wiVT team member helps inside voters

election - Luke Eastman

credit – luke eastman

Check out this wonderful write-up by Mark Davis in Seven Days featuring Kassie Tibbot, recent VT Law School graduate and long-time assistant to writinginsideVT. The article, titled “Vermont is one of two U.S. states that let incarcerated citizens vote.” The other is Maine.

Kassie is quoted throughout the piece, including the opening paragraph:

Kassie Tibbott spent several weeks this fall visiting five Vermont state prisons with the goal of getting local inmates to vote. The recent Vermont Law School graduate was happy to help 44 prisoners register for the first time. She was even more elated to meet 39 inmates already on the voter rolls, who simply asked for help getting absentee ballots. Dozens of others didn’t need assistance because they already knew the ropes.

The article goes on to point out the central importance of community to those inside and looking to return home at some point. Voting is one of the few ways they can participate in ‘normal’ life during incarceration. It is also an imperative that is felt as a result of all those who can NOT vote.

“Some of them, because they saw that some of their fellow inmates couldn’t vote, they thought, I had better do it,” said Tibbott. “I heard quite a few times inmates say, ‘See, our voice does matter.'”

It is heartening that our democracy can permit citizens otherwise limited in their civic engagement to vote.

my father the hurricane

Profile of girl

by ursylla

For me, I was raised the right way by my mom.
When we moved to Vermont, everything changed.
I met my dad, the real dad I’d never known.
He seemed so cool at first, let me smoke cigarettes
when I was about 12, and then come 13 to 15,
I was doing my first pill with him. After that first
pill came crack, then heroin. Now this affected
my whole life! I’ve never known any different,
just what I’ve seen and done through my dad’s eyes.
I left my mom to stay with him. My mom told me
not to, but she was not smart enough or
strong enough to say “no” to my father. I hurt
her to no repair. I regret that every day! Continue reading

reach for more

'Winter Beauty' hybrid honeysuckle

‘Winter Beauty’ hybrid honeysuckle

As is my custom, each week I create a ‘found poem’ from lines written the previous week by women participating in the writing inside circle. This is a particularly interesting challenge for those weeks when I am not present as facilitator. Reading these lines ‘cold’ and out of context simply prompts me to find the thread that will tie them together. Perhaps the result is a narrative, or perhaps, a mood-setting vignette of condensed and coalesced memory. Either way, I am as eager as the dozen or so expectant faces turned toward the reader of those combined lines to gauge the pulse of the resulting piece. Did I capture something? Does it speak to them? Does it resonate with their original intention(s) or distort their individual voice so much they cannot even recognize their own words?

It is important to understand that, for these women, this is much more than an exercise. It is an opportunity for them to shine; for their words to mingle into a mixed message of hope, longing, despair; for them to see themselves, through their words, as part of something bigger than their own thoughts and feelings, to become part of a communal tapestry of experience. A slice of life, if you will.

So when a long-time writer with the group pronounced the following ‘found poem’ “just beautiful” as she asked to read it last Thursday, I listened with extra attention to sense how it would hit her sister writers, now prepped to receive with her assessment. What I heard was the gentle hum of mmm’s around the table as they recognized both their part and the whole they had become part of creating, a brand-new expression of love, loss and longing that started with individual’s writing on Valentine’s Day one week prior.

Hear the clock –  tick, tock –
it’s time I must go
retrace the steps of everywhere I’ve been:
the drugs, the crazy nights, the binges;
back to the 15-year-old version of myself
I was taught and shown in a strange way.
If I were able to erase all the scars,
I’d be able to open my eyes and see
we outspent the repercussions. Continue reading

the miracle of winged stars

English: Pictured here is a long exposure phot...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

While we always write about current and meaningful topics that are near to the life experience and yearning hearts of circle participants, from time to time we challenge them with a more ‘writerly’ task. Such was the case this past week. In addition to writing about animals  each woman might identify with [see Jan. 10 post], we challenged them to write something using the following six nouns and six verbs: miracle, wings, night, stars, angels, cave, outlast, desire, arrive, imagine, open and sing.

They were allowed to change the form of any given word, and to add as many other words as they wished. What impressed me was the variety of ways in which the same 12 words could be gathered together in a mere five minutes. Read the samples shared below and let us know what you think of this exercise!

I imagine outlasting the miracle of winged stars arriving in my cave of night to open wide on angels’ song.  – JP

LOVE
Open as a cave at night,

my imagination sings
of desire arriving on the wings
of stars, angels bearing
the single miracle
that can outlast time.  – SB

MIRACLES
Imagine angels with open wings fluttering down from heaven to arrive at the open mouth of the cave. The stars brightly shining in the night sky sing of our desire for miracles to outlast the earth.
  – TD

I imagine opening to desire; miracles arriving like stars, outlasting the night, singing echoes in a cave carried like winged angels.  –  LS

A cold, dank, musty cave opens . . . merging fluidly with black starless night. Imagine now, if you will, that wings rustle, indicating the arrival of a miracle. An angelic voice sings, brightening that dark corner of earth with a truth that outlasts all time, space, desire and destiny . . .  – TH

LET’S IMAGINE THIS

Imagine this . . .
a cave at night.
You can’t see the stars.
And you’re protected by angels.
They fly with wings
and even their heart sings.
Let your mind be opened before, in real life, they arrive.
The miracle of these images will outlast all of our desires.

– AA

I am in a cave of miraculous stars. Imagine I have arrived at a place where angels outlast the dark night’s desires, and open their morning wings to sing again.   – JP

hope during advent

Credit: marian solidarity

Credit: marian solidarity

Last night, in keeping with the first week of Advent, we wrote to the theme of hope. What made this writing challenging – and  to the amazement of the women around the circle, rewarding – was the second part. After a 20 minute free-write, each woman took an additional 10 minutes to transform her words into a poem. We used the pantoum, an accessible repeating pattern based on 8 distinct lines which women selected from the ‘strongest’ in their original writing.

The resulting poems spoke raw power, profound clarity and deep pain. Read both the original and poetic versions from TH, one of our newer writers. She sinks directly into experience, dredging up the immediacy of her pain and struggle for hope using the analogy of drug use. It took my breath away. But you decide for yourself!

‘Please try your call again later.’ Sighing, I hang the plastic black receiver up and continue staring at the numbers on the keypad. You never seem to be on the other end anymore . . .  The guard hands out stacks of cards and letters. As usual, I receive nothing.

I am here.

Alone.

Forgotten.

Buried in pain.

My mind turns the corner of loneliness, extracting hope as if with a tiny syringe, sucking it in off its home in my soul and injecting it into my current state, bright red, pungent, stinging my veins. It hurts to hope because you never come. You never answer. You never write.

And yet, I magically produce more, even now, as snow lightly decorates the ground; even as December marches on in pageantry and decoration. You are mine and I am yours. We always say we are family, and family NEVER LEAVES family!

But you’re gone. Continue reading