“Writing our relationships to ourselves, loved ones, and perceived strangers.”
Deciding to spend money on Andrea Gibson’s Write Your Heart In poetry workshop was hard for me. I have difficulty spending money on anything for myself. As a result, I don’t really maintain a lot of hobbies. I think my attention span is pretty shot from years on the early internet, and my desk job means I spend 8+ hours a day online. Like many people, I’m experiencing unprecedented rates of Zoom fatigue, so to sign up for four 2-hour sessions in the middle of my Saturday afternoons might strike some people as some kind of crazy.
Those people are not my kind of crazy, and those people have never read or heard Andrea Gibson’s poetry.
Facilitated by Andrea and their partner, Meg Falley, this workshop series feels intimate and supportive. Once I was done fangirling (fanboying? Fanboi-ing? Gender is weird.) about the illusion that Andrea was reading poetry in my kitchen I tuned in properly. Tuning into one’s hearing is something Andrea and Meg advised the workshop participants to do when trying to remember our relationships with language. (I also sat for a separate workshop recently, with prominent lesbian writer and poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, where she recommended a similar exercise. Try it sometime!)
Write Your Heart In was replete with quotable phrases that will likely dominate my Instagram grid for a while. A favorite of mine was a quote from Andrea’s therapist (we were warned we’d hear a lot of their advice through Andrea during the workshop) that said: “Fear is excitement without the breath.” When I was younger, I used to sing onstage, and when I was nervous my mom would tell me to sing quietly to myself before I went on, because it grounds you and keeps you breathing.
The experience of the workshop is grounded in Andrea’s poetry, which they read from their published books rather than reciting from memory as they typically would. COVID-19 has put a stop to touring for nearly all performers, so having the poems on the tip of their tongue hasn’t been necessary for a while.
After reading each poem, Andrea provided a writing prompt. Andrea described their prompts as catalysts for writing but also for, “thinking and feeling and living.” Each prompt was followed by a 5-minute freewriting period (Meg recommends Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, where the author lays out some “rules of freewriting,” for those of us who crave structure.) My first freewrite was predictably a mess, in response to a prompt about self love, in which Andrea challenged us to write as if we were courting ourselves, and to give ourselves intangible gifts turned tangible.
Meg, who edits Andrea’s work, followed this with a craft prompt, encouraging us to reverse engineer tangible sensory things that we enjoyed to access the things our loving selves most needed.
By the end of the first session, I had drafted three poems. One, an ode (in the figurative sense, not in terms of formal poetic definitions) to my father’s worry lines, a second message to a stranger in a foreign land, and a third a song of self love.
I’m psyched to see what awesome advice and inspiration await on the next three Saturdays, and only a little freaked out that Andrea Gibson is, ostensibly, going to read something I’ve written.
What do you write poetry about? Have you ever written an honest love poem? What have you done for yourself, lately?