Welcome to Episode 8, in which we explore those first two words in the subtitle, “narrative healing.” If you’d like to read a bit more about narrative healing, check out the following posts:
Welcome to Episode 7, in which we’ll explore the music of language – some of the ways the interaction of rhythm and repeated sounds contribute to (and occasionally detract from) what’s going on in a poem.
Welcome to episode 6, where we’ll explore the line as a basic building block of the poem. How long should it be? Where and how should it end? What’s a good reason to end it?
Enjoy!Grave and Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 6 – Line 4.29.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
In this 20-minute episode we’ll explore metaphor and simile – using comparison to explore one thing in terms of another. Toward that end, we’ll take a look at poems by Billy Collins and Jack Gilbert.Grave & Goofy Poems – Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 5: Comparision 4.22.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
In this just-over-sixteen-minute video we’ll play with word choice – diction, exploring the difference between the right word and the almost right word and how it impacts our poetry and writing in general.
As the video title slide points out, a bell may toll or jingle (or peal, tinkle, ring, or chime, among other possibilities).
Enjoy!Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times Episode 4 – Diction 4.15.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
In this 13+-minute video, we’ll work with responding to or talking back to a poem – using someone else’s poem as a starting point, we’ll begin writing based on some aspect of the poem that resonates with us. In this episode we’ll use poems by Roque Dalton, translated by Jack Hirschman, Naomi Shihab Nye, and yours truly.
If you’d like a brief overview of what we’re doing here, please check out Episode 1, March 25, 2020.
Enjoy!Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times Episode 3 – Responding to What Resonates 4.8.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
In this 12-minute video, we’ll work with imagery – using sensory, concrete language that appeals to the senses.
If you’d like a brief overview of what we’re doing here, please check out Episode 1, March 25, 2020.
Enjoy!Grave and Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 2 / Imagery 4.1.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
This is the first in a series of brief writing prompts designed to help you get your feelings and thoughts onto the page.
No previous writing experience required.
Continue reading below the video for more information.Grave and Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 1 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.
- Appropriate (fun and easy) for parents who are home now with their kids.
- Each episode will present one way to begin writing – a writing “prompt” and anyone who actually does the prompt, i.e. writes for a couple of minutes (as opposed to just listening to it and not writing) will leave the session with at least one poem beginning, which you can then work and play with.
- Prompts can be easily adapted for younger children, young adults, adults, seniors (anyone – really).
- Some episodes will include, in addition to the prompt, a brief overview of / introduction to a poetic / literary device / tool – like image, metaphor, simile, voice, conflict, theme, line, diction, punctuation, texture, completion…
- This is intended as an introduction especially for:
- anyone who has never written a poem before, or who thinks he or she cannot
- folks who have not written poetry or prose as a way to understand themselves and their world before
- parents who are at home with their kids
- teachers who have little or no experience teaching poetry writing
- anyone else who’s willing to explore the power of poetry / the written word to heal
- Each episode will provide a resource or two for further exploration.
Early in 2019 my friend and colleague, Kent Frazier, and I began informal conversations about “mental illness” and “mental health” and how these two characterizations were showing or had shown up in our lives, in the lives of our families, friends and colleagues, and in workplaces we’d known or had heard or read about. While depression and anxiety were primary, they were not the only foci of our attention. As we talked and read and listened we bumped into a few sobering statistics. The following are representative:
- Workplace stress is estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion dollars, and, each year, 550 million work days are lost due to stress on the job.1
- Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Z’ers have left their jobs for mental health reasons. 2
- Depression is the leading cause of disability on the planet.3
- The annual global economic burden of mental illness is $2.5 trillion, costing businesses an estimated $100 billion.4
- Health problems associated with job-related anxiety account for more deaths each year than Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes.5
Kent and I met in 2011 amid changes we were each seeking – traveling in what seemed to be “opposite” directions in our careers. I had spent some 35 years as a Catholic High School teacher and basketball coach, college administrator and teaching poet, and was looking for a way to ‘make up for’ the money I had not made. Kent had spent some 20 years (we have a decade-plus age difference) in Human Resources in the corporate world, rising up to the Vice Presidential level in two different companies, and was looking for a deeper sense of meaning in his work, despite the money he had made. We arrived at a shared perspective, to which abundant research6 already pointed, that meaningful work and earning income commensurate with the contribution to and impact on others’ growth and wellbeing were important aspects of creating a fully expressed and fulfilling livelihood.
As we worked with the language of mental illness and mental health at work, we began to consider the possibility that depression and anxiety were actually legitimate, understandable responses to “sick” places of work, and we recognized this as an echo of Krishnamurti’s assertion that “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
We began speaking about “Mental Fitness as an Evolutionary Imperative” with some of our friends and colleagues, and our language most recently landed on “Being Fully Human at Work – a 21st-Century Imperative,” which cuts to the heart of the matter. We need to be able to show up fully at work, and we need to do work that honors our full humanness – whatever that might mean for each of us.
Fully Human at Work invites us to look at “the work” that needs to be done at this time in history, in our own lives, and in the ways we support and care for others. What if “our work” became more about connecting with our truest selves and building bridges to connect with and support our common humanity in communities; to uplift this common humanity and the systems that support it, rather than primarily serving the financial interests of shareholders and our own financial gain? What if our meaningful work and commensurate compensation emerged through a “what am I giving” rather than a “what am I getting” mindset? What might such a shift allow or invite?
We believe that each of us has what Frederick Buechner has referred to as a deep gladness, what Bill Plotkin calls soul work, what Howard Thurman called that which makes you come alive, and what Harley Swift Deer calls our sacred dance; and that we are called to manifest this gladness, this aliveness, this soul work or sacred dance as a gift to our people – to the world. Our charge is to recognize our gift and find a way to engage it while we also take care of ourselves and our families through what Plotkin calls survival work7 – and this is rarely an easy undertaking.
We may have to engage our soul work with no thoughts of compensation while we engage our survival work; we may find a way to bring our sacred dance into how we do our survival dance; we may be called to find an employer who will welcome our deep gladness in the workplace; we may begin, a little at a time, to find ways to get paid for doing that which brings us alive; and if we’re among the gifted, fortunate, hard-working few, we may find a way to merge our soul work with our survival work.
We invite you to explore these possibilities with us. What is your deep gladness? What brings you alive? How will you bring it to your people?
Please consider joining us for our 12-hour, 6-session online course, Fully Human at Work: A 21st-Century Imperative. Tuesdays, January 14 – March 31, 2020. Register here. More details and registration information at https://www.fullyhumanatwork.com/. Registration is limited to 18 participants.
1Harvard Business Review online, December 2019
2CNBC online, October 2019
3World Health Organization online, December 2019
4OneMind.org, accessed December 2019
5The Atlantic online, February 2015
7Survival work (or survival dance) is not a pejorative term. From Plotkin: “Our survival dance, a foundational component of self-reliance, is what we do for a living – our way of supporting ourselves physically and economically…. Everybody has a survival dance. Finding or creating one is our first task when we leave our parents’ or guardians’ home.”
Howard Thurman. [I have been unable to find an accurate citation for the origin of this quote]: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman
Bill Plotkin. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. [Harley Swift Deer is quoted in Plotkin].https://animas.org/
Welcome back. Here are the subtitles of the fifteen essays in this conversation series with links to each individual piece. As the writing unfolded and the content found its way into a workshop at the Unitarian Society of New Haven in early May, the following sub-headers (bolded) began to make sense. They are currently useful (to me), and they may continue to evolve. Stay tuned for more about upcoming workshops.
#1 – Introduction and Overview
Knowing Yourself, Your Biases and Your View – Working with What and How You See
#2 – Who (You Think) You Are in Conversation – Culture’s Hidden Influence
#3 – Who (You Think) You Are in Conversation, Part 2 – Beyond Culture
#4 – Suspending Preconceptions, Judgments and Assumptions
Honoring Facts and Identifying Opinions – Really? Will That Hold Up in Court or in the Laboratory?
#5 – Avoiding Labels, Insults and Generalizations
#6 – Honoring the Difference Between Opinion and Fact
#7 – Engaging Specific, Factual and Preferably Personal Examples to Support Opinions
Learning Intentionally – How Do You Want to Be, and What Do You Hope for, in this Conversation?
#8 – Curiosity, Knowing and Not Knowing on the Path of Learning
#9 – Learning, Understanding and Clarifying (Rather Than Teaching, Persuading or Disproving)
Acknowledging the Forest and Staying on the Path – Wow, You’re Human Too!
#10 – Finding Similarities as Well as Differences
#11 – Staying With the Agreed-Upon Topic
Emotion, Empathy and Ripple Effects – Feeling, Honoring and Regulating Emotions
#12 – Recognizing, Understanding and Regulating Emotions
#13 – Understanding, Feeling and Embodying Another’s Story as if It Were Your Own
#14 – Who Wins and Who Loses if You Get Your Way – or I Get Mine?
Truth – Understanding “Truth” and “Truthfulness”
#15 – The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
While some of these subtitles/topics are more complex, and require more work than others, each provides a foundational element for conversation that does more good than harm. Some are more or less “mechanical” skills that can be learned, but even those will be interpreted, understood and manifested differently based on the participant’s worldview (essays 2 and 3), and the extent to which the participant is aware of this worldview (i.e. does the person have a worldview or does a worldview have the person?). The worldview will also impact the intentional choices that are available to (that can be seen by) the participant.
Generally, someone who primarily identifies with a fundamentalist, absolutist, black-and-white view of the world is more likely to intend to teach or persuade, as opposed to learn and understand, than is someone who primarily identifies with a scientific, rational, evidence-based, okay-with-the-gray view of the world, and is more open to curiosity, following the evidence, understanding and clarifying. In the most extreme cases of these two views, the individuals effectively speak different languages – as much a barrier to resolving a dispute as, and perhaps more than, any of the content about which they disagree.
Each of us needs to ask how important consciously civil and intentionally mutually beneficial and respectful conversation is to us. Each of the subtitles above requires a deeper dive in order to be understood and embodied. Any one of them can enhance the quality of conversation. If you choose to begin, perhaps begin with something that feels easier; or begin with the one you know you need to develop; or take them in the order listed.
Just begin. Practice. The world needs you.