I'm feeling very lucky to be a poet today. I just got back from facilitating a poetry workshop at Ellsworth Commons, a senior community here in Eastern NC, and I can't stop smiling about the writing and sharing that happened. When I first agreed to give the workshop, I thought very little about what I would actually do, but as the date got closer, I realized that my audience was different from any group I had worked with before. Then, I panicked a little. Then I Googled it. This is one of the terrific ideas I found: Susan Y. Dyer's blog The Moveable Alphabet, "Creative Writing with Seniors."
I was attracted not only by the subject matter of the post, but also by the Montessori ideals behind it. The basic idea is to cut out words from magazines and have the workshop participants choose the words that stand out to them. Then, they arrange the words on a largish piece of paper. When satisfied with the placement on the page for meaning, they glue the words down. This does two wonderful things: 1. It helps anyone who has difficulty writing, for any reason, to express themselves in the written word. 2. It allows participants a starting place. Watching the residents move their chosen words around, trying them out in several different ways to get their messages across was really cool, and the stories they told me while figuring out word placement were even better.
When I first told the group that we would be writing poetry, there were some groans and talk of being "back in school." When I told them how we would be writing it and held up the large font, green ink cut-out word "Pickles," they laughed. But the gentleman who took the word pickles wrote a poem about his grandmother, how he used to make pickles with her, how they used to cook everything from scratch and make homemade ice cream. When he finished his composition, he read it out loud to me, pointed to the page, and said, "That's me. Right there."
Some of the other residents wrote about camping under the stars, fishing, and learning patience. One woman, after finding the right order for her words, looked through the piles of cut-outs for about five minutes, determined to find something to do with birds so she could complete her thoughts.
I am looking forward to going back in December, and the participants have said that they are looking forward to writing some more poetry. What a wonderful gift on this stormy Wednesday. And many thanks to Susan Y. Dyer for her terrific ideas!