edited: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
By D L Johnson
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
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Have you ever wondered where the next army of poets will come from? I recently had the pleasure of discovering a great resource. dlj
Recently I attended a poetry reading at an old church in downtown Portland, Oregon. I soon discovered that this was not going to be your average poetry reading, it was filled with voices that until that moment, had been silenced by poverty, war, homelessness and gender discrimination.
There is a non-for-profit organization in Portland, known as Write around Portland.
The plan of this group is to go to places like low income housing, homeless shelters, womans safe houses and places where many residents are on welfare and survive on food stamps.
They partner with Veteran’s Organizations, especially Iraq and Viet Nam era Vets who are now homeless.
Another group they include the are the aging Gay and Lesbian population in the area through another group known as Elder Resource Alliance.
The whole idea is to teach those interested in learning to write, how to put their thoughts down on paper. Then three times a year, a poetry anthology is printed and these young and old writers alike, become published poets and story tellers
On that night there were about forty writers scheduled to read their published work. And each writer was given two minutes to read their poetry
It was obvious that many of those reading their poem were not use to being in front of a large group and I would estimate there were about two hundred people in attendance that night. They were nervous but without exception each one came through with flying colors.
As I sat, listening to these voices, I was truly inspired and hopeful that this group of aspiring writers could help fill the void of those that lose their way.
It’s hard to remember all the writers but I’ve compiled an overview of some of those wonderful souls that were there that night.
A young woman, maybe 18 or 19 years old told a story about not missing her father since he’d beat her mother to death, and she did miss her mother.
There was a 69 year old Transsexual who wrote clearly and painfully about abuse from her father, school mates and bigots, but she did survive.
A young man told the story of his path of recovery from meth.and being homeless. It was not a surprise to most of those in attendance that lots of homeless folk sleep in the park across the street from the church.
A homeless Veteran rolled his wheelchair with his flag waving in the air, to the podium and read about how proud he was to serve his country but how shameful the Veteran’s Administration was in not helping him with his war related injuries. He emphasized that he did not want a hand out but a way to work his way out of his wheelchair to a better life.
This reading event was obviously not a recitation of soft, sensual or silly subjects; but they are everyday, real life issues.
More than one writer told of the loss of simple things, like the loss of pets and how important they were to their lives. But these things were not simple to them, they were heartbreaking.
The organizers of Write around Portland knew where to find these potential writers and took the time to teach writing skills, story telling and instruction that would make their writing worthy poems for publication. The great thing about that is Write around Portland does this for free.
For any of us that desire to write, there is a story to be told just outside our front door.
No matter what the major press may say about the decline of readers and writing, it is each of us that pound out the keyboard on our computers or pick up the pen…we are the ones that keep the art alive.
These young soldiers can proudly say that they are among the army of published writers.