Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 8

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:

Grave and Goofy Poems Episode 8 – Narrative Healing 5.13.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.

Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 5

Welcome back!

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.

Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 4

Welcome back!

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).


Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times Episode 4 – Diction 4.15.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.

Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 3

Welcome back!

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.


Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times Episode 3 – Responding to What Resonates 4.8.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.

Grave & Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 2

Welcome back!

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.


Grave and Goofy Poems: Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times – Episode 2 / Imagery 4.1.20 from Reggie Marra on Vimeo.

Grave & Goofy Poems – Narrative Healing in Uncertain Times

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.

Fully Human at Work – a 21st-Century Imperative

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:

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 Registration is limited to 18 participants.


1Harvard Business Review online, December 2019

2CNBC online, October 2019

3World Health Organization online, December 2019, accessed December 2019

5The Atlantic online, February 2015

6See Edward Deci’s and Richard Ryan’s work on Self-Determination Theory (SDT), Daniel Pink’s Drive, and Frederick Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, among many others.

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.”

Additional References:

Frederick Buechner. Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC [revised and reprinted with the subtitle: A Seeker’s ABC].

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.”

Bill Plotkin. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. [Harley Swift Deer is quoted in Plotkin].