“Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”
-Clarissa pinkola Estes
While our freedoms’ fate hangs in wait I’ve been preparing to lead a mindfulness meditation this Saturday, Oct 6th, at California’s first gathering of poet laureates and taking solace in the words of author, thought leader and Jungian analyst, Clarissa Estes. Her passionate and wise response to despairing friends could have been written today and yet its wisdom is timeless.
She begins, “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people” and goes on to say “In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.” She ends by writing, “ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.”
Now more than ever, with so much to be addressed, it is very good to be reminded:
What we can do is as important, if not more important than what we can’t.
To that end, I am so proud that on October 6th, Engaging the Senses Foundation (ETSF), in partnership with the California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs/McGroarty Arts Center is sponsoring a coming-together event of current and former California local poets laureate in a celebration of the power of poetry on and off the page to nourish our deepest humanity.
The gathering is the brainchild of current CA state Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, who is featured in our documentary-in-production Be the Beauty. Dana is an award-winning poet, author of the seminal critique Can Poetry Matter?, and a recipient of the 2014 Aiken-Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in American poetry. He was also the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from 2003-2008, where he created enduring art programs such as Poetry Out Loud.
Dana’s desire to serve the underserved has informed all of the programs he has created on the federal and state level, which are consistently inclusive, with a focused yet broad outreach (for instance, as CA Poet Laureate he has visited every single district over the last two years, the first laureate ever to do so). His dedication to this vision mirrors ETSF’s commitment to vibrant inclusivity. We believe that the difference these kinds of programs make to communities — and to the individuals within these communities who have the opportunity through them to being seen, heard, and valued — cannot be overstated. This is why we will be filming the event, so that its impact can reach as far as possible.
It’s our hope that this gathering of creatives can become a model for other state’s partnerships. We are proud to continue fulfilling our mandate by honoring the dedicated men and women who have committed their time and energy to championing literacy in their communities. After the working sessions, poets, teachers, and all poetry lovers are invited to attend on Saturday afternoon for what will surely prove to be a powerful and historic group reading.
We urge you to come so you can listen to, meet, and celebrate California’s vital public poets laureate! To register for this free public event.