Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EDT September 29th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read “in lieu of a poem, i’d like to say” by Danez Smith, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was “Write about what begins at the end of your name.”

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 October 4th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


“in lieu of a poem, i’d like to say” by Danez Smith

apricots & brown teeth in browner mouths nashing dates & a clementine’s underflesh under yellow nail & dates like auntie heads & the first time someone dried mango there was god & grandma’s Sunday only song & how the plums are better as plums dammit & i was wrong & a June’s worth of moons & the kiss stain of the berries & lord the prunes & the miracle of other people’s lives & none of my business & our hands sticky and a good empty & please please pass the bowl around again & the question of dried or ripe & the sex of grapes & too many dates & us us us us us & varied are the feast but so same the sound of love gorged & the women in the Y hijab a lily in the water & all of us who come from people who signed with x’s & yesterday made delicacy in the wrinkle of the fruit & at the end of my name begins the lot of us


Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EDT September 27th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read an excerpt from Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” Vol 1, Canto 1, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was in two parts. First we wrote to “Write about a dark forest.” And then to: “Write about a way out of the dark forest.

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 September 29th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


An excerpt from Dante Alighieri’s "Inferno," Vol 1, Canto 1

Midway upon the journey of our life
  I found myself within a forest dark,
  For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
  What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
  Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
  But of the good to treat, which there I found,
  Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
  So full was I of slumber at the moment
  In which I had abandoned the true way.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant' è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai,
dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com' i' v'intrai,
tant' era pien di sonno a quel punto
che la verace via abbandonai.

Encuentros virtuales en vivo: Sábado 25 de septiembre, 13:00 EST (17:00 UTC)

Asistieron 10 participantes representando a los países de Argentina, Colombia, España, y Estados Unidos. El texto elegido fue “Carta al Tiempo” de la poeta nicaragüeña Claribel Alegría. 

La discusión miro como la relación con el tiempo cambio para la poeta mientras el poema y el tiempo pasa. Un participante noto que al final del poema, uno, al igual que la poeta, ya se imagina lo que va a venir (la muerte). Otro participante contribuyo que el uso del tiempo en el poema es una alegoría. Primero anhelamos todas las etapas que pasamos los seres humanos porque estamos enfocados en los cumpleaños desde que estamos de niños, pensamos en los regalos. Y después el tiempo se convierto en un enemigo. Eventualmente caemos en cuenta que el tiempo va a ganar.

Analizando al poema, vemos que hay un interlocutor imaginario a quien la poeta le hable en el poema. Hay un juego del paso del tiempo. Considerando “el otro” se considero si la poeta tenia en mente otra persona o la muerte. ¿Quien es este “otro”?

Considerando a quien la carta esta dirigida, algunos pensábamos que era al tiempo y otros a algo mas abstracto, algo traumático. ¿Por ejemplo, que quiere decir la poeta con, ¨Hace años que amo a otro¨ y “¿El amigo de mi padre”? ¿Será que Claribel esta hablando de acoso sexual? De pronto la carta es dirigida a una persona quien le causo acoso sexual a la poeta.

Una participante noto que el poema usa personificación—es decir, la poeta despersonaliza la carta porque no puede controlar el tiempo, pero si la transforma en una persona, puede tratar de controlarla. “Aunque el tiempo esta siempre conmigo, no estoy consiente que esta siempre conmigo.”

No queríamos parar el debate, pero al fin llego el tiempo de escribir. Los participantes tuvieron dos opciones de consignas: “Escríbele una carta a un visitante inoportuno o no deseado,” o “Escribe tu carta al tiempo.” Escribimos por cuatro minutos. Después invitamos a los participantes a leer lo que habían escrito sin preocuparse de tener que producir un texto literario. Como metodología de la medicina narrativa, el comentario sobre los textos de los participantes se enfoca no sólo en el contenido sino especialmente en la forma y estilo de los textos. La propuesta de escritura produjo textos irónicos y otros en la sombra del texto. Alguien escribió una carta de apreciación al tiempo, como una alabanza—el opuesto de lo acabamos de leer. Fue muy divertido escuchar lo que habían escrito los participantes en tan poco tiempo.

Aquí, ahora alentamos a los participantes que si así lo desean, compartan lo que escribieron a continuación. Deja tu respuesta aquí, si deseas continuar la conversación sobre el poema de Claribel Alegría. Pero antes, les recomendamos tener en cuenta 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 16 de octubre 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.

¡Esperamos verte pronto!


Carta al Tiempo por Claribel Alegría

Estimado señor:
Esta carta la escribo en mi cumpleaños.
Recibí su regalo. No me gusta.
Siempre y siempre lo mismo.
Cuando niña, impaciente lo esperaba;
me vestía de fiesta
y salía a la calle a pregonarlo.
No sea usted tenaz.
Todavía lo veo
jugando ajedrez con el abuelo.
Al principio eran sueltas sus visitas;
se volvieron muy pronto cotidianas
y la voz del abuelo
fue perdiendo su brillo.
Y usted insistía
y no respetaba la humildad
de su carácter dulce
y sus zapatos.
Después me cortejaba.
Era yo adolescente
y usted con ese rostro que no cambia.

Amigo de mi padre
para ganarme a mí.
Pobrecito el abuelo.
En su lecho de muerte
estaba usted presente,
esperando el final.
Un aire insospechado
flotaba entre los muebles
Parecían más blancas las paredes.
Y había alguien más,
usted le hacía señas.
El le cerró los ojos al abuelo
y se detuvo un rato a contemplarme
Le prohibo que vuelva.
Cada vez que los veo
me recorre las vértebras el frío.
No me persiga más,
se lo suplico.
Hace años que amo a otro
y ya no me interesan sus ofrendas.
¿Por qué me espera siempre en las vitrinas,
en la boca del sueño,
bajo el cielo indeciso del domingo?

Sabe a cuarto cerrado su saludo.
Lo he visto con los niños.
Reconocí su traje:
el mismo tweed de entonces
cuando era yo estudiante
y usted amigo de mi padre.
Su ridículo traje de entretiempo.
No vuelva,
le repito.
No se detenga más en mi jardín.
Se asustarán los niños
y las hojas se caen:
las he visto.
¿De qué sirve todo esto?
Se va a reír un rato
con esa risa eterna
y seguirá saliéndome al encuentro.
Los niños,
mi rostro,
las hojas,
todo extraviado en sus pupilas.
Ganará sin remedio.
Al comenzar mi carta lo sabía.Estimado señor:
Esta carta la escribo en mi cumpleaños.
Recibí su regalo. No me gusta.
Siempre y siempre lo mismo.
Cuando niña, impaciente lo esperaba;
me vestía de fiesta
y salía a la calle a pregonarlo.
No sea usted tenaz.
Todavía lo veo
jugando ajedrez con el abuelo.
Al principio eran sueltas sus visitas;
se volvieron muy pronto cotidianas
y la voz del abuelo
fue perdiendo su brillo.
Y usted insistía
y no respetaba la humildad
de su carácter dulce
y sus zapatos.
Después me cortejaba.
Era yo adolescente
y usted con ese rostro que no cambia.
Amigo de mi padre
para ganarme a mí.
Pobrecito el abuelo.
En su lecho de muerte
estaba usted presente,
esperando el final.
Un aire insospechado
flotaba entre los muebles
Parecían más blancas las paredes.
Y había alguien más,
usted le hacía señas.
El le cerró los ojos al abuelo
y se detuvo un rato a contemplarme
Le prohibo que vuelva.
Cada vez que los veo
me recorre las vértebras el frío.
No me persiga más,
se lo suplico.
Hace años que amo a otro
y ya no me interesan sus ofrendas.
¿Por qué me espera siempre en las vitrinas,
en la boca del sueño,
bajo el cielo indeciso del domingo?
Sabe a cuarto cerrado su saludo.
Lo he visto con los niños.
Reconocí su traje:
el mismo tweed de entonces
cuando era yo estudiante
y usted amigo de mi padre.
Su ridículo traje de entretiempo.
No vuelva,
le repito.
No se detenga más en mi jardín.
Se asustarán los niños
y las hojas se caen:
las he visto.
¿De qué sirve todo esto?
Se va a reír un rato
con esa risa eterna
y seguirá saliéndome al encuentro.
Los niños,
mi rostro,
las hojas,
todo extraviado en sus pupilas.
Ganará sin remedio.
Al comenzar mi carta lo sabía.

 

Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EDT September 24th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read “Investigation of Poverty at the Russell Sage Foundation” by Alice Neel, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about being judged or having to explain yourself.

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 27th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Investigation of Poverty at the Russell Sage Foundation, Alice Neel, 1933

Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EDT September 22nd 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read “The Sign in My Father’s Hands” by Martín Espada, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write about learning something no one told you.”

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 Friday September 24th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


   
"The Sign in My Father’s Hands" by Martín Espada

         —for Frank Espada

The beer company
did not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans,
so my father joined the picket line
at the Schaefer Beer Pavilion, New York World’s Fair,   
amid the crowds glaring with canine hostility.   
But the cops brandished nightsticks
and handcuffs to protect the beer,
and my father disappeared.

In 1964, I had never tasted beer,
and no one told me about the picket signs   
torn in two by the cops of brewery.
I knew what dead was: dead was a cat   
overrun with parasites and dumped   
in the hallway incinerator.
I knew my father was dead.
I went mute and filmy-eyed, the slow boy   
who did not hear the question in school.   
I sat studying his framed photograph   
like a mirror, my darker face.

Days later, he appeared in the doorway   
grinning with his gilded tooth.
Not dead, though I would come to learn   
that sometimes Puerto Ricans die   
in jail, with bruises no one can explain   
swelling their eyes shut.
I would learn too that “boycott”
is not a boy’s haircut,
that I could sketch a picket line   
on the blank side of a leaflet.

That day my father returned
from the netherworld
easily as riding the elevator to apartment 14-F,   
and the brewery cops could only watch   
in drunken disappointment.
I searched my father’s hands
for a sign of the miracle.

Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EDT September 20th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close read “A Body’s Universe of Big Bangs by Leslie Contreras Schwartz, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write (or write about) a holy song.

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 September 22nd at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


"A Body’s Universe of Big Bangs" by Leslie Contreras Schwartz


A body must remind itself
to keep alive, continually,
throughout the day.

Even at night while sleeping,
proteins, either messenger, builder,
or destroyer, keeps busy

transforming itself or other substances.
Scientists call these reactions
—to change their innate structure,
dictated by DNA—cellular frustration,

a cotton-cloud nomenclature for crusade,
combat, warfare, aid, unification,
scaffold, or sustain.

Even while the body sleeps, a jaw slackened
into an open dream, inside is the drama
of the body’s own substances meeting

one another, stealing elements,
being changed elementally,
altered by a new story

called chemical reaction.
A building and demolishment,
creating or undoing,

the body can find movement,
functioning organs, resists illness—
or doesn’t. Look inside every living being

and find this narrative of resistance,
the live feed of being resisted.
The infant clasping her fist

or the 98-year-old releasing
hers. This is how it should be,
we think, a long story carried out

to a soft conclusion. In reality,
little deaths hover and nibble,
little births opening mouths
and bodies the site of stories

and the tales given to us, and retold, retold,
never altered, and the ones forgotten,
changed, unremembered

until this place is made of only
ourselves. Our own small dictators,
peacemakers, architects, artists.

A derelict cottage,
a monumental church
struck in gold, an artist’s studio

layered with paints and cut paper,
knives and large canvas—

the site the only place
containing our best holy song:

I will live. I will live. I will keep living.




Copyright © 2020 by Leslie Contreras Schwartz. 
This poem originally appeared in 
Pleiades: Literature in Context, October 2020.


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!