Fill all the glasses there, for why
Should every creature drink but I,
Why, man of morals, tell me why?
Freeing our inner selves to write freely about things that are important to us is not an easy task for many in the LGBTQ community. Most of us lived early lives where we chose our words carefully. It was necessary to self preservation in an often hostile world. Getting over this sort of self-induced censorship is not always easy.
That's why the upcoming workshops, "Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired path to Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry" are so fascinating. Being offered in several locations in Western Massachusetts between April 29 and May 6, two will take place in Williamstown and the first of these sessions in particular will have a special welcome and focus on the needs of the LGBTQ community.
The two Williamstown sessions will be held April 30 and May 5. Both will be held from 7 to 9:00 pm at the First Congregational Church in Willliamstown. The programs are being prepared in collaboration with the Williams College Chaplain's Office, Inkberry Books, and the First Congregational Church. The workshop will be held in the Church Library, at 906 Main Street (Route 2) Williamstown.
The April 30th session in particular is designed to provide a comfortable writing space for GLBT and queer folks, offering a warm welcome and hospitality to all who participate. The workshops themselves focus on journal writing, poetry and spiritual themes. There is a second workshop on May 5. Participants are invited to explore the thin spaces where creative writing and spirituality meet by writing their own new Psalms, or spiritual poems. Each workshop will cover different material, so participants may choose to attend both.
Talking with Ray McGinnis about the GLBTQ Community
Ray McGinnis has taught over 8000 people how to write prayers, poetry, and autobiographies, all the while guiding them to bring their whole heart, mind and spirit to the process. He provides a safe, nurturing space for those who maintain a regular writing practice and for those who have never put pen to paper.
I asked McGinnis how the workshop would benefit someone who was lesbian, gay etc. He answered: "Despite the topic of Psalms, this really is about empowering the human spirit in each of us to connect with whatever we think holds the world together, including oneself and our neighbor." Is this just for religious people, I asked. "You do not need to consider yourself "religious" to attend and get a lot out of this workshop."
I then asked him why anyone, gay or straight, would even consider writing a psalm in the 21st Century. "A Psalm, he replied, "is basically a poem written by someone who either explicitly or implicitly seeks to express something to the Divine.
"You can ask for guidance, wisdom, a renewed relationship, whatever is on your mind. The language the writer uses depends on your own spiritual path, directing it to God, Beloved, the Source, Higher Power, Gaia, Allah, Buddha.
"For anyone who has a growing awareness of their sexual identity there has been a process of paying attention: What is my body, my heart, my mind communicating when I am with another person?
"When awareness is coupled with information that a person I am attracted to is of the same gender, there is a journey that may include self-acceptance, affirmation, celebration. The journey may involve obstacles such as shame, guilt, self-doubt, denial. And often we are brought face to face with our essence as we seek wholeness, balance, energy, self-recognition, support, inclusion, places to belong and safely explore our new awareness."
"For some gay people this journey of personal/sexual growth and naming involves for them an integration of their spiritual self. Writing a new spiritual poem could reflect some aspect of the challenges and small victories of coming out, lamenting what needs to be let go of, or expressing thanks for what has been sustaining and life-giving. Poetry most often opens our hearts, tells an important truth, shines a light on something hidden, demonstrates courage, helps us feel compassion for ourselves or another. "
I wondered how we could possibly compare to the ancient writers. McGinness pointed out that "in gathering to write a new Psalm or spiritual poem, participants at a Writing the Sacred workshop would not be expected to write and sound like the writers of the Hebrew Psalms 3000 years ago. Anymore than the writers of the Hebrew Psalms tried to compose their Psalms to sound like people who lived in the ancient Near East 6000 years ago. When we write a new Psalm or spiritual poem, we write with our own language, slang, common conversational cadences of our time, our decade."
I suggested that GLBT people are pretty involved in their own lives, and are dealing with their own day to day problems. He agreed. "A gay person may be inspired not necessarily to write a new Psalm, but from exposure to selected Psalms and other poems, to address a particular aspect of their unfolding life journey in a new way by exploring the thin spaces where creative writing and spirituality meet."
Cost per workshop is $15 for adults, $13.50 for Inkberry members, free for Williams College students. Ask about special rates for attending both workshops and for student rates for non-Williams students.
Contact Inkberry at 413-664-0775 or use this link to register. Additional information about Ray McGinnis and the other Western Massachusetts locations for his workshops can be found at his website.