Two Weehawken Writing Workshops to Unlock the Wild Spirit
OURAY AND RIDGWAY – Weehawken Creative Arts is offering two very different but potentially equally inspiring writing workshops in the coming weeks.
The first is being taught by Ouray poet Beth Paulson in just a single morning, for three hours, on Saturday, Feb. 23. The second, led by Ridgway’s Kierstin Bridger, will stretch over four consecutive Wednesdays, and perhaps longer, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Both instructors want to help attendees get beyond typical barriers to reflective thinking and heart-felt, even “wild,” writing, but each takes a very different approach.
Paulson is calling her one-day intensive “Poetry and Spirit,” and she wants all kinds of people to feel welcome, “writers or readers or both.” She developed the workshop originally for a wide-ranging arts program at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Durango, “But I’ve never given it up here,” on this side of the mountain, she said.
“This one is wide open, non-religious,” she said. “But we will investigate spirit, spiritual awareness, in writing and reading.” She plans to read some Wendell Berry, the great rural Kentucky writer and activist, whose spirituality is linked inextricably to the rhythms of the land, and the values of small-scale farming. Berry’s faith, Paulson said, is “in the forest.”
She also plans to read from Jane Hirshfield, “a devout Buddhist,” but most importantly, a seeker. “My job,” Hirshfield once told The Atlantic, “is to feel as thoroughly as possible the experience I am part of, and then press it a little further.”
“There’s going to be a lot of information, activity and fun packed into the three hours” on Saturday, Paulson said. “We are going to look at how spirit is more present in some poetry than in others. And we will see how it is part of our own meditation, our own quests, and part of our own writing, too.”
Participants will do some writing, Paulson said. “I’m open to what people bring to class: the class makes the class.”
And practice expands the spirit. As Jane Hirshfield told the Atlantic: “Even a little practice with dance lets you feel a ballet inside your body rather than simply as something observed.”
Paulson’s latest book of poetry is Canyon Notes (Mt. Sneffels Press 2012). The class runs from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Weehawken Ouray. Cost is $50 for Weehawken members, $55 for non-members.
Kierstin Bridger, whose offering is called “Wired for Words: A Weekly Writing Class,” believes strongly that writers need to commit to coming week after week. “You commit and something magic almost always happens,” she said. There’s magic in “the pressure of the group” too, she said. “At home, you can always get up and make yourself a cup of tea.”
There will be no procrastinating at Weehawken Ridgway between 9:30 a.m. and 12 noon on the four consecutive Wednesdays beginning Feb. 27. Bridger, who led workshops in Seattle for 15 years and is finishing her Master of Fine Arts at Pacific University, promises sessions that will be “short, powerful and generative. I’ll have prompts, suggestions, and tricks up my sleeve that will help you focus and ignore the inner critic that is feeding you nonsense.”
Her technique is precise. “I’ll give everyone a prompt. It might be a line from a poem, a painting, or a phrase: ‘If I never get over [blank],’ for example. Then people will respond with their own poetry, essay, creative nonfiction. This is timed writing. You do not take your pen off the paper for 15 minutes, say. It’s ‘wild writing.’ We’ll think about editing later. You put your pen on the paper and you just go. And it’s almost always a surprise where you end up, the gems you can take into the next day.”
Bridger is a fan of Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the 1986 bestseller Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, which makes the case for “writing practice” in the same way that meditation is a practice.
Both take practice. “But the fun,” Bridger said, “is that it’s not perfect, polished work. We’ll read it out loud. Working with a group, we laugh, we support one another.”
Kierstin Bridger’s workshops will convene at Weehawken Ridgway. The fee for the four weekly sessions is $75 for Weehawken members, $82 for non-members.
For more information or to register for either workshop, call 970/318-0150 or visit weehawkenarts.org.