Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Will I Write About?

A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses. ~Jean Cocteau
The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats

Spring is my favorite season. Tulips, daffodils and crocuses poke their heads up through the earth, and brown, dry grass gives way to a lush, green carpet. Nature allows things to quietly unfold. There’s no rush – all the flowers that will ever bloom take their time, knowing their natural beauty will eventually appear.

Every spring, we can count on the natural order of things to unfold as they should. If I can have faith in that simple truth, why don’t I trust in the same process, when it comes to my gifts?

Last week, I attended Ideal-Way’s first poetry workshop. Our first National Poetry Competition is underway, and one of our volunteers suggested we bring together a group of intellectually disabled individuals, to give them some basic knowledge in creating a poem. Our aim was to create an atmosphere of fun, first and foremost.

And it was fun. We played games, recited playful, interactive poems, and then asked them to fill in the blanks of a poem.

No one asked for a special pencil – “Excuse me, but I can only write with the HB #2 pencil my Grandma gave me when I was five” - or a good luck talisman guaranteed to ward off mental blocks. Although there were a few tentative smiles, every person jumped in with both feet.

Almost every poet stood at the front of the room, and either had their poem read out by a caregiver, or read it themselves. The same look of triumph lit up each face. If they were worried about the outcome, this fear was eclipsed by a desire to let their light shine.

To be honest, I would rather have root canal without anesthesia than stand before people and read my work. I marveled at their willingness, or rather, their eagerness, to walk through their fears. As one blogger noted, “when you walk through your fears, your faith in yourself will grow, allowing your next step to be easier.”

I just need to follow their lead: loosen my grip on the outcome, and trust in the process. If I take a small step, and wait for my gifts to quietly unfold, they will begin to emerge, slowly but surely, like flowers in the spring.

But why stop there? Why not offer workshops, events, exhibitions, and contests for the intellectually disabled? In short, by offering them various opportunities to unearth hidden talents, we give them the opportunity to shine. Judging by their faces, they are more than willing to explore new territory, if given half a chance.

That’s the gift I unwrapped, later, from the first Ideal-Way Poetry Workshop, held at Christian Horizons, in Toronto.
(See slideshow in sidebar for photos of our first poetry workshop.)
Photo credit: Dan Lee



Don said...

My experience has been that persons with intellectual disability, generally, are lacking two important conditions which most mainstream persons take for granted – opportunity and encouragement.

Like seeing the first blossoms in springtime, the empowering blossoming of creative talent in persons with intellectual disability is, always, delightful to behold during
unique Ideal-Way events ... where opportunity is married to encouragement.

Donald Yeo, CEO Ideal-Way

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Don - it's true that mainstream persons are generally unaware of the enormous advantages they have in our culture. And opportunity and encouragement are the two gifts we can give to the intellectual disability community.

Rafael said...

Brilliant post. Your workshop truly honoured these special folks and recognized their gifts.

When our group is interested in having IDEAL WAY give us a workshop, how do we go about it? Thank you Maureen.

Marcel said...

What will I write about? Persons with intellectual disabilities are no different than us writers. Us writers face this all the time. I was delighted to read that your group offered encouragement to those at Christian Horizons. These poets may very well be on their way. Congralutions on a great job.

btw, I agree with Don that the two conditions that are necessary are opportunity and encouragement.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Rafael, for your interest in having an IDEAL-WAY Poetry Workshop! You can contact either Addie Daabous (Ideal-Way's Executive Director) or Don Yeo (CEO) at 416-620-4500; online: info@ideal-way.ca; or by mail:

33A-145 The West Mall
Toronto, Ontario
M9C 4V2

You're right, Marcel: a writer is a writer is a writer. In order to harness the creative energies of the community, every person should be given both opportunity and encouragement.

Bethany Lembkie said...

Great write-up on the Ideal-Way Poetry Workshop! I will be sure to inform our Program Co-Ordinator to contact Addie to set up our own workshop. By the way, Maureen, was I correct in noting that several of the artists photographed in attendance at the IW Art Exhibit were also at the Poetry Workshop?? If so, how wonderful for them to be participants of both, and kudos to their staff for their support and encouragement!

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for your kind words, Bethany. Yes, it's true that there were a number of people at the workshop who exhibited their artwork at the IW Art Show! Not only are they eager to share their gifts with the larger community, but as you said, they have received support and encouragement from those around them. Kudos to them, indeed!

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