This article is in partnership with the Peace Center. Photos provided by The Peace Center.
“Think back to your very first memory,” says Glenis Redmond, the Peace Center’s poet-in-residence.
Instantly a room of around 20 adults are mentally traveling back further and further in hopes of pinpointing the exact moment they can no longer remember. I immediately realize I’m not just here to observe, I’m going to have to do what they’re doing.
This is part of the Peace Center’s Peace Voices series led by Glenis Redmond. Tonight, the nationally acclaimed poet is leading a four-part workshop called Poetry as Memoir.
Third grade? Remember it. Second? Yup. First grade? Kindergarten?! They’re all very vivid in the memory bank and I’m still searching. Finally, I come to what I think is the moment I can’t remember anything before and start furiously writing as my five minutes of allotted time count down.
We’re given the “30 seconds left” warning and wrap up our final thoughts followed by pairing up and sharing our memories with our counterpart.
We exchange stories and the previous conversation we had with my partner of occupations and alma maters seems to have escalated quickly. I’m vulnerably comfortable with sharing a slice of memory with someone that was a complete stranger less than half an hour ago. That’s just one of Redmond’s magical powers.
Redmond instructs the class to write down the definition of Memoir as “something written to keep in mind” and Poetry as “compressed language full of rhythm, feeling and imagery.” She challenges us to look back on our experiences, contain them and share them for the entirety of the class.
The Peace Center created Peace Voices as a vehicle for unique stories to be heard and shared. This particular workshop achieves this so perfectly in pulling back personal memories that participants may not have thought of in years, noting the things that stand out in those memories and retelling them.
I find myself knowing things about these 20 plus attendees that I don’t even know about my best friends. The memories of one woman singing at her father’s funeral or the gold buttons on a childhood jacket of an older man in the
class. I’m emotionally invested in each of their stories down to the smallest details.
I started the class on assignment and by the time it ended I added the following Tuesday’s workshop to my calendar as a “must attend.” It was the college poetry class I always wanted.
Don’t sweat it if you missed the first class. There are still more to come, for adults and teens, as well as Poetic Conversations, poetry readings, open mics and poetry slams. All Peace Voices events are free, but you have to RSVP.