I have tried something new in my writing life. It is not necessarily a new format but being an active participant in this challenge is new to me. I have been participating in Acadiana Wordlab, a new literary drafting series held every Saturday at 2 pm, except holidays, at Cite des Arts on Vine Street in downtown Lafayette, LA.
My first experience in this group dynamic was as a presenter. I felt that if I were to challenge writers to write, I would accept the challenge and subject myself to the same experiment. Writing in front of others summoned feelings of vulnerability and trepidation but I held my nose and dove in. My writing “experiment” was to take one of my poems, read it to the group, and take four aspects of the poem and ask the group to write free-write within that frame.
The poem of mine that I read was “The Never That Was” (Avatar Review, 2010)
These are the steps that I asked the participants to take:
Make word lists/phrases in groups related to these prompts.
- A specific place (away from home) you have traveled to
- Aspects of nature
- A piece of art—a song, dance, poem, painting, etc. that moves you, resonates with you
- Parts of the body—What does this part remember, or what has it forgotten?
Select a person, a “you” you care about –whether your care is love or hate. Even when we hate we care. What are some of the physical qualities of this person? What are some of the quirks of their personality? What are some of the things that this person has done or not that make you feel the way you do?
Free-write without self-judgment, incorporating words/phrases pulled from these prompts
I can’t find my handwritten writings but the piece that was developed from the raw writing produced is this poem:
What does your skin remember
of nights in Barcelona
when we ate exhaust fumes
carried from the street
into open windows, and slept
ravaged by howls
of drunken prostitutes?
You remember nothing
but our Montana summer,
glacial waters streaming
from the mountains
and that black one-piece
bathing suit I never wore again.
We dove into a river without mystery
(not like the bayous of home)
into the small space
between submerged rocks
so that we would not die, skull-cracked,
a thousand miles from home.
We rode through hot Texas
under a hunting sun. Our bewildered
map avoided rainstorms, took us
across dry rivers, into sagebrush
and blooming cactus
We followed pulled up
railway lines into a lifeless city.
We found beauty in broken things,
in burnt offerings of progress.
Nights we stopped running,
our bodies gave up
but our minds traveled.
Too tired for sex or to feed
any of our variant hungers,
we slept with knives
under our pillows.
Miles heaped upon miles
upon miles until we came
home, deeper in love.
How many hurricanes
have we lived through?
What were their names?
Each one took a part of us
into their churning bellies.
Frantic prayers carried off by clouds,
sight fragmented by lightning—
I really wish I could find my handwritten raw writing because it would illustrate how the raw writing, engenders true creativity and offers something deep from the subconscious and memory that can be reconstructed, refined and shaped into something worthy and valuable.
When the idea of writing in front of others was first offered to me I was very scared and worried that I would not be able to hold a candle to others. Even if I am proven and adept at writing, writing in front of others made me a bit self-conscious— I could have stumbled, but the atmosphere in this group is very accepting and genuinely nurturing.
What I love about Acadiana Wordlab is that there are people of varying skill levels and abilities and we all learn from each other. This past Saturday, my dear friend, poet Kelly Clayton, presented for the group and it was a great experience. Kelly set the right tone for us to be contemplative, productive; and while not fearless (who is really fearless?) we trusted her guidance and our pieces were inspired and valuable.
I hope if you are in the Lafayette area you will take a small leap and join the come-and-go-as-you-please membership of this project. I am enthused and excited for new and experienced writers to participate and grow in this nurturing, creative environment.
December 8th: Patrice Melnick
December 15: Lester E. Tisdale IV
Acadiana Wordlab is a new literary drafting workshop taking place at 2pm every Saturday at Cité des Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s free and open to the public (though we ask that you donate a few bucks to the presenter), uncensored, and casually structured.
Acadiana Wordlab is a drafting workshop, rather than a critique workshop. Each week, a guest presenter comes and presents a work of art (literary or otherwise), a discussion of art, or a lecture on craft. Attendees then write for 20 minutes or so. After writing, attendees read what they’ve just been working on, aloud. If there’s time left over, the presenter will present a second prompt, followed by another round of writing, then reading.
Criticism is not a serious element of Acadiana Wordlab. This is a workshop where we explore new ideas and prompts, not polish and revise. This allows a more fluid membership, a wider variety of presenters, and opportunities for novice and experienced writers to learn from each other. At Acadiana Wordlab, the person sitting next to you might be a much better writer than you—and it won’t really matter. You can appreciate their work, and let them hear yours, without worrying that you don’t “belong.”
Acadiana Wordlab is held at:
109 Vine St., Lafayette, LA
every Saturday except holidays, 2-4pm
learn more at http://www.acadianawordlab.org/