the laughter of women

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. –  Jim Valvano

The Laughter of Women
Lisel Mueller

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

As March came to a close and national poetry month approached, we spent our last group under the theme of sisterhood. What is it that binds people together? What is it that we remember over meals or in classrooms? When I come home and tell stories, it is most often that I’m trying to retell a joke and can’t get through the story without laughing. Because that is what binds us: laughter.  A joke is often built on what surprises us – a twist of words, a turn of phrase, a clever answer to a question we didn’t know how to ask. A joke opens and we lift our foot, poised in a space of uncertainty. The punchline is the firm ground we come down on together.

This week we focused, first, on the poem above to remind ourselves of the power of laughter and groups bonding together. Then we played improv games to exercise this common strength, bind our group, create safe space, and just laugh it out. Almost everyone participated in improv games. We used common rules of group improv including “yes, and” – the concept that anything that one player suggests is supported by the group so that the group can continue to create comedy together. This is not dissimilar to the agreements within our writing group. As we write and share, our words are received with a continual “yes, and” encouraging one another to explore the uncharted territories in our thinking and feeling Continue reading

what the sea teaches

The imprisoned women writers utilized Gregory Orr’s poem “Loss and loss and more” as their springboard this week.

Together we reflected upon what the rolling sea can teach us about the art of living our lives. If we concentrate on the ocean’s ebbs and flows, what insights does it reveal to us?

First, Orr’s poem . . . and then the reflections of three incarcerated writers follow. Enjoy!

Cape Disappointment  by Sue Olson

Cape Disappointment
by Sue Olson

Loss and loss and more
Loss – that’s what
The sea teaches.

The need to stay
Against the suck
Of receding waves,
The sand
Under our feet

Here, where sea
Meets shore:
The best of dancing floors.  Continue reading