How Are You Today? – Poetry Workshop with Jacek Bierut

This post is also available in: polski (Polish)

Where are they today, on what side,
my favorite earrings? -
The fire begins to die out,
the poor girl wants to cry.
And they don't know where and how -
a great wind sprang up
And they don't know where and how - 
the oak leaves just fall,
on the girls' lap leaf by leaf has fallen
Girls will make aureate earrings from them.

from the poem of Papusza "Leaf earings".

I was already very frustrated with my daily gallop due to the difficult experiences, and besides that, war broke out, and we can feel its exhalation also in distant Galway. I wanted to cry like the girl from the poem by Papusza because cloudy thoughts convinced me that I had lost something beautiful in my life. It was then that I signed up for the poetry workshop Snop of shadows led by the poet and prose writer Jacek Bierut. There was a winter poetry series online, a few one-day meetings. And I found myself in the last March class.

Poetry can bring you back to life

On a bright Sunday morning, eight people met at the computers screens. A bit as if we already knew each other, although we saw for the first time. First, we read the texts that some of us wrote in connection with the war in Ukraine. I shared my reflection: The Beads from Ukraine, which, to my surprise, turned out to be a poem. My friend Sharon has already signaled this to me, considering the text a poetic connection to the horror happening.

During the workshops, I learned that the Gypsy poet Papusza also wrote poetry, having no idea that she was writing poems. And that was an important detail for me that I took from the workshop. Because for a long time, I was convinced that I was writing rather miniature poetic forms, but this meeting made me realize that I have quite a lot of long poems, too. Only, I never called them poems.

Poet and prose writer Jacek Bierut emphasized that it is not the verses that determine whether a text is a poem. Prose pulls us forward, we are curious about what will happen next, but poetry draws us deeper. So, suddenly wind sprang up for me and pushed me to act. Now I am constructively collecting poems for the next volume, and I am glad that I have a lot to choose from.

There is power hidden in the gap

Our poetry was very different. Some man filled in his poem – a lack of documents about the death of his great-grandfather. So, now, there is finally a trace – a poem by a great-grandson who is alive and reminds us of someone who once lived.

This poetry workshop was a bit like one big conversation. We were wondering whether poetry can help in the war and whether sitting in a cafe or dealing with your own affairs is ok at that time? But, for us – people, also when we run away from the war, ordinary life is always important. We want new shoes, rest by the movie, talk about problems, have a nice breakfast, sleep in a warm room, and have good relationships.

During the workshop, we wrote poems in five minutes titled “How are you feeling?” And this simple question was like opening a window after winter with a new breeze. I did not have the courage to ask the Ukrainians about it when we met for the vigil in Galway. How do you feeling today?

Finally, Jacek concluded that there is power in the gap and it is worth discovering what is lost, what we may not understand, exploring simple reality, and connecting what is close with something distant in our writing.

I am already counting down the days to the next workshop because poetry brought me back to life. And my fluffy pancakes with blueberries for dinner taste with hope today.

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2 Comments How Are You Today? – Poetry Workshop with Jacek Bierut

  1. Sharon Watts 15 April 2022 at 15:10

    “Prose pulls us forward, we are curious about what will happen next, but poetry draws us deeper.” I had never thought about this before. I think poetry also allows the words not written to be as important as the ones on the page, or in the air. There is a lot of space for breathing into poetry, a balance always wants to be perceived, as if the reader (and writer?) are both on a tightrope walking between two points high in the air. I was quite surprised to see the link to me, and I had forgotten what I had written before in your comment. That’s what “in the moment” does, allows you to express yourself in a way you never could have planned! I find myself looking to many women who allowed their art and hearts to survive in dire circumstances, the obvious example is Anne Frank, but another artist dear to me is Hannelore Baron. So, keep creating, Malgosia! I will try as well. With all good healing sent on butterfly wings to all who need it.

    1. Blue Tram 23 April 2022 at 14:26

      Sharon, thanks. O, yeah, in poetry very simple words become important. 🙂 I have never heard about artist Hannelore Baron, and now I am checking and love her collages. Thank you for this inspiration. BTW, your simple collage is still standing on my desk, and I can take a peek at it and think about you, and discover something new thought on it. 🙂


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