Today I wrote feverishly on the train after my quiet time, between trains, on the second train, then did revisions on the first going-home train. I’m sure I’ll continue revising for a while, but it is essentially written. Perfect timing, because my favorite poetry workshop starts back up tomorrow evening after a hiatus of a couple of months. Also I have a reading coming up Friday night . . .
I’m very happy about completing this goal, but #20 is about another sad subject: the disappeared of Colombia. Which reminds me, soon at the Art Institute of Chicago we’ll get to see what promises to be an amazing piece on the same topic by Oscar Muñoz, a Colombian artist (here’s a review). 6 years ago
has been in process for 2-3 weeks, & I finally typed it up today. It is long-
a little over two pages-because it’s a series of short vignettes about women in Colombia. It’s called “What we have done.” I look forward to taking it to a workshop & getting some feedback—but I can’t till September, since both of the ongoing workshops I attend are taking a summer break.
Only one more & I can check off this goal! 6 years ago
I am getting so close to completing this Thing!
I’ve been working on this poem over the past week, & today I decided it’s close enough to finished to print out & (soon, I hope) take to a workshop. It’s called “Deus ex machina (U.S. aid)”—about Huey helicopters that were recently used to shoot pepper gas & bullets at thousands of peaceful demonstrators in southern Colombia. 7 years ago
a monthly workshop I had visited once before. For some reason the overall quality of the poems people brought was markedly higher this time. I took one of my favorites among the Colombia poems, & the participants-
including the facilitator-made very affirming & thoughtful comments.
When it was my turn to speak, I told them I’m uncertain of the Colombia poems’ publishability, because they’re narrative (which is not the reigning fashion these days). One of the editors of Rhino, the journal that organizes these workshops, said I should try submitting there! A participant recommended Commonweal, a Catholic magazine that publishes poetry along with thoughtful social commentary.
So—lots of strong poetry, encouragement & good leads. 7 years ago
“Building peace” is a snapshot of one morning in the life of the Cacarica community, committed to the nonviolent construction of an alternative way of life in the midst of their country’s war.
Something I like about this poem: its quiet, even tone despite the background threat of violence. I think I’m picking that up from Naomi Shihab Nye, whose poems I’ve been rereading. 7 years ago
No. 15, written on Good Friday, is a Good Friday poem (both lamentation & hope), a preposition poem (part of the other series that I started)—& Colombia entered it unexpectedly. It is called “Upon, Unto.”
No. 16, written tonight, is dedicated to the Nasa people of Northern Cauca. The stories told by our houseguest, a member of that community, have thoroughly inspired me. This poem is called “Family stories” & the main character is Mother Earth.
The image is a chumbe weaving, traditional Nasa art. 7 years ago
“Sabbath,” recounting a visit to the Adventist church in Esperanza en Dios. It comes around to questions about prayer & if/how we can forgive atrocities.
I was struck by how peaceful community members were in responding to my questions about these things. 7 years ago
a new Colombia poem yet-
I hope to write two more this month. But next week I’m going to attend an evening workshop with Ted Kooser, current U.S. poet laureate, & today I sent one of my Colombia poems for him to critique! What an opportunity-one of the many perks of being a member of the Poetry Center of Chicago.
I’ll report back after the workshop. 7 years ago
came pressing upon me tonight. Because of work needs, I put the writing off till there was less than an hour to go before I needed to leave for the poetry workshop! But the delay was good, because by the time I sat down with my journal & pen the poem was pressing inside me. It’s a little like giving birth-
push! push!-but, happily, a lot less physically painful.
The subject was emotionally painful, though, & a new type of poem for me. It’s called “The advocate’s confession” & delves into the life & inner world of a Colombian human rights advocate who enjoys the adrenaline rush of danger/urgency & ends up a fanatic, consumed by the war & empty of real humanity. My fellow poets at the workshop really interacted with it & appreciated it, which was encouraging. 7 years ago
way too long, but tonight it was good (though hard) to sit down & wrestle with language for a poem about Orlando’s murder. I ended up focusing on his (imagined) daughter Leidy, about five years old, waking up & having breakfast the morning after his body is identified.
This is number 12, I believe. I’ll be taking it to the poetry workshop on Tuesday. Those who have been part of the workshop since earlier this year have told me they are certainly learning a lot about Colombia through my series!
I never met Orlando in person, but from this photo I can tell he had a flair for the dramatic. 7 years ago
is definitely different. Still very much a draft. It recounts a dream I had while in Colombia in 2003, about a poor boy & a rich woman, & in quick brushstrokes gives the interpretation related to my life—but then brings us to heartrending statistics I read about hunger in Colombia & how they make my dream almost seem exploitive:
But today when I read
five million Colombians are starving
day to day, out of twelve million
destitute, I want to scold
the luxury of my unconscious
for picturing even part of me
as that lithe desperation of a
hungry child 8 years ago
I just finished the first draft. It is about the earth as a beautiful woman & how she is affected by the war in Chocó province. 8 years ago
“For example,” written late tonight, about my friend’s nephew who was tied to a tree, doused with gasoline, & set on fire for refusing to join up with the paramilitaries.
I think no. 10 will have to have the land-
the earth itself-as protagonist, since greed for land & its resources is what underlies this terrible violence that has been ongoing for so many many years. 8 years ago
We discussed my poem “Massacre” in an ongoing workshop this week, & there was some difference of opinion. When you’re writing about horrifying things, is it better to just tell the story, or can you create community with the reader/listener by acknowledging how very difficult it is to write & read about such horrors? I usually just tell the story, since I don’t like to patronize the reader by telling him/her how to feel about what I’m saying. But in this case, after our discussion, I still felt this poem needs the address to the reader.
I’ve been invited to lead a poetry workshop & do a reading in Madison, Wisc., in early May. I’ve decided to take (among others) Carolyn Forché’s poem “The Colonel” (based on an experience in El Salvador in 1978), which is very effective in the just-tell-the-story mode. And I’ll also read “Massacre” & encourage people to discuss the two approaches. 8 years ago
. . . is finished, though I may still revise it a bit. It was the hardest of all so far, because it delves into the recent massacre of children as well as adults in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. I approached it by imagining the experience of an 11-year-old victim, Deiner Guerra—so terribly painful. 8 years ago
I have seven so far & am working on another. I’m not counting those I’ve written about my childhood. The real challenge is to maintain sensuousness & disciplined centeredness while writing about horrifying events & human rights abuses. And to tell stories about heroic people, showing them as ordinary people we can identify with. But it’s beginning to feel as if I’m finding my voice in this realm. 8 years ago
I grew up there, & on recent trips I’ve been dazzled by the courage & creativity of communities in nonviolent resistance (as their country continues to lurch through a long-drawn-out civil war). 8 years ago