Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop - Day 1

My gratitude for being here is repetitive. It reminds me of feverish prayers, the quick telling of beads, the round weighty stones slipping through my fingers as I recited a particular name of Allah as an offering of thanks or as a request to make my wishes come true. Ya Raheemo, The Merciful. Ya Lateefo, The Gentle. Alhumdulillah, thanks and praise be to God, I would say a hundred times, the prayer beads jangling. I would close my eyes and give myself completely to the prayer, to the act of worship. I have been impelled to voice my happiness in a similar way here. I am thankful for being here, I have said and thought so many times.

It's a beautiful place to write. All around us are mountains. I am in the company of people who are here to practice their art. Robert Hass, the director of the program said in his introductory speech today, "We want you to write poetry. Others don't mind that you write poetry, but they don't want you to write poetry. We want you to write poetry." That's heartening. And intimidating. He also said during the same speech, "You are here because someone really loved your work. For every one person that got in, four or five people were turned away." That's a wonderful thing to hear when you are expected to write a poem and read it in front of complete strangers for workshop in a little over twelve hours. 

I find myself thinking over and over that I am grateful for having my daughter and my husband near me. I am grateful for having my best friend with me. I am grateful that friends and family are texting and emailing and getting excited for me. "How is it?" "You'll rock it!" "Just write! You can do it!" I am grateful for the opportunity to walk in the village with my daughter, who ran around excitedly, was an amazing little traveler, and is now humming a song as she dozes off to sleep. I couldn't have come here without them. I couldn't have written a word without them because this is my writing process. This is how I write, finding time around Jahan's requests for attention. 

I am grateful that I will not only generate work here, but also have an audience - that is an important part of the creative process - to get input, to improve, that is the real goal, always. I met some really interesting people today. There is a sense of bonding within this group of sixty odd people - we are all here for the same reason. And it's a good reason. It's a damn good reason. 

And with that, I must go and write a poem - in less than 12 hours, I will be reading it to an audience. I am afraid of that, but it was mollifying to know that others feel the same way. We are all in the same proverbial boat. Fortitude, my friends, I found myself thinking as I was leaving the reception dinner tonight. 

OK, writing time. I will try to update this space as often as possible mainly because this enriching experience should be shared with others. 

Good night!