Last week was Earth Day and the birth of my 13th book, Earth Joy Writing. In celebration of this, I want to share with you a video I created at a state park, along with the text of one of the reflections from the book.
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Spring is a time of rebirth. But here’s the thing about rebirth: it assumes a time before-- death, destruction, leaving behind. No dawn before the night, no light without shadow, no resurrection without crucifixion.
This is the logic of history in the West. It is the dialectic of destruction and creation that repeats itself in an endless and linear line.
And our minds, too, have been trained to accept this logic. We read history as a series of causes and effects. We comfort ourselves with knowledge. When we are worried, we get objective. Logical. We want things to be predictable. We seek out people to help us do this. Economists. Politicians. Psychologists. Scientists. A whole network of experts whose job it is to help us through hard times with numbers and facts.
Sometimes the numbers help us face facts and give us hope and make us feel less alone. But the one thing the numbers and facts can’t do is change anything. They can’t tell us how this happened, or whose fault it is, or what should be done about it, or how to avoid this pain in the future.
Only words can do that. Only words can create the birth of a new future.
But not just any words. Words connected to sound and breath and being. Words connected to the space and time and breath and body in which they are created. Words that connect us the circle of all that is.
Planting, quite literally, takes place at a certain point in the circle of seasons. A farmer can’t say, “Oh, well, I don’t feel like it now. I think I’ll wait for a few months to put in these seeds.” And seeds, too-- they are dependent upon cycles. The bloom, the flower, the fruit come first. In writing, poetry comes first.
This is what poetry knows-- what farmers and seeds also know-- nothing exists alone, everything holds a pattern that makes it what it is, and all growth comes connected to the cycles of what has gone before.
We want to forget this. When our pasts are filled with pain, we want to pretend that we can jump up from the muddy creek onto the bank and walk away, clean. We might walk away, but we are not clean. And neither is the creek. And when we walk away, we eventually end up in another creek, spreading the contamination.
What poetry allows us to do is to begin to face the feelings of what has happened. We take the face of those feelings in our hands and get up real close and say, “Here I am. See me? I see you.”
And we can do this without telling the story. The thing about memories that play over and over like a knife looping through our bowels is that they aren’t linear. They aren’t logical. They don’t exist with a beginning, middle and end.
Linear logic, a beginning, middle, and end-- these aren't essential nutrients for poetry. Poetry says, “Give me the image. Start there.” And when we allow ourselves to do this, what comes out is from a deeper and higher place than our everyday selves.
What I tell people in my sessions and workshops is that they are writing for the selves they are becoming. You do not know yet who you are going to be in the future. So it is very important not to cross out when you write, not to criticize, not to share with others who might be critical of this newly born self too soon.
Because when we write a poem, we do not know where we are going. I remember a woman in one of my workshops telling me what a big revelation this was to her-- that she did not have to know where the poem was going in order to begin writing. She had been married to a songwriter for many years, but he’d never shared this part of the creative life with her. It freed her, she said, to know it.
So in this season in the center of spring, let us open to the principle of Opening to the birth of the selves we are becoming and the world we are co-creating.
Start with one image. It could be something from your memory or something you see around you right now. Write that image down, and then keep writing. Let the image speak in a poem. Allow the “thing” to be alive.
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a writing coach with 20 years of experience teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels in universities, as well as in diverse community settings. She specializes in working with women in academe.