can have not only dread but also excitement.
  •             Another asked, “After all, what are we waiting for? It’s a bit of a philosophical conundrum.”

The prompt: Write about not having a rehearsal.

We had three readers.

One imagined the “wait” to be over. Aware of her final heartbeats and breaths, the narrator is awake to the impossibility of rehearsing the moment of death. Another represented a contemporary play in which rehearsal has been cancelled due to Covid-19 or lack of transportation, and the one act, one person show includes the line, “Yes, but…” And the last reader began with a written realization of being “a drop in the universe” wondering if she had wasted time looking for a compass, looking to the sky for answers before remembering to turn inward and find guidance. With that realization it is possible to look forward to: Showtime!    

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 Wednesday, November 11th at 12pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Life While-You-Wait by Wisława Szymborska

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliates me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run —
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

4 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST November 9th 2020

  1. Julia

    Having no rehearsal makes me think of trying something for the first time. Trying a food for the first time. Going to a place for the first time. Learning a new language. It makes me think of something new.
    However, after reading Wisława’s poem, and listening to all our group’s thoughts, I see that no rehearsal happens every moment of our everyday life.
    I believe that when something with no rehearsal appears in life, it becomes a rehearsal itself for what is coming next.
    Having no rehearsal seems and is hard. And I now see us all as brave for living everyday without rehearsal. . . which makes the next day a little bit more “rehearsed” and so on.
    I truly appreciated reading Wisława’s poem and looking at life with new ” stage ” eyes.


  2. Having no rehearsal~~~

    I am here.
    A drop in the universe,
    cosmic particles floating about.
    I flail my arms about me, not knowing the direction to head into.
    Will I find my compass in this life journey to direct me
    or will time be wasted in my search?

    I look up into the heavens,
    into the universe
    hoping for answers.
    If I listen very carefully to the voice within me,
    I hear its voice so faint.
    It reassures me that the path ahead is the path to find my calling,
    to my purpose in all this commotion,
    in all this confusion.

    It’s show time,
    I take the stage and hold my breath as the curtains go up and the lights come on.
    It’s now or never.


  3. Having no rehearsal… .

    I am real. I am raw. I am pure energy.
    I am spontaneous.
    I am in my heart and out of my head.
    I am present.

    I do not repeat over and over what I am going to say.
    I do not have a chance to be arrogant enough to think I know how you will respond.
    I am present.

    I do not get to try on what clothing I will wear,
    changing numerous times,
    with the discarded costumes piling up on the bed.
    I am present.


  4. Patricia D.

    On the last day
    when my breath
    keeps me awake
    and my heart
    kicks in with a beat
    I am aware that
    there can be no
    rehearsal for this
    universal moment
    when there is no
    more waiting as
    life gently leaves
    my body and I
    know not what
    comes next.


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