This past week has been Spring Break at our university, but we had a group of die-hard poetry and prose fans that met at our usual time and place. Since we have finished our first quarter of Poetry and Prose Rounds, I started this week with a check-in on how it is going—what people like or would like to see done differently. There was general consensus that having the Rounds self-contained in terms of readings and people being able to come as schedules permit is a big positive. People like the opportunity to write, and several people are using some of their Rounds writing to spin off new work. Several people mentioned that they enjoy being introduced to new authors/works that they didn’t know about. They like the posted readings and blog posts/writing prompts to be able to follow along when they can’t make it to Rounds.
We agreed to continue the Rounds ‘as is,’ and we will mix in opportunities to do informal sharing/work shopping of writing we are working on. In addition, I will continue my networking with local authors to share their work and lead discussions in Rounds. I also hope to have spin-offs in the future of longer, more intensive workshops on the craft of writing in the realm of narrative medicine.
After the check-in discussion, we shared what we are currently reading ‘for pleasure.’ Then, in an effort to balance out the heaviness of world events, the first writing prompt was “Happiness—what makes you happy or brings you happiness?”
And then—I just had to do it: we read and discussed Wordsworth’s poem about daffodils and the bliss of solitude: “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” Who knew that daffodils crackle as they open? That’s not in the poem, it came from one of our Rounds participants. From what I understand, you need to take a bunch of them—still in bud but ready to open—into a quiet room or car, and you can hear them open. I have had a soft spot for daffodils and for this poem, since coming across a “host of daffodils” (and the poem posted on a sign) in the midst of the squalor and bombed out buildings of Belfast. I’ve been waiting for Spring in Seattle to be able to use this poem in Rounds. So now, it is out of my system….
Our second reading was a short story by Tolstoy entitled “Work, Death, and Sickness.” Written in the form of a parable, it deals with the origin of—well-work, death, and sickness. Tolstoy states that it is a legend from the South American Indians, and Tolstoy was a collector and re-teller of ‘peasant’ folk tales from around the world. Towards the end of his parable Tolstoy writes: “That the sight of sick folk might not disturb the pleasures of the wealthy, houses were arranged in which these poor people suffered and died, far from those whose sympathy might have cheered them, and in the arms of hired people who nursed them without compassion, or even with disgust.” A sobering thought as we sat in a hospital.
The final writing prompt was: “Write your own parable—or children’s bedtime story—of happiness and health.”
Next week we’ll turn to one of my all-time favorite books, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.