“COMMONSENSE HAS TRAMPLED DOWN MANY A GENTLE GENIUS WHOSE EYES HAD DELIGHTED IN SOME TOO EARLY MOONBEAM OF SOME TOO EARLY TRUTH… COMMONSENSE AT ITS WORST IS SENSE MADE COMMON, AND SO EVERYTHING IS COMFORTABLY CHEAPENED BY ITS TOUCH. COMMONSENSE IS SQUARE WHEREAS ALL THE MOST ESSENTIAL VISIONS AND VALUES OF LIFE ARE BEAUTIFULLY ROUND, AS ROUND AS THE UNIVERSE OR THE EYES OF A CHILD AT ITS FIRST CIRCUS SHOW.” –VLADIMIR NABOKOV
Many years ago, I had the good fortune to meet and work with poet and legend Nikki Giovanni. It was just after 9/11, and I remember driving her around Denver in my old Subaru and her talking to me like she’d known me for years. In particular, she lamented the fact that we were turning to poetry for consolation only after tragedy has struck, when really we should realize that it offers preventative medicine and could keep us out of conflict to begin with. If only we could use our creativity to help us connect across boundaries and share our most authentic experience and perspective with each other, from our joys to the grit under our fingernails, maybe we could start to understand each other and recognize how interconnected our lives really are.Audre Lorde put it best: “…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”I have to be honest–I’ve gotten really tired of having workshops on humanizing the world through the creative arts turned down by conferences which consider themselves innovative. I’m tired of how hard it is to convince anyone anymore that artistic expression matters for its own sake, not just when embedded into the latest STEAM initiative. My heart is still that of a creative writing teacher, the daughter and granddaughter of musicians and artists, someone who wants to bring out the best in students’ ability to express themselves, who wants to bring something to life for students, through writing, that is about living with a deeper sense of connection to our common human experience, that is about communicating across the boundaries which separate us, and being our most authentic selves with each other.My colleague Erin Sanchez and I have developed a new project we would love to bring into your schools,“The WORDshop.” We want to create a safe and transformative space which helps your students connect with themselves, the world, and their own best words to describe their experiences. We want students to connect with their best, weirdest, most important visions of the world and learn to evoke them for others. Please scroll down in the flier below for more information.Below the flier, please find a few of my favorite poetry videos. Let them help you connect with something deeply human, let them draw you to the pen, the brush, the chisel, the camera, the piano, the cello, whatever it is that you speak through best. Remember what it means to be alive, and then share your favorites with your students and other people you love. Make creativity matter again, even just by valuing art for art’s sake.
Still one of my all-time favorites, “Yellowbird” is Andrea Gibson’s swan song in support of arts and creativity.
“To This Day” is an exceptional spoken word and digital production by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan.
Anis Mojgani’s “For Those Who Can Still Ride in Airplanes” offers a modern take on the same themes as W. B. Yeats’ “Stolen Child.”
This is Sonya Renee Taylor’s favorite performance of her poem “Beautiful,” and the revelations are mind blowing.
This nearly wordless film is a poem. “With a Piece of Chalk” reminds me of the
gifts beneath every rough surface and hard experience, and it makes me wish
every classroom could be as safe as that empty warehouse,
a space where the gifts of every child can flourish.