Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing, Following up on Week 4

Derek: This description of Clare makes me appreciate even more her power of presence and sense of agency. Even though passing for white was her survival tactic, it hinges on her social capital as well. The paradox of her being among them yet “someone apart” captures her duality perfectly.  


Carmen: This passage captured me as well. It, like many other passages in this work, alludes to a passing of a different nature, outside of color, and points to a “passing” of her performative personality, one who appears engaged but is not. I wonder if she can articulate who she really is or accept and engage with her multiple identities – of her skin and her mind.

For this final week (Week 5), May 10th-15th, we’re finishing the book with the Finale!

We look forward to seeing you all on Zoom this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. EDT. We will be having our final live discussion of the book, including our thoughts on the final pages and the book as a whole! 

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org. If you want to join in the book club discussion, you can respond here or on social media using #NMBookClub.


Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 12th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we gathered to observe the visual art piece “Swiss Made (Edition 2)” by Vaclac Pozarek, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about seeking balance.”

Vaclac Pozarek is a Czech-born artist who has been living and working in Switzerland since the late 1960s. The richness and diversity of his body of work is evident in the various media he chooses to work with: primarily drawing and sculpture, but also collaging, photography, scenography and exhibition design, and book design. In his visual artwork and installations, Pozarek tries to find points of contact between art and everyday objects; ceaselessly querying the ways in which art is presented to us. His graphic work underlines his fascination with typography and architecture, calling to mind building plans and architectural façade embellishments. His research combines the principles of Constructivism, concrete art, and Minimalism; creating a unique synthesis of these distinctive movements.

More details on this session will be posted, so check back!

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 May 17th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Swiss Made (Edition 2), 2019

Wood, transparent colour; piece in two parts
37.8 x 27.56 x 27.56 in ( 96 x 70 x 70 cm )
Unique
Swiss Made (Edition 2), 2019

Wood, transparent colour; piece in two parts
37.8 x 27.56 x 27.56 in ( 96 x 70 x 70 cm )
Unique
Vaclac Pozarek is a Czech-born artist who has been living and working in Switzerland since the late 1960s. The richness and diversity of his body of work is evident in the various media he chooses to work with: primarily drawing and sculpture, but also collaging, photography, scenography and exhibition design, and book design. In his visual artwork and installations, Pozarek tries to find points of contact between art and everyday objects; ceaselessly querying the ways in which art is presented to us. His graphic work underlines his fascination with typography and architecture, calling to mind building plans and architectural façade embellishments. His research combines the principles of Constructivism, concrete art, and Minimalism; creating a unique synthesis of these distinctive movements.

https://www.mamco.ch/en/1504/Vaclav-Pozarek

Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT May 10th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

Our text for this session was the poem Breakage” by Mary Oliver, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about the tattered or the whole.”

More details on this session will be posted, so check back!

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 May 12th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Breakage” by Mary Oliver,

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.


Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2003)

Laboratori Di Medicina Narrativa: sabato 8 Maggio dalle 16 alle 17.30

Siamo stati molto lieti di avervi qui con noi!

Abbiamo analizzato insieme il quadro Paris par la fenêtre di Marc Chagall (1913), seguito dalla poesia Non basta aprire la finestra di Fernando Pessoa (entrambi allegati al termine di questa pagina). 

In seguito, abbiamo usato il prompt “Dalla mia finestra. . .”.

Condivideremo ulteriori dettagli della sessione nei prossimi giorni; vi invitiamo a rivisitare questa pagina in modo da continuare la nostra conversazione qui!

Invitiamo i partecipanti del laboratorio a condividere i propri scritti nella parte “blog” dedicata alla fine della presente pagina (“Leave a Reply”). Speriamo di creare, attraverso questo forum di condivisione, uno spazio in cui continuare la nostra conversazione! Stiamo raccogliendo impressioni e breve feedback sui nostri laboratori di medicina narrativa su Zoom!

Questo breve questionario (anonimo, e aperto a chiunque abbia frequentato almeno un laboratorio) è molto importante per noi, e ci permetterà di elaborare sul valore dei nostri laboratori e sul ruolo dello spazio per riflettere e metabolizzare il momento presente. Vi preghiamo quindi di condividere le nostre riflessioni con noi!


Paris par la fenêtre di Marc Chagall (1913)
Non basta aprire la finestra di Fernando Pessoa

Non basta aprire la finestra
per vedere la campagna e il fiume.
Non basta non essere ciechi
per vedere gli alberi e i fiori.
Bisogna anche non aver nessuna filosofia.
Con la filosofia non vi sono alberi:
vi sono solo idee.
Vi è soltanto ognuno di noi,
simile ad una spelonca.
C’è solo una finestra chiusa
e tutto il mondo fuori;
e un sogno di ciò che potrebbe esser visto
se la finestra si aprisse,
che mai è quello che si vede
quando la finestra si apre.

Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 7th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

Our text for this session was the poem In Search of an Umbrella in NYC” by Juan Felipe Herrera, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was to begin your writing with the phrase “In search of…”

More details on this session will be posted, so check back!

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 May 10th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


In Search of an Umbrella in NYC” by Juan Felipe Herrera

You were having a stroke - i
did not grasp what was going on you
standing almost half ways up half
ways down the colors what were they
i was frozen both us us staring
woman with parasol behind me
are you drunk she said facing
you and the deli behind you      you
leaned shivered dropped your coat
parasol
white
reddish flowers
brain    sweat eyes your eyes moving
seeing me behind me what
black man brown man no man   no
colors you
pushed something away  i was
in a rush  en route to big time
poetry Biz  duded up ironed shirt
the rain was in my way i was not
breathing    you were losing   yourself i
was gaining something   you
stumbled out of your coat  unrolled
a stranger’s language from your lips
pushed your      feet down to
the depths  of the tiny sidewalk even
though it was infinite  burning
ahead of me  to
the food truck at the corner yellow chips
corn violet green sugar drops
fiery torn packs flaring down   and
across the street under the cement i
was moving silent alone a crooked line
going nowhere a woman
touched your hand you were lying
on the dirty shoe ground swimming
up to her i      wanted you
            i was a man
running for cover from the waters
i could not                    lift your suffering
it was too late              the current pulled
i was floating away  (i noticed it)
              you
were rising


Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT May 3rd 2021

Eighteen people from Canada, CA, Lithuania, ME, NJ, NY, PA  (and via the poem: Nebraska) joined on Zoom to close read the poem Shaking the Grass” by Janice N. Harrington, posted below. Participants were quick to notice the alliteration, metaphors, repetition, and visual imagery as well as the duality, the tension and tones of rest and regret, loss and regeneration, a humble voice questioning one’s own vanity. Was the narrator looking back and considering whether they had left some mark on the world?

Intertextual references included: Ecclesiastes, Ezra Pound’s “And the Days Are Not Full Enough” and two paintings: Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Charles Allan Gilbert All is Vanity. There was curiosity in the poem and in us. We wondered: who is “my Beloved” and what or who is disappearing along with “the hollow my body made.” We were reminded of the impermanence of memory and, in the heartland of America, the disappearance of  the prairies and grasslands.   

After our discussion, participants had the option to respond to one of two prompts, either “Write about something that came back to you.” OR “Write about lying in the grass.”

One response had us laying in blades of grass with “warm wind,” vibrant colors of “green” and “azure” sky, with birds “zigging and darting” overhead, the narrator conveying a longing for time to stand still in that moment. Another piece gave voice to Odysseus, remembering and then returning home after war, his journey stretched into a decade of wandering on top of the metaphor of “losing my keys.” One piece, like the poem, located us geographically in memory near Grenoble, France, lying in a field cradled between two mountains where the writer was reminded that “beauty is beyond words.” Another writer started their piece with the “sweet, sweet, sweet” of birdsong, as the narrator, while walking, comes upon a “nascent fawn,” itself lying in the grass “that shook ever so slightly,” in echo of the poem while offering an unexpected perspective on “lying in the grass.” In looking at these responses the group noted how they all embodied themes and elements of the poem, including time, geography, impermanence, with wonderfully vivid detail, and still took us in many different and surprising, yet contemplative, directions. 

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 Friday May 7th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Shaking the Grass
 by Janice N. Harrington


Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me
like red banty hens to catalpa limbs
and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking,
and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep.

I think about the field of grass I lay in once,
between Omaha and Lincoln.  It was summer, I think.
The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway,
a-sway, swayed over me.  I lay on green sod
like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me.

What does a girl think about alone
in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright
as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind?

Maybe I have not shaken the grass.
All is vanity.

Maybe I never rose from that green field.
All is vanity.

Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths
and spill them out into story:  all is vanity.

Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered,
spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem
and green lashes:  O my beloved!  O my beloved!

I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on.
Even the hollow my body made is gone.



From Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone by Janice N Harrington. 
Copyright © 2007 by Janice N. Harrington.