Radical Presence and Poetry

As part of my pilgrimage to the UK, we took a poetry and movement course called Embodying the Line. Like the rest of the pilgrimage, I had no idea what to expect but since I like writing and moving, I was pretty sure it would be cool. It was.

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Vortex Tree

The course took place at Schumacher College where the focus is on “interactive and experiential learning” based on “progressive forms of education, art and agriculture,” which is exactly what we experienced.  All of the food we ate was grown on the land (all vegetarian and I survived for five days with no meat!!) We were surrounded by beautiful hippies who were exploring community and agriculture and taking courses like “Natural Magic” and “Dragon Dreaming.”  Schumacher sits in the middle of the Dartington Hall estate which was has the most beautiful gardens and vortex trees. Just an amazing place.

This poetry and movement course was not your average poetry and movement course (if another one even exists, which it probably doesn’t). It was a very unique experience for me to be in a completely creative endeavor for an entire week.  At my engineering school we had required liberal arts electives and I dabbled in the absolute minimum amount of arts education possible.

Our instructors Allison Hallett, a very cool poet from the UK, and Deborah Black, a fabulous “multi-disciplined embodied artist and teacher” (and a fellow hero/pilgrim!) were so much fun and are truly amazing artists.  We did the coolest exercises to spark our creativity, create poetry, and get in touch with our bodies. Here are some examples:

  • IMG_0110We spent 40 minutes in an open lawn, “investigating” whatever grabbed our attention (flowers,trees, benches, snails, grass, clouds) until the next thing grabbed our attention and we moved to that.  Later, we wrote a love letter to the thing we loved the most in that field.  I wrote a love letter to this super cool tree.
  • We went on a walk in the woods with a partner and dictated what we saw. One partner told the truth for a few minutes and then we switched and the other partner told lies (like, there is candy corn growing on the trees.) Then we looked for as many lines as we could find and had to write three poems, in the shape of three of the lines, and inspired by the stories. (Mind blowing, right?)
  • Half of the group closed their eyes and moved in whatever way inspired them in the middle of the room while the other half observed and reported back after the session. (Writing that now, it sounds like a scene from Eyes Wide Shut, but it wasn’t! It was like watching a completely non-sexual performance art piece – it was beautiful.)
  • We wrote a poem, cut up each line on a separate strip of paper and pasted it back together in a random order and read it back out loud.  Many of them were even BETTER in a totally mixed up order. Poetry can be so cool! (I never thought that is something I would say!)

We just had a great time writing cool stuff, exploring nature, and sharing our work with each other. It was a very special week.

Since one of my purposes is to write and inspire, I thought I should share one of my poems with you and maybe it will inspire you to write a poem! This is what came out of my brain after staring at some pink and purple flowers for 5-10 minutes after looking at pictures of my adorable nieces and nephew on my phone.  It is not a masterpiece, but it might be the closest thing to a children’s book I will ever write. It starts out kind of deep, comparing flowers to people, but then morphs in to a dance party! Maybe it will inspire you to dance! Enjoy!

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Ode to Pink and Purple Flowers

Light, small flowers bunched together on top of deep green clover shaped leaves,
Reminding me of young girls and their flowy pink dresses and tutus.
The sun giving them life and the earth nourishing their roots,
Like parents giving stability and love to children.
Bees create a community of flowers between buds that don’t touch,
Passing pollen from one flower to the next.
Mushrooms grow beneath the deep green leaves;
Toadstools for tiny frogs that live in the land below the flowers.
Even tinier ants crawl on the tiny mushrooms and up the stems of the flowers, joining the bees for a huge party.
The frogs leap up and try to join, but they can only get that high when a hedge hog passes by and they can jump on top.
Then the party really gets rockin’ with the ants and the bees and the tiny frogs and the hedge hogs,
All hanging out around the beautiful pink and purple flowers.
They like to listen to Elton John when they party;
Tiny Dancer of course.
The frogs do ballet while the ants tap dance and the bees do hip hop.
The hedge hogs don’t like to dance, but they sway because they love Elton John.
Then the sun starts to go down and it gets cold.
The bees go back to their hive.
The ants climb down from the flowers, back in to their ant holes to sleep.
The frogs leap down from the hedge hogs and climb under the tiny mushrooms to settle in for the night.
I’m not sure where hedge hogs sleep.
In a barn I think, when they can find one,
Deep in the woods, cuddled up together until its time to go out and party again!

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