personal political

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When you make a choice, you change the future.“–Deepak Chopra

“What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?“–Jim Butcher

In the next few weeks, we will examine the relationship, that is to say the direct link, between the political and the personal. This week, we used Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poem “I Woke Up” as an introduction. The poem guided through a method of walking  through both a day and a thought process that allowed us to be observant of our shared and individual experiences as well as reflect on how these experiences are political. That is to say that our every day lives are reflective of and inform the larger systems that guide our world. We used these ideas as a jumping off point to start our writing.

In our circle, we are very accustomed to sharing the personal. We even had a couple new members at the writing group who very quickly shared their personal experience. It is harder to recognize our lives as political and engage in that kind of thinking. We are walking towards it as we read and write together.

In the pieces below are the result of these reflections and discussions:

ASLEEP
It had been, this whole time I was asleep.

The scenes flashed by like those from a dream, but I wasn’t asleep. I say dream but we all called it a nightmare. Bittersweet memories is all they have become and there is nothing really more to say. I kept thinking that maybe I would wake up from the drug-induced stupor I put myself in. I mean it sounded good to say it but the reality was I never woke. I never slept. I never dreamed. I just faded, nodded and kept telling my heart that I was sorry. What do you even call that? Once again, no answers come to mind and even if they did, it would probably be another one of those really lame excuses that I am so good at concocting. You know you get so tired and exhausted from being in that kind of state. It becomes autopilot but sloppier and more off-kilter. People tend to know that something’s wrong and all I can manage to say is, “Oh sorry, I’ve been asleep. I’m just not awake yet.” Yeah, like I ever will be, but maybe nobody else knows yet. I don’t even trust myself enough to sleep it off, I might not wake up and if I don’t, how will I take these pills I have left? What if I can’t dream anymore? What will they say? I’m thinking too much, too hard and it takes the last bit of my strength. I have to lay down. I have to rest. I close my eyes to find that all of these nightmares are real. I want to wake up to get away from myself. I guess it just doesn’t work that way…somebody needs to wake me up when all of this is over.

AG

***

WHAT IS POLITICAL

I made coffee and the coffee was political. Isn’t everything, though? I suppose I find it most ridiculous that little things, little choices have become so politicized. If your new loveseat isn’t made from fair-trade, eco-friendly, compacted resin-coated bamboo from a country that pays living wages and organic, free-range naturally dyed hand-woven hemp, what kind of revolting, monstrous person are you? That’s leaving aside the politics of why you’re getting a loveseat! Are you too antisocial to buy seating for more than a guest or two? Are you, decadent American, hogging more square feet of living space than you really need? Worse, why are buying new and participating in a consumer-based and materialistic society? Did you at least buy it made in the U.S.A.? Did you pay your fair share of taxes on it? Why do you have disposable income to spend on new, fancy furniture when there are people who are homeless?? Did you check every part of the manufacturing process to make sure no child labor was used and no Trump profited? Exhausting, you say? Well, you just must not care very much about our planet if you don’t check these things! Don’t pretend any of that is even remotely ridiculous or unlikely to happen. It happens with everything. Try reading a book by Marion Zimmer Bradly and get treated to a lecture on how she was a child abuser. Try drinking a cup of Folgers coffee to the tune of rainforest deforestation and child labor. Wear a top you got at Goodwill and get a spiel on the sweatshops that brand of clothes uses and on where Goodwill’s profits “really” go. Buy a car – is it a hybrid? Don’t worry, you’ll get an earful either way. Does it ever occur to social justice warriors – or any of the rest of the modern moralists – that I do not care, don’t want to hear about it, and am completely disinterested in their free-range, fair trade, eco-friendly, sustainable, American-made, recycled, upcycled, organic, pesticide-free, GMO-free, gold-plated granola? I bet it hasn’t. Want to know a secret? I just want a cup of coffee that tastes good and doesn’t cost the earth – and I really don’t care about all the rest of it. Keep your politics out of my cup of coffee and off my loveset – it’s new…I’m not even letting the dog on it, and I like him.

MR

***

POLITICS/POETRY

I thought I was not a political poet and still my imagination was political.

Am I republican or a democrat? This is political.

Where do I begin to let go of my thoughts about Donald Trump? That is political.

Wonder if my opinion is and will political…

I must say, I’m not very political.

JR

what scares us

ocean image in black and white

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“Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well.” ~ Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You

“Courage is not living without fear. Courage is being scared to death and doing the right thing anyway.” ~ Chae Richardson

Last week we talked about fear. Everyone has their own definition. It seems obvious to point out what it is that scares us. People have all kinds of phobias: heights, spiders, snakes, public speaking, or, rarer, going outside, tornadoes, bear attacks. We learn what we are afraid of by experiencing the conditions that produce that fear. If we are bit by a spider in childhood, we perhaps learn to fear arachnids.

As adults, it is more difficult to recognize or admit when we are learning new fears or building on old ones. We new parents hold their child, they have joy but also a welling up of great terror for the safety of that child. They ask, “How can I love anyone so much? How can I do right by my baby?” With new experiences, even fantastic ones, come new fears. Inside, our writers grapple with new fears and old ones, many of the same ones they’ve always had but also new fears that are born of their new experience in the prison.

We asked our writers this week what they would do if they were free of fear. Instead of answering this prompt, most, if not all, of our writers explored fear as a concept, how it dominates their experience, and also, what scares them the most. Trying to imagine a life beyond fear was too much travel in the short time we had together.

Continue reading

book’s in hand

stack of booksCelebration time!

The first copies of Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write greeted me at the door when I arrived home from vacation.

What a gift to hold the words and voices of 60 of Vermont’s women prisoners and ex-offenders in my actual hands!

The front cover is more striking than the JPGs from publisher Orbis Books indicated, and the 12 inside color images of the women’s artwork provide soft and beautiful accents to the writings.

Order your copy now from Orbis Books or Amazon!  And if you’re in Burlington, Vermont on Thursday, Oct. 3rd, join us at 5:30 p.m. at Main Street Landing for the celebratory launch.

Here’s a snippet from the book’s introduction to whet your appetite:  Continue reading

keeping mothers and children together

Mother & Child by Bev Draper  (Sorrento, Italy)

Mother & Child by Bev Draper
(Sorrento, Italy)

The latest endorsement for our soon-to-be-published book Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write arrived this week.

It comes from Elizabeth Gaynes, J.D., executive director, of The Osborne Association in New York City. One of Osborne’s missions is to advocate for and develop alternatives to incarceration that respect the dignity of people and their capacity to change.

In particular, Osborne works to support and develop programs that keep mothers and their children together while a woman is serving her sentence.

..like JusticeHouse, a 45-bed program in Brooklyn announced this week that will allow carefully screened women with felonies to live with and continue to care for their children with supervision.

The participants will be visited several times a week by case managers, receive counseling about jobs, schools, and parenting. Some will be required to have treatment for drug addiction and mental illness.

The aim is to undergird and hopefully strengthen the mother-child relationship during this precarious time.  Continue reading

ocean of mercy

Swimming in the Rain, Camilla Massu

Swimming in the Rain, Camilla Massu

When life seems circuitous, random and potentially unpredictable, I remember this invocation by TD, one of our very first writinginsideVT participants.

(She’s still in the writing circle, soon to be released from prison.)

I reach for her words “I Am Here” as a kind of personal salve. Her’s is a prayer of surrender to a loving God, the Divine, or whatever that loving/living Presence is for you.

“I Am Here” is featured prominently in our book-to-be, Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write, coming out in September.  I was reminded of the piece this week, reviewing the book’s proofs prior to publication.

Reading it again brought me peace, a sense of being held, a reduction in my personal fear factor.

The job that didn’t materialize for me last week, the sense of isolation that pervaded my day today, and the waywardness of my life direction as of late–all seemed to fade as these words spread over me like an ocean of mercy.  May they bring you comfort as well.


I AM HERE

God is an ocean of mercy . . . Collapse into God’s arms and you’ll weep like a child.” —Rumi

It is me, your daughter.
I am here, in your light.
Your grace has given me many blessings.
It is me whom you loved,
no matter the number of my faults.  Continue reading