Last Thursday I attended an online Zoom workshop with the Canadian poet and psychotherapist Ronna Bloom. The workshop, titled How To Be a 3D Person in a Flat-Screened World, was centred around reflecting on how to deal with the disconnect and disembodiment of our current lifestyle through poetry, discussion, and creative writing.
We discussed vulnerability and sharing artistic expression, and the beginning of the workshop was treated as a general check-in. Ronna also assured us multiple times that we didn’t need to know anything about poetry or have any experience in writing to participate. This reassurance stood out to me because most writing workshops intentionally push you out of your comfort zone. This approach was new to me because usually I find myself quite nervous about group writing, but in this case, I felt like she just wanted to get our brains flowing and have us enjoy the writing experience.
First, we began with a poetry reading. Ronna read four poems aloud, and each time asked how the words made us feel; what it made us think about. Here are the poems:
Swimming One Day in August – Mary Oliver
Vicks VapoRub of Poetry – Ronna Bloom
A Human Hug – Ronna Bloom
The Cart – Mary Ruefle
After discussing (or just listening) to the poems, Ronna asked everyone to take a minute and make funny faces at the camera. This was something I was not expecting to do during a writing workshop but it was a really refreshing experience. I think this helped people loosen up and ended up making everyone more comfortable with each other. I also couldn’t stop laughing for most of it.
Then, we were given a writing prompt. The entire workshop was focused around the senses so we were asked to get an orange, or any object with a strong scent (I ended up with perfume), and to write a poem about how the object smelled or felt in our hands.
Before we got to writing we were given five rules:
- Don’t think.
- Keep your hand moving.
- Don’t censor yourself.
- You’re free to write the worst crap possible.
- You don’t have to share.
These ground rules definitely made me feel more confident and free when writing. I found that they are also useful to apply to any creative outlet! When we finished writing (for 5-7 minutes) we were asked to reflect on what we wrote.
Overall, the writing workshop was therapeutic and intellectually stimulating. It was the sort of experience I haven’t been able to find over the past two months, as it felt like a classroom discussion between friends.
Ronna shared that she would be holding more workshops soon, so if you are interested in writing, or just having a comforting discussion, check out UofT Student Life Facebook for updates.
Ronna’s final words to us was a reminder to keep on going. Keep writing!