‘Embracing joy’: Poetry workshop encourages positive thoughts, pursuing passions


Via Zoom

The Center for Creativity hosted “Me in the Poetry: A Longed-For Bed,” in collaboration with the week-long Black Study Intensive “Collective Protest and Rebellion” sponsored by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

By Elise Roessner, Staff Writer

Pitt students, faculty and staff worked to bridge the distance between passion and everyday life at a poetry workshop Thursday afternoon. Jasmine Green guided the workshop and described her experiences with finding passion.

“I feel like extending the joy and the clarity,” Green, a workshop assistant at the Center for Creativity, said. “I feel, when I paint, just extending that outwards to everything would just be this revolutionary experience for me.”

 About 10 participants attended the Zoom workshop, “Me in the Poetry: A Longed-For Bed,” hosted by the Center. The event was held in collaboration with the week-long Black Study Intensive “Collective Protest and Rebellion” sponsored by The Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. A recording of the workshop will be posted on the Center for Creativity’s YouTube channel for those unable to attend the event.

The workshop focused on the theme of Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Green began the workshop by explaining some of the main ideas of Lorde’s essay.

“Lorde finds the separation of what we’re truly passionate about from our day-to-day lives and what we’re putting most of our time and energy into as basically tantamount to a tragedy,” Green said.

Green went on to describe how the workshop intends to help participants start to close the gap identified by Lorde by exploring their personal passions through poetry. She said the aim of the workshop is to help writers explore their relationship to their life’s passions.

“The goals of this workshop are using poetry to pull people into our perspectives and setting a framework in which you can spark ideas that you can continue to think about and work on after this workshop ends,” Green said.

In the first section of the event, participants were asked to identify a few of the things in their lives they are passionate about. Attendees also wrote about how they first discovered the passion and what about the activity appeals to them.

Green used her personal experience with painting as an example. She reflected on how she discovered painting in high school as a way to boost her mood.

“The easiest one would be, for me, painting,” Green said. “It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time, it’s something that I end up returning to whenever I kind of just need a mental pick-me-up.”

The attendees then picked one passion they identified in the first section and explored their relationship to the activity in more detail. Participants wrote about why they keep coming back to the passion and if they currently have time to dedicate to the activity. They were also asked to identify if they are considering turning their passion into a business.

Green continued to use the example of painting and explained she returns to the activity at least once every few days as a way to ground herself.

“Like when I feel like everything else is getting away from me,” Green said. “This is this one thing that I can always return back to.”

In the next section, attendees were asked to write about how their passion makes them feel, if they are ever exhausted or frustrated by it and what impact their passion has had on their life. 

Green said she occasionally feels frustrated by painting if an idea doesn’t turn out the way she originally wanted, so she thinks about the reasons she loves painting to maintain a positive outlook.

“I just kind of have to think about what I actually love about this and a lot of it is just about having fun,” Green said.

Participants then organized their thoughts into groups in order to create loose stanzas for their poems, and were encouraged to add more detail to the simple structures of their poems by incorporating literary devices into their language.

Green shared a metaphor she created and explained how she was inspired by the earlier section of the workshop where she identified painting as something she is passionate about.

“You see that conversion from something that’s rather simple and laid out,” Green said. “Literary device will take that and create something that someone who’s reading it can feel a tangible experience with.”

Green said she hopes this workshop will help bring people happiness as they explore the things they are passionate about. 

“Things right now might not necessarily be the best depending on everyone’s situation,” Green said. “But I think right now it’s really important to embrace joy in any way that we can.”