for (a) Change
workshop presented at the Second Annual Peace Educators’ Conference
and Presented by Carolyn Pogue
This workshop was presented to 16 men and women in one short hour.
name is Carolyn Pogue, I’m a
writer, a member of the Woman in Black peace group and I want to change the
world. Welcome to this hour. I am one who believes that writing can change
your life. When it is shared, it can change the lives of others, and
therefore, a little bit of the world. In this hour, I want to give you the
opportunity to write, to talk about perspective and to introduce you to 2
wonderful books I’ve come across lately. We
each introduced ourselves and gave the name of a film, book, article, play,
speech or poem that changed or expanded the way we thought about something.
This resulted in a solid list of influential works.
Here we’ll be using free fall writing – circumventing the editor. This is a technique that W.O. Mitchell used to get to the heart of the writing. The theory is that we have two sides to our brains and that the left is the side that wants things in logical order, straight lines and without much fuzziness. The right side is the poetic side that longs for beauty, wants to skip through the daisy field and enjoys making wavy lines with fat paint brushes. In free fall writing we use our intuitive, right side. By writing as fast as our hands can travel, we circumvent the bossy left side and so write with our hearts. We aren’t concerned about grammar or if it’s “good” or not. We just go! I read aloud Natalie Goldberg’s “Rules for Writing” from her book Wildmind.
We are at the mid point in this peace conference and have taken in a lot of information, images and ideas. This is a moment to pause for breath. In this exercise, begin to write where you are right now. You may write in the first or third person. Describe how you are mentally, physically, spiritually. You will not share this with anyone unless you wish. Begin and don’t stop writing for 5 minutes. Go.
Few Words about Perspective
Art instructors teach people to see again. They teach them to look at an object and see the negative space around it. They teach students to see relationships between things and people, show them how to see distance between objects on a flat plane, and how to observe colour and shadow. Writers need to learn and keep relearning to see again. We can then make our writing richer, and bring to the forefront the emotions, insights and freshness that lie dormant within us.
is good to play with perspective whether we are writing, voting, reading a
newspaper or maybe…. looking at trees: One
day my husband and I were in
friend Diane D’Souza lives in
I didn’t notice you
Didn’t really see you
At least, not at first.
Is it any wonder?
So much was new
The fields wildly flowering
The shells of homes
Like unkempt gravestones.
The signs blood red with
Skulls and crossed bones
Warning in a language more universal than
Sinhala or English or Tamil:
Stick to the road
We assume no responsibility
For casual whims
Which take you into beckoning fields
Never mind the cattle now wild
The peacocks with swaying unfurled tails
The grasses flowering into seed.
Stick to the road
Away from danger
Buried metal, designed to maim.
Is it any wonder I missed your dignified presence
In this shouting silence
This too loud echo of gunfire recently stilled.
When I saw you
Really saw you
I was jolted awake
Suddenly into light:
Did the bullets hurt?
Did the shells lodged without your flesh
Or did you simply receive them
With a thud, a shake and a shudder
A terrified bird fleeing nest and young
With a frightened cry.
How many bullets
Does it take
To kill tree?
Play with perspective. Write from one perspective and then switch to another. Read a newspaper story and ask, “How would this story be told from the perspective of the victim? The judge? A river?”
This summer I discovered a delightful book by Paul Fleischman called Seedfolks. Fleischman uses 13 perspectives to tell the story of the flowering of a vacant city lot. Old, young, Haitian, Korean, Hispanic. Tough, haunted, hopeful people all get the idea from a little girl who begins with lima beans, that they too, can take away garbage, dig the dirt and plant a few seeds. Seedfolks is a book for children, teens or adults that will lift your spirit and plant all kinds of ideas for planting peace, too.
As I read the following words, take a moment to make free associations. Later or at home, you might realize that you have the framework for a poem.
– Story – River – Child – News – Government – Peace – Earth –
Seeds – Love
summer I found a glorious book written by 150 kids and a teacher in
We have kids in this country and in this province who live with violence or fear of violence in their homes, communities and on the school yard, too. I found great hope in this book and have bought a copy for a young friend whose dad is dead and whose mother is a drug addict. She keeps a journal and sometimes I think that it helps keeps her alive and sane. She is 15.
you work with young people, there is another book that gives me great hope and
that is Craig and Marc Keilburger’s Take
Action: A Guide to Active Citizenship. These young men (Craig founded
“Kids Can Free the Children” and Marc is co-founder of “Leaders
Today”. Both organizations empower youth.)
are walking down a street in
Four brave people read their stories aloud to wild applause!
End of Session