November 9, 2010

Write To Connect at ILRC, Week 2

I find that I dread writing the recap of Write To Connect classes. (Let that be known to my students who are would-be-bloggers. In an effort to be encouraging, I sound casual about it in class, but in fact…it is not easy for me either.) This is only number two as class summaries go, so I imagine it will get easier.

I maintain four blogs: one for the LightHouse for the Blind, one for a women’s poetry press, one for my personal projects as a freelance writer, and now, the WTC blog. Much like the LH blog, the Write To Connect blog resists a tone, a voice, a form that suits the posts and the virtual space. Why? Because it is not really my blog; it is a collective blog that belongs to the synergy of a group of students. Life writing (as in recapping each WTC session) is slow going, delicate even, when what there is to document belongs very much to the moment, to the two hours we spend together as a group of seven or so participants in a  writing class. And the writings that are produced--well, they have tendrils and wispy roots, like miniature plants in a mason jar terrarium. They belong in interior vessels, so it is not up to me to take what tiny foliage we sculpt with in class, tear it up and plant it here, in this post. Not, at least until the students are ready to send me a sampling (Thanks Belo and Kacie…Anyone else?)

Perhaps I am going with this miniature ecosystem metaphor because, this week, we delved into weather and butoh (a dance, a force like wind or rain), with some really lovely results. And there was breath work, which seemed to help Jennifer J. convert her trek across a dark parking garage in search of a key shop into a prose poem that presented us with the traffic as its own  weather system, and uncanny looks across an aisle, the rush of the bus, and then finally  her arrival at class. She delivered it all in one small, dense swoop, with every necessary, uneasy angle—in the form of a prose poem. I was also happy to hear that last week’s meditation had really resonated for a blind student who is also a synesthete. She hears color as sound. “So,” I ventured, risking a dumb question because it seemed like a good way to understand diverse perceptions, “Do you actually SEE the colors—for instance, could you tell what colors were in a particular room when you walked in?” She said, “It depends on how loud they are.” Perceptual chromatic parataxis, it makes perfect sense! I must remember to ask her if she has read Oliver Sacks or Nabokov, both brilliant synesthetes.

At least two of the students in this WTC series are recent arrivals in the Bay Area (hence Jennifer’s trip to the lock shop).  That makes for a lot of new energy around the feeling of being alive and about in San Francisco. Derek, a Kansas native, read from an essay on following one’s inner voice, which lead him to talk about his recent discovery of the phenomenon that is Burning Man. A discussion about whether or not Burning Man is accessible (we decided not) ensued and there was a group-musing about what it would mean to find just the right Burners and team up with them to build an accessible camp in The Playa; a camp with ramps and lifts and humidified chambers that snaked in and around the other camps--with luminous wheelchairs, canes and guide dogs as part of the whole tech/art scene, functional, adaptive, flexible….Everyone talked at once. I had t shush so as not to disturb the people who are actually doing office work at the ILRC.

There were other conversations on moving about in the world—about the frustrations we sometimes encounter as disabled pedestrians and riders or public transit. Accounts ranged from the menacing to the absurd. One student’s guide dog was recently poisoned by a disturbed passerby, I was late to start class because a stranger blocked my path in an intersection and demanded to know many things about my disability. Another blind student was smacked in the butt by a body in flight--apparently a fight broke out at the BART station.

These stories bounced back and forth across the table. Belo recommend the memoir Traveling Blind by Susan Krieger. And we had some conceptual buoying. Jennifer G. read to us form Yoko’s Ono Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings in which we are told to send letters to an anonymous Mary in another country. We could send ourselves there with the aid of this and other poetic how-to’s. Melissa enticed us by offering a new scene form a dysfunctional love story she ahs started writing again (and, in counterpoint, told me all about Piedmont Yoga, which offers an adaptive yoga class for people with mobility impairments. I definitely want to join her for a yoga session sometime soon.)

Two students--Jennifer G, editor at and Becca R.—joined us for the first time. They brought poems by Garrison Keillor and lullabies for children.

Amid all this conversation and book discussion, there were quiet journaling sessions where folks did their writing on Braille Notes, ipads, and spiral notebooks. There were blockage lists and weather system mash-up experiments that I crafted especially for this group. To find out more specifics about these explorations, join us! There are two more classes left in this series.

Oh, and note to class, I am bringing apricot cheese this time! Are we also, still stuck on the Lindt truffles? If so, I’ll load up…