Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EDT September 15th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read The Road Ahead by Turlough O’Carolan, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about the phantoms you will be.

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 September 20th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


The Road Ahead by Turlough O’Carolan

The road ahead is like the road behind.
The dreams achieved revise the dreams to come.
Mind shapes world, and new-shaped world shapes mind,
As what you are steps back from what you've done.

The deeper you resides in its own space,
Sheltered like a yolk from wind and tide,
Filled with unimaginable grace
To wander through the paradise inside.

Ambitious girl! Become what dream you will,
And sail across each dark, forbidding sea.
Within, the fawn will graze sweet meadows still,
Untouched by all the phantoms you will be

Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EDT September 13th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

Twenty people from Canada and the USA zoomed together to close read a short excerpt from Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977). We carefully entered the text with participants finding there way in a “mysterious” or “liminal” space wondering if the protagonist, the unnamed “he” in the text, had a visual impairment. Attending to the first sentence “For a long time he had been white smoke,” had us considering the past that brings the reader into the present of the paragraph we just read. We noted  images of green leaves (the only color in this white and gray world) pressed against a barred window and “elk mountain in the distance” with bones as boundaries. Is this surrealism or “a real place” like a sanatorium or a prison, we asked. Was the man suffering mental and emotional difficulties? Did the white smoke, which was “sucked away” indicate a loss of spirit that left the protagonist inhabiting a nether world, a purgatory or limbo?

We began to associate to other texts and images such as Pixar’s “Souls” (where images are outlines) and the poem “The Death of Fred Clifton”, the description of an internal experience:

there was all around not the 
shapes of things
but oh, at last, the things
themselves.

In this fogged-in place, the sense of smell was still available. Mention of walking down “floors that smelled of old wax and disinfectant” intensified the idea that this was life in an institutional setting, a life lived on the edges. Is the person living this life seen or unseen? Was the blurring of vision internal or external? Was there “othering” going on?

Pieces of the puzzle began to come together but, as always, we had less than an hour to discuss the text, write to a prompt, and listen to one another in this VGS session, and so a facilitator offered a bit of background information: “He” is half Native American and half white and suffers PTSD following his time as a soldier. With this, participants were confirmed in their sense that “he” felt ‘’soul-less” detached from those around him, even “dissociated.” We began to understand better the filtering of “white smoke” into this story: smoke as signals, a form of communication; smoke and peace as byproducts of a shared pipe; smoke as an essential in healing ceremonies.

The prompt, “Write about being white smoke, produced: a piece recounting a NYTimes article about drumming as a form of shared mourning and the author’s desire both to mourn and to go on remembering those who were lost;

a reflection on identity beginning, “I am old, overlooked…undervalued…invisible” followed   by a strong rebuttal and reminder of the experience, sanity, and wisdom elders offer;

and a list of the possibilities of white smoke (Eg. “to announce a new pope”), which narrows to memories of a father’s smoking Lucky Strikes, quitting (thankfully) when he learned it caused cancer, and dying many years later of the “white smoke” of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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 September 15th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


For a long time he had been white smoke. He did not realize that until he left the hospital, because white smoke had no consciousness of itself. It faded into the white world of their bed sheets and walls; it was sucked away by the words of doctors who tried to talk to the invisible scattered smoke. He had seen outlines of gray steel tables, outlines of the food they pushed into his mouth, which was only an outline too, like all the outlines he saw. They saw his outline but they did not realize it was hollow inside. He walked down floors that smelled of old wax and disinfectant, watching the outlines of his feet; as he walked, the days and seasons disappeared into a twilight he could catch only with a sudden motion, jerking his head to one side for a glimpse of green leaves pressed against the bars of the window. He inhabited a gray winter fog on a distant elk mountain where hunters are lost indefinitely and their own bones mark the boundaries.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. (2006). First published in 1977. New York: Penguin.


Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EDT September 7th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read the poem “The Painting After Lunch” by Clarence Major, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write or draw about a time it wasn’t working.

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 September 13th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


“The Painting After Lunch” by Clarence Major

It wasn’t working. Didn’t look back. Needed something else. So
I went out. After lunch I saw it in a different light, like a thing
emerging from behind a fever bush, something reaching the
senses with the smell of seaweed boiling, and as visible as yellow
snowdrops on black earth. Tasted it too, on the tongue Jamaica
pepper. To the touch, a velvet flower. Dragging and scumming, I
gave myself to it stroke after stroke. It kept coming in bits and fits,
fragments and snags. I even heard it singing but in the wrong key
like a deranged bird in wild cherries, having the time of its life.

Clarence Major, "The Painting After Lunch" 
from Waiting for Sweet Betty. 
Copyright © 2002 by Clarence Major. 

Encuentros virtuales en vivo: Sábado 4 de septiembre, 13:00 EST (17:00 UTC)

El texto elegido fue “MÚSICA” por Ana María Matute

Después de las instrucciones habituales sobre cómo funciona el taller, invitamos a los participantes a enfocarse en cualquier palabra, verso, imagen, o en la misma forma del poema que les llamara la atención y les evocara pensamientos y sensaciones que quisieran compartir. La estructura ambivalente del poema tuvo un gran efecto en los participantes.

Después de este intercambio, escribimos por cinco minutos según la consigna en base al poema. La consigna fue “Escribe sobre un momento en que inesperadamente descrubriste un secreto”.

Ahora, alentamos a los participantes que si así lo desean, escriban nuevas ideas, o otros textos en el sitio web de las sesiones en español a continuación … Pero, antes de escribir, les recordamos que el blog es un espacio público donde, por supuesto, no se garantiza la confidencialidad.

Por favor, únase a nosotros en nuestra próxima sesión en español: El sábado 25 de septiembre a las 13 hrs. o a la 1 pm EST (hora de Nueva York). También, ofrecemos sesiones en inglés. Ve a  nuestra página de sesiones grupales virtuales en vivo.

¡Gracias y hasta la próxima!


"MÚSICA" por Ana María Matute

Las dos hijas del Gran Compositor -seis y siete años- 
estaban acostumbradas al silencio. En la casa no debía 
oírse ni un ruido, porque papá trabajaba. Andaban de 
puntillas, en zapatillas, y sólo a ráfagas, el silencio se 
rompía con las notas del piano de papá.
Y otra vez silencio.
Un día, la puerta del estudio quedó mal cerrada, y la 
más pequeña de las niñas se acercó sigilosamente a la 
endija; pudo ver cómo papá, a ratos, se inclinaba sobre 
un papel, y anotaba lago.
La niña más pequeña corrió entonces en busca de su 
hermana mayor. Y gritó, gritó por primera vez en tanto 
silencio:
-¡La música de papá, no te la creas...! ¡Se la inventa!
 

Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EDT September 1st 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read the poem, “Hurricane” by Mary Oliver, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about something that didn’t behave like you imagined.

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 Tuesday September 7th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.



“Hurricane” by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

Mary Oliver,  A Thousand Mornings.