“We know this, somewhere in our hearts, that there is a deep need to create, and help others create whether through direct mentoring, or simply being present in the world (think of when you’ve stumbled upon someone’s work at the right time.) I am kicking myself for not writing down the source of a study I encountered recently that named belonging as necessary to staying alive as food and shelter. We know art helps us belong, process, heal, connect and declare. It is the life force that has changed our minds, turned our hearts, kept us afloat and encouraged survival. So how do we continue creating in the solace of our bedrooms and studios, but move to bring our art and process into a space that directly impacts the world? Through mentoring, formal or informal, teaching, or simply sharing through the internet or in real-time spaces, we give people the chance to connect with us through and beyond our work, and encourage them to find a way to express their own desires, secrets and needs.” -
Caits Meissner— What Do My Poems Matter, Anyway? Confronting Art’s Place in the Hierarchy of Need.
I’m thinking of that moment a young upcoming artist, in a conversation about work, spoke of teaching/facilitating/mentoring from a disdainful stance, as if it weren’t real work. That irked me for a long, long time. A strong artist doesn’t necessarily make for the best facilitator. And although there’s a long-standing model of poets working as teachers and educators, not everyone wants to teach. Indeed, there’s something to be said for earning a living beyond your art, of making sure you stay connected with and alive to a world beyond the classroom, beyond the everyday endeavour of making words work. But we all have something to learn. And I’ve learned so much from the young poets and students I’ve worked with. I’d like to think that there’s a decent body of people, young and not-so-young, who’ve gained something valuable from the time they’ve spent working with me.
My work is about making things, about changing perspectives, about building bridges between disparate ideas and states of being, about alchemy, transforming things. Part of that work happens on a stage, or through the pages of collections and anthologies. Part of that work happens in school rooms and workshop spaces, transforming the silences in people’s mouths to things that need to be said, or rather helping those people to find their own brand of alchemy, so that they can do these things for themselves. They’re different forms of work— the stage more focused on the individual “I” (even if only as a conduit for a poetry that can be claimed by the listener), the workshop/class necessarily less so— but, for me, they stem from the same root. A poetry capable of affecting real change. Yes.