poetry and radical theology at a mental health treatment facility
[cross-posted at the Hadar blog...which you probably can't see, as I think it's private]
[This is from a post that I wrote with my yeshiva buddy Sigal for the internal Hadar site where we all discuss, supposedly, our social-service projects. For those who are not keeping up, I'm in summer yeshiva in NYC with a fabulous posse of smartass yids. 14-hour days = no blogging.]
We've been having a great time, despite feeling exhausted on the way there every week. There isn't much servey service to do, so we mostly chat with the clients and the staff about whatever folks are thinking about. All the lead staff there seem to be some variety of Buddhist, many of them very learned and into talking about their texts and their experiences and their questions. Sigal often shares little snippets of Torah with them. We've discussed the meaning of "darshan" in the Jewish and the Hindu/Buddhist context, and speculated as to shared etymology...
Today we ran the second in our highly experimental three-part poetry series. After a few weeks of basically just hanging around--with the staff, as noted above, and with the guys, who love Judge Mathis and would do quite well on Family Feud--Sigal and I asked the director, Carlos, if we could lead a little poetry workshop. Or rather, if there would be interest from the clients. They have been quite variably interested in our presence, some wanting to chat every week and some basically ignoring us. As you'd expect. Carlos said, of course, we have some poets already! We envisioned this as a small but pleasurable activity/skill that matters to each of us and that we could share with the clients.
In each week--this and last--we brought a Mary Oliver poem (Wild Geese and A Summer Day) to be discussed, and planned some writing prompts, and basically just sat around with a couple guys eating cookies and writing stuff and discussing. We had to do a lot of reassuring and encouraging, but not so much drawing-out as we expected. That is to say, these guys have produced some amazingly forthcoming and soulful work. The poetry is great to hear and the conversations great to have. Next week we're going back for the last time! Boo.
One month to my birthday.