Poetic Panacea: Final Poems From My Spring 2016 Workshop

Here are the last poems that were written by the senior-aged participants of my ten-week class for retired seniors at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia. I had taught literature classes at LLI for more than three years but decided to facilitate a workshop that was modeled after the one that I attended that was led by VCU Poetry Professor Gregory Donovan As Greg advised, the idea of reading poetry is often a hard sell. I discovered that the idea of writing poetry is even scarier for many people. Even though a fair number of people signed up for the class, the average attendance each was about six or seven.We read from master poets, shared our poems each week, and even created two class poems. If you go back through the www.Litchatte.com archives you can see that those who stuck with the class were rewarded by more exposure to poetry, by having had the opportunity of exploring their feelings and thoughts. As an added and unexpected bonus, several of their works published on this blog. In the first poem featured here, Charlie Wayland writes about the struggles and the rewards he experienced participating in the workshop. He also feels excitement thinking about re-joining his poet-friends in the Fall when I will offer the workshop again. The photo he used replicates the joy and freedom he felt  when he was a young child, which, he said, reminds him of the happiness he feels from writing poetry and participating in our Workshop.

Poetic Panacea by Charlie Wayland

The first class numbered twenty

Most of us thought that – a plenty

To settle down to hone our skills

Of composing poetry as complimentary.

We opened our hearts of reason

As we endeavored through the season

To reveal to all our emotions

And punctuate our rhymes with vision

At times, it was a see-saw

There were dry times and profusion

The peaks and valleys came and went

Yet mostly, there was collusion

To wrap this up is not my intent

To launch forward and even up upwards

As we go Murrayly about our play

Let’s join again in autumn.

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Lydia Aiken-Wilson who has had several of her poems published on Litchatte.com, is clearly the Senior poetry writer of our class.  Now in her seventies, she has been an active writer ever since she was a child. She still easily produces poems for almost any occasion. She wrote “Dear Williston” at the age of 17, as a tribute and the graduation theme song to her high school alma mater, which was an all-black school in North Carolina. She said that the song was printed in her school’s graduation program and that her entire class sang it to the tune of “Around the World in Eighty Days,” during the graduation ceremonies in 1958. She told us that they sang it again at their school’s fiftieth reunion in 2008, which she also attended.  Lydia said that what she remembers the most about Williston is that she was taught to strive to be the best at whatever she does, no matter what it may be. Anyone who knows Lydia realizes that she has always excelled at everything she has done. See my 2/16/2016 Litchatte.com blog about her life.  She brought the poem in and sang it to us during our last poetry workshop. Although the poem was almost written 60 years ago, I felt like it captured the emotion of our poetry students at our final class of this workshop. It is also very interesting that LLI, the site where our present poetry workshop takes place was once an all-black segregated school for Negros.

Leading Negro High-School in N.C
Williston High School, The Leading Negro High School in North Carolina

 

Dear Williston by Lydia Aiken-Wilson

DEAR Williston, we’re leaving you.

We’re going out into the world to keep a rendezvous.

WE’VE LEARNED; WE’VE SHARED; WE’VE FRIENDSHIPS MADE.

We won’t forget your ideals.

We’ll face life unafraid.

We thank you for the patience shown.

And from now on we’ll truly strive to make our knowledge known.

We’ll always do our very best for you.

Dear Williston, we say Adieu!

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In the interest in having time to share the poems and poetic techniques of my favorite Master writers (see yesterday’s blog), I didn’t always have enough time during the workshops to share my own poems. I mentioned to my class that I sometimes get inspirations for poems during long walks alone. During this poetry workshop, in particular, I have kept a writing pad with me and jotting down random thoughts and inspirations. I have also advised my poets to use walks as inspirations for materials and to keep a journal of the thoughts that went through their minds as they were in motion. A few brought in poems that were inspired by their walks in nature or at historical sites. My poem, “Motion Light” came as an inspiration during a long walk on a cold winter night in the middle of winter. I remember that I was almost consumed worrying about something that I,now, cannot even remember what it was about. As it was very dark at that moment, I couldn’t record any of my thoughts in my pocket journal. Suddenly as I froze in the middle of the street, a light turned on from a motion sensor from an unknown source. That unexpected event revealed the entire scene, tone, and theme of my poem, “Motion Light:”

 

Sensor light from above

 

Motion Light by Murray Ellison

Two shadows

The shapes of both reached my eyes.

Two shadows of

Two sizes.

Tall shadow reflecting my Ultimate Wise

 Small shadow cuts me down to size.

I look at them both and

Try to Realize.

Why do they move from my left to my right

As I walk into the night?

I really can’t say.

And do they just go away

When I walk in the day?

I’ll never know—

I guess it’s just so.

The way that shadows have gone and come

Into my eyes, both in the night and in the day,

Will always stay— an unsolvable conundrum.

But, it’s so comforting to know that

When I stood still on a very dark night,

A motion light, from above, was turned on.

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Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member and occasional volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write to Murray by leaving a Comment on this Blog, or at ellisonms2@vcu.edu. You can also receive automatic postings from www.Litchatte.com by submitting your email in the dialogue tab to the right of this or any www.Litchatte.com blog.

Murray Ellison at the Poe Museum
Murray  at the Poe Museum
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2 Thoughts to “Poetic Panacea: Final Poems From My Spring 2016 Workshop”

  1. Very nice post, I certainly love this site, keep on it.

    1. Thanks Marvel
      Check out my latest posts. Are you more interested in poetry than other literature?
      Murray Ellison

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