Walking Makes the Talk
The people in my neighborhood

Poetry and tikkun olam

The Elizabeth Freeman Center provides support, in a variety of forms, to victims of domestic violence in our county. The center is named for Elizabeth "Mum Bett" Freeman, the enslaved African American who successfully sued her owner, one Colonel Ashley, for her freedom -- thereby setting the stage for the abolition of slavery here in Massachusetts two years thereafter. I first learned about the center back when I was editing The Women's Times. I've admired their work ever since.

This spring they're partnering with Inkberry, the literary arts center I co-founded, to offer a poetry workshop for survivors of domestic abuse. The workshop is called "Standing Tall," and I am the instructor. The first session was today.

We talked about writing in general, and poetry in particular; about writing as a tool for healing; about writing for oneself, to express what needs to be said, versus writing for an audience; about different kinds of poetry, and why one might choose either form or free verse. We talked about what the practice of writing poetry might specifically offer to them, and about creating a safe space in which to share our words with one another. We talked about what poetry is, and why it matters.

Throughout, I was awed by the strength and courage of the women around the table. Emily and Sandy and I founded Inkberry out of a belief that writing can be transformational; that the hunger for self-expression spans every imaginable social and economic divide; that when we strengthen the connections between writing and life, and help others to find their own unique voices, our own lives are enriched. Today's workshop reminded me of all of those things.

This workshop is an incredible chance for me to braid together two vital strands of the work I love -- spreading a love of poetry and empowering others to take up their pens, and pastoral care for those in need. It's an honor for me, and a good reminder that social justice work comes in a variety of forms. As the old protest song has it, we need not only bread, but also roses, too.

Technorati tags: , , .