Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Reading

The room is filling and the voices lift to the high ceiling and echo down on us, indecipherable meaning.  They look nervous, wanting to know how many poems to read, and they are dressed nicely, and they are gentle people.

Though it is our job as poets, I'm not sure how to put into words the experience we have shared over the last four months as we met each Tuesday night to discuss, encourage, explore, share, critique, and create a language beyond everyday use.  Yes, we wrote poems as a poetry workshop is apt to do.  But something else began to happen--something larger--something that only occurs when you find that rare combination of people capable of bringing out the best in each other, capable of "critiquing with love," capable of breathing language into being, and being into language.  This was such group.

There is a little girl, maybe three years old, drinking a smoothie.  Somehow it ends up on the floor, a pink blossom on hardwood, and she is holding back her tears, and it is this that makes our hearts rise to comfort her.  Four people get up to help.

I have watched all of you grapple with the question of whether or not it is truly possible to put the world and all its people, places, and things, all its complications and joys into this prearranged system of thought we refer to as language.  And even though it may have felt as if you were attempting to cage a tiger, placing your raw and often untamed feelings and experiences within the bars of language, your words broke free, singing of the freedom to express, the courage to put your finger on that very real and very intense heart that beats within you.  And I love you for this courage.

They come up one by one, and not one voice shakes even though I know there are earthquakes happening within them right now.  And this too is necessary.  To share is to be willing to spill yourself onto the floor, and this is when we all rise to meet you there.  Don't worry.  We are here.

I think I can speak for these eleven writers (you were with us, Jacquelyn, and we have been praying for healing for you) when I say that we have wished to experience the gifts of this life through our poetry as we tuned our entire being to the world around us and inside us, and all of these courageous insights have been a gift from God.  And while we may not find the exact words to explain the beauty and complexity of our experiences, we can come very close, for it is this same language and breath that allows us to articulate to our Creator the hard work we have undertaken as humans, tracing all that has always already been written in our heart into our prayers and onto the page before us.

The words have flown now, lifting the ceiling and audible, lifting us from our lives and setting us back down better for it.  The floor is clean as if the spill never occurred.  What remains is that invisible hand that reached out from within all of us to comfort, to help.  


  1. Yes. Oh, yes. What you wrote, and what you shared there and here, is as beautiful and true and real as anything we shared. Thank you for that, and thank you for encouraging us all to share our hearts and our words.

  2. Feels like I just got to watch the whole thing:) It sounds like it was a wonderful reading!