On Friday August 23rd 2007 my life changed. I was reading an article about The Writer’s Circle upcoming poetry workshops and their featured mentor for the season, Poet Laureate, Lisa Starr. Dead center in the article was a black and white photograph of Lisa seated next to her dog, Brother, on the steps of The Hygeia House in Block Island. There she sat, a famous published poet appearing “normal and approachable.” The article gave her literary background but it was her smile that made me pick up my phone and call her.
Much to my surprise Lisa answered the phone. She was in the middle of preparing breakfast for her summer guests at her bed & breakfast, asking me to hold on a second while she flipped an egg or buttered toast. We discussed the article and the ideas she had for starting poetry workshops.” A means,” she hoped “to partner students and seniors around their shared interests. The writer’s circles would create a safe space for exchanging histories and experiences” and “did I want to come next week?” (to a class she was holding at Bright View Commons in South Kingstown). “Just bring some poems and be there at 1 p.m.”
One of the most important aspects of forming a writer’s circle is to be sure your participants feel “safe’ within the group. It was after attending a few months of classes that I learned first hand what trust meant to her. She had invited a guest poet from the Warwick Writer’s Circle, and a fellow friend and photographer from Block Island, to attend the class. The elder poets seemed a bit uneasy with this addition. One poet in particular stood up to leave the class. Lisa followed her out into the other room and a long conversation occurred. The two of them returned to class and Lisa assured us that she would never, under any circumstances, do any thing to jeopardize our trust in her. The guests remained and the nervous poet chose to read her marvelous work.
I e-mailed Lisa after the class and asked if she ever felt drained. She replied: “Gosh, I wanted to reply to this properly because it cuts straight through to my heart. I get sad a lot, but not drained. Do you know what I mean? As in, I can be a champion for all Poets anytime one needs me to be, but it catches up with me eventually— that heavy sadness.”
Lisa continues with her poetic mission full of her incredible energy! She recently participated in an event, held over the weekend of Easter Sunday, which was part of the Poetry for Peace (splitthisrock.org) rally. Over 400 poets marched in Washington
D.C. with hopes of bringing poetry and peace to the President. Lisa was one of the 200 poets chosen to write one line of the peace poem. Her words: “Easter again, and the sky is blue as the oldest promise” added hope to their cries for peace in our nation’s capitol.
The event ran later than expected and Lisa, rushing to the airport, jumped into the first available cab. Lisa and the cab driver began to discuss the peace march and there, while stuck in traffic, he began to unfold a piece of paper and read to her. Later that evening she wrote her poem: “Cab Driver.” “Sometimes it’s like the poem teaches me what the truth is; I didn’t know it until I wrote it. Which almost puts the writing before the thought, which to me is what the presence is and Zen and almost, perhaps, the act of finding God everywhere”..
Lisa changed my life with her simple invitation that day in August: “Come, bring poems, sit and listen.” I truly believe in poetry. The magic of the written word. The joy in the spoken thought… the ability of one poet’s voice to change our world…. One magnificent poem at a time.
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