Category Archives: Poet Laureate of Your Own Life

One blade of grass

blades_of_grass

A week ago the members of the Poet Laureate of Your Own Life course began a month-long adventure of writing and reading poetry together. I thought it might take us a little while to get started, for people to muster up the courage to share their poems… and to comment on each others’ words.

Nope.

Even before the course began, participants were popping into our Facebook group to introduce themselves. Our little patch of the Internet was illuminated by strings of twinkle lights powered by their amazing energy. Beginning on the first evening, my FB feed was flooded with poems about childhood and comments about favourite lines and explanations of why an image worked so well and small odes to the combinations of words that moved them. Within a couple of days, the poets laureate were commenting on each other’s comments and posting photos of whoopie pies and sunsets and small white houses by the sea.

Every day, in response to the prompts, some of the poets turn towards their pain and their pain lights a candle and shows them the way home. I imagine the poets, in their homes and at work, a little lighter, a little kinder to themselves.

Every day, the beauty of these poems smashes me wide open. I am in awe of these words and so grateful to each poet laureate.

This course is one of the best parties I have ever attended.

One blade of grass
For my sister Megan

In the beginning
a whisper of a seedling,
a light green ghost-thing,
pushes her way
through layers of dirt
and broke-downness,
passed old pots, bits
of broken glass,
time capsules stored
in coffee cans,
skeletons of pet cats
buried in shoe boxes.
Through the darkness
the light green ghost-thing
pushes her bud-ness
like devotion.

Cicadas sing
as she emerges
into a field of sisters
in long green dresses
dancing in the sun,
dancing like one
blade of grass.

Pushing your way through
So the thing I’m wondering about today is what have YOU been pushing your way through?
Have you been pushing your way through blindly, hoping to pop up somewhere good… or do you know where you’re headed?
What are you passing on the journey and what does it have to teach you?
What will happen when you get to the surface?
What’s your joyful noise?
Who will you call on for help?

Cheers,
Monna
xo

P.S.
This post was published first in The Sunday Reader. You can subscribe here.

Brown Cords + Big Decisions

Paris Lights

On Sunday, I spent the whole day in my jammies. That’s not so remarkable in and of itself but it was a particularly active day for not having left the apartment.

We were discussing some big decisions about how long we’ll stay in Japan, what we’ll do after that. Oh… and also, what kind of house we’ll buy and where it will be. Stretched out on our matching black leather couches (a Canadian word if there ever was one), we spent the day looking at real estate listings, passing our computers back and forth to each other, and talking about what kind of life we want to create.

We’re talking about what kind of life we want so it doesn’t happen accidentally. So we don’t wake up when we’re 80 and say, “Oh shit. This isn’t at all what we had in mind.”

When it came to making important decisions, I grew up believing in the power of the pro/con list. My version was to list everything and then go with the obvious choice which was, to say, the longest list. The secret to making big decisions was to be reasonable, logical and prudent. I had been an adult for some time when I realised that my application of the pro/con list was deeply flawed; it turned out that one item on my con list might cancel out five items on my pro list. The items on my list weren’t equal in significance.

I also used to ask for the advice of others but I’m starting to believe less and less in advice. A person can tell me what they did in a certain situation and I so much appreciate their insights and stories… but without the shoulds or should nots. They can’t know what it’s like to be me so their best gift to me is a reflective conversation.

On Sunday afternoon DP asked, “So how will we know what is the right thing to do?”

When I was in kindergarten, there was a red-headed boy who would frequently wander away from whatever the group was doing or learning at the time and sit cross-legged under the six-foot high television stand in the corner of the room. He was already reading novels so he would sit under that shiny stand and read his book until the teacher finally noticed that he had slipped away again. When I was five, I thought he was naughty (although remarkably well read) but now I suspect that the little non-conformist in brown cords and a striped tee-shirt was probably the wisest person in the room.

So I’ve been trying to act more like that kid. He did not act out of fear. He was new and fresh and obsessed with reading and looking out the window and not too bothered with society’s rules about money or what one should do for a living. He was his own culture. Like him, I’ve been following my curiosity and reminding myself not to feel too worried about what other people think. The thing is that other people will judge my decisions but they will do so regardless of what I decide since that’s how the human animal operates. Those judgments have more to do with the person making the judgments than they do with me.

But, me? I am the world’s leading expert on me. It’s a good job.

And I’ve been asking the little kid in the brown cords, “What do you want? How do you feel? What are you concerned about? Why?” I try on various ideas and then ask him, “Okay, buddy. Does that option feel like shackles on or shackles off?”

My wise inner-nerd knows what feels good and what doesn’t. The little red-headed boy is my essential self and he reminds me to gently do what is right for me.

So as DP and I make this next set of decisions, we’re going to lean way into the great unknown of it, aware that there is probably not a right or wrong answer. There is just a next step. And then a step after that.

And if it doesn’t work out? Cities and jobs can be left. Houses can be sold. We can begin again. Actually, I think it’s beautiful to begin again. It even sounds lovely. “Begin again.”

There is no right answer. There is only a beginning and two people creating their next glorious adventure together.

P.S. This was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive The Sunday Reader directly in your inbox every two weeks, you can subscribe here.
 

You are living in a poem

View of BKK

You are living in a poem.

Naomi Shihab Nye
wrote this sentence
on the blackboard
of every classroom
she visited at our school.
She said these words aloud
to each group of students
assembled to meet her.

She asked if we ever felt
as though we were living
inside a poem.
She asked if we had access
to the poetry channel
in our mind.

I wondered how she knew
about
my
secret
poetry
channel.

I wondered how she saw
the invisible place
that connects me to
the pipeline of life
that flows golden
and quiet
as long as I’m not
multi-tasking,
sleep deprived,
stressed,
other-judging,
future-worried,
past-regretting.

Whenever I am found
(not lost)
poems pour out
of the silver metal bucket
onto the barn floor.

Poetry goes out of its way
to get my attention,
whistles, beats its wings
like a hummingbird,
shrills loud like cicadas,
reminds me to dance
dance
dance,
girl.

Everywhere life unfolds
shimmering:

A cafe latte at a restaurant in Tokyo
The softness of our Moroccan rug against my feet
A Youtube video of African women dancing
Jacquie’s Instagrams from Switzerland

Cold lemon tea and a clean kitchen
The Punch Brothers plucking at the Blue Note
People divorcing with love and dignity
Lin Manuel Miranda’s morning message
on Facebook.

Look around
at how lucky we are
to be alive right now.*

A young blonde friend in Bangkok
tries to lend me a book
and when I say
I can’t borrow it
because I live in Japan,
she walks to my side of the table
leans close
and says,
“Maybe,
after dinner,
you could just read
a few pages.”

Poetry enters
through my skin.
Sometimes I follow,
dash after the poems
as they pulsate,
trace their cartilage
in my notebook.
Sometimes I feel
the poems
on my face
like sunshine
and let it
slip away

golden and quiet

I am living in a poem.
 

*Song lyric: The Schuyler Sisters from Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda

If you’d like to know more about the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, check out this recent episode of On Being where she talks about poetry, her life’s work and her visit to our school.
 

POET LAUREATE OF YOUR OWN LIFE
PoetLaureateofYourOwnLifeI’m happy to be leading my online course Poet Laureate of Your Own Life beginning on September 12th.

This course is for you if you are a noticer of the extraordinary beauty of ordinary moments, if you have thoughts inside you longing to be expressed, and if you’d like to share them in a low-risk way in a supportive environment.

You’ll have the opportunity to write a poem each weekday for a month. I’ll provide the prompts and the support for your writing, along with a poem each day to inspire you, to help you leap into a sea of words and learn how to swim.

Pop over to my site to learn more about this course and what past poets laureate have to say about the experience.
 

Calling All Poets

Peony2

About a week ago, I wondered aloud if it was time to run the Poet Laureate course again and DP, wise partner that he is, asked me if I wanted to. The energy of my response surprised me. YES! The course is great fun… and I always write such interesting pieces from the prompts… and I’d love to help alter Facebook’s DNA by creating our Poet Laureate group for brave-soul-sharing.

So I am, with great happiness, offering the Poet Laureate of Your Own Life online course for a second time beginning in mid-September. Here’s how it will work:

Over 20 weekdays, participants will receive a daily email with:
* a poetic reflection of one aspect of the Poet Laureate job description
* an illustration drawn by a super-creative Grade 1 student
* a poem that has captured by imagination. On Friday of each week, the poem will be accompanied by an interview I conducted with that day’s poet
* a poetry-writing prompt for you

There will be a private + {top} secret Facebook group for people who want to share their writing with other Poet Laureates. Participation in the Facebook group is optional and feedback will be positive and celebratory in nature.

The course will run from Monday 12th September until Friday 7th October.

The cost is 40 USD.

If this sounds like fun… if you have a poetry-shaped hole in your life… if you’d like to play and experiment with words in a low risk way… if you’d like to spend some time thinking about your own story… if you’d like to make some joyful noise, I hope you’ll join me.

Come on over to learn more about the course. Registration is now open.

If you know someone who might enjoy this course, I’d really appreciate it if you’d let them know about it.

As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions about this poetry-adventure.

Cheers,
Monna
xo

Liz Gilbert, Big Magic + Poet Laureates

Liz Gilbert, Big Magic + Poet Laureates
 
LIZ GILBERT ON THE PERILS OF IGNORING YOUR CREATIVE SELF

Liz Gilbert was recently interviewed by CBC radio host Shadrach Kabango about her book Big Magic: Creative Living Through Fear.

Here’s the part of the interview that whacked me over the head {in the best possible way}:

Interviewer: You have a faith, Elizabeth, that everyone can be creative.

LG: Yeah. I do.

Interviewer: There’s a lot of bad art out there…

LG: Don’t care.

Interviewer: There’s a lot of unoriginal art out there…

LG: Don’t care.

Interviewer: Why do you believe that?

LG: First of all, it’s such a subjective thing you just said because you and I could sit down right now and we could make a list of what we think are the ten most important and magnificent works of art in the world and odds are there’s going to be stuff on your list that doesn’t excite me or that I actually, flat out, think is bad and you would say the same of mine so you can show me the most perfect piece of art in the world and I can find you ten people who hate it. There are people who think that Sistine Chapel is cartoonish. (Laughs.) You know what I mean? Like, there are people that think Beethoven is a hack. It doesn’t matter. So I don’t care and I’m not interested in criticism. I find that to be the most absolutely boring part of the artistic process.

Interviewer: You include that with complaining and fear?

LG: Yeah. I don’t care. I don’t care. And somebody said to me the other day, “Aren’t you afraid your book is going to encourage a lot of people to make bad art?” First of all, the fact that you would even say that makes you sound like a jerk. One. And two, my concern is not that the world is full of bad art, which I’m not even sure it is, my concern is that there are all kinds of people in the world who believe somehow that this ~ our greatest shared human inheritance, the right to participate in creation, the right to become a person who is unfolding, the right to look for the jewels that are hidden within you, the right to leave a footprint on the world ~ that that only belongs to the elite, the trained, the professional and the tormented and I stand firmly as a populist. (Laughs.) I want to see people making things. Period.

You can listen to the full interview here. The section above begins at 13 minutes.

CALLING ALL POET LAUREATES

“The right to participate in creation, the right to become a person who is unfolding, the right to look for the jewels that are hidden within you, the right to leave a footprint on the world” ~ that’s the spirit of this new course. We won’t concern ourselves with questions of good versus bad art and we definitely won’t spend any of our valuable time comparing ourselves to others.

We are, however, going to make things!

Poet Laureate of Your Own Life begins on Monday! This is a twenty day course for twenty dollars. 🙂

Each day, the Poets will receive in their inbox:
* a poetic reflection about one aspect of being a Poet Laureate
* a writing prompt with an optional (fun) writing constraint to make things juicer
* one poem that I love
Each Friday we’ll meet our Poet Laureate of the Week, a woman who defines herself as a poet ~ among other things. These features will include an interview with the poet about her craft as well as one of her poems.

Poet Laureates are invited to share their poetry at our secret and private Facebook group. All feedback will be celebratory.

If you’ve been on the fence, jump on down and join us.

Cheers,
Monna
 

New Course: Poet Laureate of Your Own Life

PoetLaureateCourse.pdf

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece for the Sunday Reader entitled Be the Poet Laureate of your own life. This was not an idea I had been incubating for a long time; it came to me fresh and pink and new and I wrote it down and hit send.

That’s how it works sometimes.

In the days that followed, I was haunted by this big crazy idea of being the Poet Laureate of ones own life; the more I thought about it, the sparklier it became. The conviction that our lives are worthy of having a poet laureate, and that we are entitled to the position of esteemed story teller grew stronger and made me feel goofily happy and strangely free. I started writing a longer piece, like an extended job description of a Poet Laureate of ones own life. And the more I wrote, the clearer it became that I was writing a course.

Yup. A new online course.

Here’s how it will work.

Over 20 weekdays, participants will receive a daily email with:
* a poetic reflection of one aspect of the Poet Laureate job description
* an illustration drawn by a super-creative Grade 1 student
* a poetry prompt

There will be a private + {top} secret Facebook group for people who want to share their writing with other Poet Laureates. Feedback will be positive and celebratory in nature.

The course will run from Monday November 9th until Friday December 4th.

Poet Laureate will open up for registration on my site on Sunday 25th October.

The cost is 20 USD. {I know! It is a great deal.}

If this sounds like fun… if you have a poetry-shaped hole in your life {like I do}… if you’d like to play and experiment with words in a low risk way… if you’d like to spend some time thinking about your own story… if you’d like to make some joyful noise, I hope you’ll join me.

Registration is now open here.