Project Outreach

Hello! This will be a combination of exposition and something creative – in this case, the creative pieces need the background, plus it gives me a chance to talk about Project Outreach. Project Outreach is a class offered at Naropa, taught by the indomitable Jack Collom, wherein students (undergrad and graduate) seek out, engage with, and support local groups, schools, and organizations by leading creative writing and poetry workshops. (That’s not the official definition, just my own interpretation of it.) My friend / cohort-mate / classmate Rachel (check out her blog at ) and I have led a pair of workshops with Monarch High School, and are holding a series of after-school workshops with kindergarteners and first graders at Emerald Elementary School. FUN but exhausting and challenging but EYE-OPENING.

We usually open with a writing exercise led by Jack. This week we did a Question-and-Answer back-and-forth, and I partnered with Sara (follow HER blog at ). I only have half the exercise (she has the other half), and I’ll put the different writers in different forms, but who said what is less important than we wrote this:

Where do you come from? I come from a town to the east and a nation of oceans.

What did you have for lunch? Reheated lamb and soft red peppers, the texture of tongues.

Can we build a mountain? We can build entire mountain ranges out of our sweat and calloused hands.

How deep does the ocean go? All the way through to the other side, air pockets, salty crevices, right through the round into space.

When does a child become fully grown? The child is no longer a child when she knows enough to ask this kind of question – “fully grown” is a subjective statement.

How far from home are you? Arriving back, in every moment, a leg, a liver, two breaths per bone.

Where will you go from here? I’ve always been where I am, so I’ll stay with me by going.

How well can you swim? As well as an otter, but not as well as a whale.

What are you in between? Located between desires and dreams and what comes next or came before – Time & Space.

What is your spirit animal? If an animal can be my spirit, then it would be oceanbodied and batwinged, with great white teeth.

What is a nest? Building your home with your own beaded sweat and dreams, most often somewhere safe.

How long can you hold your breath? Almost as long as I wish I could, definitely longer than a mile.

How much does regret weigh? Heavy as a feather, light as a mountaintop.

We also take turns conducting workshops and exercises with each other. This week, Sofia brought in a series of objects and had us write three pieces: a history, a present interaction, and a futurity (again, these are my words and don’t sufficiently engage how she led us in class). I chose a stick and wrote the following:


“A Tale For Trees” (history) Rain fell for the first time when the clouds broke open. Evaporated and condensed and rained again. Imagine events multiplied by the lifespan of the Earth and you’ve got a start. Eventually the rain soaked into ground into roots and up the xylem and phloem of a particular tree of a particular age in a particular place. A man – who doesn’t matter who – approached the tree, apologized, and sent it to the ground. From the ribcage of the tree he fashioned boards and planks. A team of oxen or donkeys or llamas burdened with the man’s commands and his wooden harvest brought the tree’s echoes to a seaport. There, a shipwright of no meager skill and no modest temper transformed the boards and planks into the pelt of a new creature, one destined to ride the waves that give birth to storms. This ship carried cargo, laden with commerce and history as she broke ground in a new world. Years of journeying west then east and sometimes north but never south left the ship stranded, broken apart by the birth of a new ice floe. People came to salvage her metal and timbers. One plank was shaved down to fit snowshoes, strapped to the feet of the youngest son of the last man of his tribe. He fled south, seeking the sun so he could reignite the yellow fire and save his people. The snowshoes were traded at the treeline, where tundra blossoms into forest, traded for food and navigation. The snowshoes themselves were broken apart for kindling, a few scraps escaping the lifesaving campfire. One piece in particular survived, though she snapped at last and came to rest at my feet.

“Sing, wood!” (current) Splintered and fibrous. Run my fingers along its edge, but beware the splinters! (Or even the threat of splinters is enough to dissuade me.) Looked at from a side : layers of root and history, a canyon’s bitter walls, telling stories of drought and flood, years under sun or shadow. What stories did the wood tell? Crack like a crocodile’s mouth, no eyes to cry crocodile tears, no crocodile teeth therefore no need for crocodile birds who act like little feathered dentists to antediluvian monsters. (They couldn’t fit anyway.) Smell a song of forests, ballad of kings and queens of vegetation, laid low by the century of conflict and betrayed by their own subjects. Taste is possible, but again, beware the opportunity presented by splinters! A shadow cast is no longer than its maker.

“Futurewood” Discarded as junk – No chance to tell her stories – Silenced soon.


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