For the last decade of my life Mondays and poetry have gone hand-in-hand. Although I’ve not confessed this to my current Monday Poets (spoiler alert!), for some reason I’ve always ended up with a Monday Poets group in my life. First was the original Mondays. We met in the cafeteria of a Lutheran college on Monday evenings. My excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D, is one of the wonderful po-people from the original Monday group. That group fell victim to “a slow wasting” as our then-leader put it. Soon I found myself with another group of Mondays. This group met at a cafe on Monday mornings. These Mondays cradled me during the months leading up to our move. Also they were fantastic poets and people.
When we came west, I made it my number one priority to find some poets; the Monday part was optional. I sent e-mails cold, risking being seen as a Crazy Poetry Lady (right? I’m right, right?). I showed up at a reading, introduced myself to the organizer, and asked if she knew of any, well, poets in the area. Luckily I’m not really a Crazy Poetry Lady, and eventually the reading organizer put me in touch with a workshop group.
But then, a few of us in the workshop group wanted more. More poetry time, more poetry talk. Last summer we began meeting on, you guessed it, Mondays. This is the group I mentioned in this post, and some of you were curious to know just what it is we do on Mondays so I’m here to give you the scoop.
As I wrote in the previous post, we don’t actually write poetry or workshop poems. We process the writing life. We start with a few minutes of just chatting and catching up over snacks (usually) and coffee (always).This usually takes way too long (30 minutes), but it’s fun and we’re human beings not po-robots.
Then we move on to our check-in: each person in the group shares joys, challenges, and progress on goals since our last meeting. We set a timer for 10 minutes per person — this is because we all like to talk and go off on tangents, and the timer helps us to stay on task. There is often some exchange of questions and answers, and many times we have come to new insights (as a group or as individuals) from this exchange. We always make sure to cheer successes, and help each other reframe setbacks in the best possible light. This part of the meeting usually takes 30 minutes.
Next we discuss a topic we’ve decided on at a previous meeting. We rotate responsibility for leading the discussion. Sometimes it’s a craft talk; sometimes it’s a discussion on one element of the writing life (e.g., obstacles, organdization, submissions); sometimes we read and study a poem together, and that day’s leader offers one or two prompts suggested by the poem (helpful hint: we’ve found that language-based prompts seem to be more successful at inspiring new work). Today’s discussion was on strategies for ending a poem — perfect timing for me as I’m doing battle with several unsuccessful endings. The discussion part of the meeting usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.
During the last part of the meeting we set and share weekly goals, then decide on the discussion topic for the next week (BTW, knowing I’ll be reporting my progress on goals to the Mondays is a great motivator, and I always write my goals on an index card and prop them right up on my desk). This last portion of the meeting, plus the wrap-up, goodbyes, petting the dog one last time, etc., usually takes about 20 minutes.
Monday Poets has become an indispensable part of my writing life. I’m actually not sure how I ever coped without it now that I have it. What I think is that I went along in a state of lower awareness about what was and was not working in my writing process and writing life. By opening those areas up to discussion, support, and supportive questioning, I’m so much more aware of my creative process and I have help navigating the sometimes tricky waters of the writing life.
People, this kind of group could work for anything, anything! Parenting, art, political action, teaching, quilting, raising dogs. It’s all about process which, I remind you, is from the Latin for procedere, meaning “go forward.” And it’s also about sharing the journey. I humbly suggest you go getchyou some Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Thursdays, whatever works for your life).
And now, last week I promised to tell you how to have a successful writing group meeting with a toddler in tow. One word: food. Oh, and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt. Here are some photos of today’s meeting of the Mondays:
Something tells me next week’s meeting of the Mondays, when my extremely cute and charming nephew will no longer be on the roster, will seem very, very quiet :).