Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poetry of Fatherhood On-line Workshop with Tania Pryputniewicz

Heavy in pursuit of building the life of my dreams, I've spent a month teaching our first ever on-line course at Mother, Writer, Mentor: To the Cradle and Beyond, Writing and Excavating the Poetry of Motherhood. The course exceeded all expectations, for me, as an instructor, because these women wrote fearlessly and held nothing back and came up with some beautiful poems. I am so grateful and so moved to have had the opportunity to share their process. Beyond that, it was a gift to mine the poems Jessica and I have published at The Fertile Source, to stop and appreciate the work archived there and to use it as inspiration for present work. We are working on ways to showcase student work at Mother, Writer, Mentor. More on that shortly.

With a  month's breather inbetween (to sit in on Jess's Sexy Mommy Stories: Writing Romance Back into Literature course,), I will be teaching The Poetry of Fatherhood in April. Jess and I shortly figured out at The Fertile Source that the planet-sized domain of pregnancy, labor, birth, fertility, abortion, miscarriage, adoption and related tangential topics related to sexuality (obviously, right?) is not solely occupied by women. It took awhile, but gradually, I was receiving a fair number of submissions from male writers.

As we prepared to launch Mother, Writer, Mentor, while we wanted to offer writing mothers some respite on our blog and in our on-line classes, we again realized that we share this room with our male contributors and wish neither to exclude nor overlook them. In looking for teaching materials for The Poetry of Motherhood, I came across material for The Poetry of Fatherhood (the course had already written its outline, once again, in archived material at The Fertile Source). I hope you'll come out to write with me for the month of April. Perhaps by next year we will have ourselves in sync, offering Poetry of Motherhood in May in time for Mother's Day and Poetry of Fatherhood in June in time for Father's Day. This go around, the poems celebrating each came a month early.

Excavating and Writing The Poetry of Fatherhood

Instructor: Tania Pryputniewicz
Dates: April 30- May 25
Fee: still at our opening discounted rate of $100 (from $125)

You’ve watched the wife’s body transform before your eyes, witnessed first-hand her incremental emotional, psychological and spiritual migration to places you may or may not be able, though willing, to follow. Your own metamorphosis, while less physically apparent, is in actuality no less arduous or multi-layered. Or you and your partner have gone through longer gestations: reams of applications, false leads, interviews and further scrutiny while attempting to adopt. Or you’ve chosen not to father, but find the words of your own father coursing through your mind. Join this on-line poetry class for a chance to mine poetry of the past as well as contemporary poems (including those we’ve published at The Fertile Source) for structural and thematic inspiration towards the writing of a new crop of poems reflecting the continuum of experiences that comprise fatherhood. Sign up here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beginning Transformative Blogging: For Women Writers Contemplating Blogging

This January, I had the opportunity to teach a course I designed, Transformative Blogging, for Story Circle Network. We did inventories, read up on the net, wrote up sample posts, actual posts, guest  posts, and shopped around the blogosphere to see how and where and why we should network with other bloggers of like mind, which made for a fabulous month-long brainstorm with a talented, bright group of writers, many of them working actively on their blogs, preparing to launch, and actually launching new blogs in some cases by the course's end. The Transformative part of the Transformative Blogging title derives from my teaching philosophy regarding the transformation we undergo as writers when we sustain a focus on our writing dreams and translate those dreams into action.

Taking to heart feedback from my students who took that course (we covered a lot of ground in four weeks!) I decided to teach a beginner's version and slow the material down over eight weeks, shifting the focus from active bloggers to beginning bloggers (slated to start this coming Monday, March 12). Hence, Beginning Transformative Blogging welcomes women writers curious about blogging, as well as women writers on the brink of blogging, or any woman writer with a desire to work towards a future blog in a supportive writing group setting without the pressure of online posting yet.

Partial course description:

If you have been curious about blogging and have the urge to join the blogosphere but would like a little more grounding before you begin, join us to explore the ins and outs of blogging. Coursework will include the keeping of a weekly journal around blog related inquiries and the completion of a number of inventories and free-writing exercises designed to help you further explore the concept of blogging without the pressure of posting on-line yet. In addition, some of our time will be spent scoping out other blogs to get a feel for the pulse of the blogosphere.

At the end of the class, students will come away from the course with an understanding of the blog genre and a basic understanding of what the blogosphere offers writers. Students will complete the course with a working notebook full of journal entries and draft blog posts meant to be mined at a later date towards the creation of a future blog.

To sign up or read full course description, visit Beginning Transformative Blogging.

Comments from former students (Transformative Blogging in January, 2012):

Tania Pryputniewicz is a wonderful teacher! She creates a warm, stimulating, supportive environment for learning and sharing and offers thoughtful, detailed feedback on participants’ work. Her assignments are top-notch. Tania’s blogging class is the first online class Ive ever taken, and it’s been 100% positive! I got a lot of great ideas for my blog and am motivated to launch it soon. Ill study with Tania again and will recommend her classes to my friends.—Barbara

When I met Tania at A Room of Her Own Foundation's summer writing retreat, she encouraged me to start my own blog. So when I found out she was teaching an online blogging class through Story Circle Network, I jumped at the chance. I'm so glad I did. Tania's assignments were well designed and encouraged me to branch out as a writer. She also responded in depth to all assignments from the class participants. Even though everything was conducted online, I felt like I getting personal attention from my instructor. I also appreciated that Tania was open to students adjusting the assignments and timelines to our own very busy lives. It was a great experience, and I wouldn't hesitate to take another class taught by Tania. .—Lisa


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lessons from the Body: Paper Boats, Poison Oak, and Kites

Cover Image: Pluto and Persephone
by Tennessee Dixon
The early splitting off of the body in order to survive is revealed in midlife in body/soul work and dreams. The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women by Marion Woodman

In midlife, for the first time, my body is beginning to talk. Literally. In a quiet voice, when I least suspect it: physical sensations from a past I don’t recognize. I’m not even sure they belong to this lifetime. As a mother, I rarely feel much beyond the orbit of responsibility for my three children. I don’t mind, the life I live is worth living (I have tremendous support) and on an average day it goes something like this, in reverse order, on day 10 of 14 of my husband’s frequent absences on business:

5 am: The sound of the garbage truck jars me awake. I’ve forgotten to take the trash out, again. At bedtime I’d remembered midway through Curious George just as we read the page explaining precisely how to fold and make paper boats. I could neither put down the book nor coerce my 9 year old son to come with me as he often does in the pitch dark, one flashlight between us, barreling down the pocked and rocky driveway at breakneck pace goaded by fear and the toppling weight of the cans on wheels.

A second surge of adrenaline fuels our return trip whether I keep the orb of light trained behind us to pacify the sneaking fringe of night or whether I train it just ahead on our pumping knees. Two backs to the night are far better than one, so I thank my son every time.

2 a.m: The paper fleet sails in its perfect spiral to the center of its smallest fate, 36 boats long, folded before dinner by the hands of my children, Grandma, and Grandpa and arranged from biggest to smallest vessel across our kitchen table that is five planks wide from trees long since milled, over the dull blonde floor, also of trees (from a different forest, delivered, I imagine, by boat across the sea).

The blue light of the moon silts the hills. I’ve come out of bed for this, words that won’t leave my mind: “the paper fleet sails in its perfect spiral…” and with it, some small part of me. Gleeful, as if I took part in the folding, while truly that night I couldn’t sit and fold--dishes to do, my daughter’s homework to witness, Mom, please sit with me on the couch, emails to compose in my head to my writing students strung across the states, their questions blinking across the miles my way and me longing to answer.

The kitten strolls in the dark ahead of me, the black spoke of her tail against my bare shins as I stoop to pick her up. So weightless, the pink bean pads of her paws on my shoulder, the frail sluice of her whiskers. Down she hurtles, hunting moths, licking the floor, eating the remains of spilled dog food.

Beside the tiny fleet, I take out my journal and write my way to peace, tracking the body memories that surfaced during a half an hour when the kids and husband left me to rest earlier in the month. I floated in liquid state, trying to let go and hold fast, to descend but not disappear, to allow but not relent, to release but not evaporate, to ground but not split, to center but not centrifugally, to calm, to cry, on the far side of my husband’s business trip. When he’s gone, we fill the hours, as all solo mothers do, with joy, with sparring, in equal measure.

3:45 in the afternoon on a school night:

My son’s begging me to fly the kite he just got for his birthday. I’m gauging how much of me is left to parent, navigate bedtime after an ocean trip, etc. I’ll need all of me, for unbeknownst to me, facing me the next day: Kaiser for my daughter’s face, puffy with poison oak skirting both of her eyes. “Prednisone for ten days”, the young doctor orders. “Oh,” he adds, “If you get poison oak again, let’s say a spot on your hand, it’ll reappear in sympathy in all the places you had it before. Your body remembers.”

 Then he warns that prednisone causes irritability. “We come by that easily,” I say and ask if there’s any hope for a homeopathic effect. He stifles a laugh on my girl’s behalf, moves smoothly on. The remark is not lost on my daughter; I get the look of death I deserve. Given my husband’s absences we are all on edge. All she wants is time, love and 100 percent from whoever she’s with, and I’m craving the same from my husband, at deficit, and praying for relief.

Back in real time, my son asks again, please, let’s fly the kite. Can I refuse? To the ocean we go for the last hour of sunlight and the intermittent wind. For ten minutes there’s no getting the kite off the sand. “Use your body,” I finally say, having only recently returned to inhabit mine. “Your face. Where does the wind push strongest against it? That’s the direction you run towards to lift the kite from the ground.”

My writer self skims peripherally beside my mother self, any self, I occupy during the day. In the void of parenting mostly alone, I can’t see if I’m doing a good job or not. Against it all, I take hold of the metaphor: flight in the case of a kite requires opposition. Might the same be true of the star of my little family? I’m heartened by the thought and suddenly the drive at this dusk hour redeems itself, if only for the kite’s rippling whip as the ocean air pushes taut the dragon’s wings and the happy face my son dons as he grips the yellow spool of string.

In the sliver before sleep, I mull the body memories, but not overmuch. There they bloom, like sympathetic patches of poison oak, full of itch, scratch, myth. So what. The riddle remains to be lived. What kind of God would spell it all out for us? I would hate to find the “great and powerful Oz” behind the curtain after all. I still believe.

And dear body, I’m listening. Just remember I have kids to raise in the meantime. And many hours to walk in the sun.

Further Reading: The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women by Marion Woodman, Inner City Books (out of Canada). I’m only half way through this amazing book, in which Woodman calls women to be responsible for understanding, healing, and loving their inner male in such a way as to empower not only themselves, but to encourage shifts in the power balance of the outdated patriarchal model we still can unwittingly fall in love with reacting blindly to and blaming for our problems as women. She weaves a powerful discussion of poetry and myth with very detailed dissection of client dreams. Another favorite quote so far, “Transformation takes place through metaphor. Without metaphor, energy is trapped in repetitive patterns…” I recommend her to women poets in particular, but to anyone, male or female.