Words as Sustenance

Ten keen writers came out this past Thursday to the Oppenheimer Park Field House to participate in a monthly free public workshop run through the Poetry in the Parks program! It was a busy afternoon at the Field House with three concurrent workshops being held there! I loved the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s decorations that decorated the windows, creating a welcoming and cheerful space. A large jack rabbit (a local resident’s pet) even hopped around and beneath the tables!

This month, the writing theme was sustenance. As I chatted with local resident Carl about his Ontario sister’s love of poetry while they were growing up, I set up the room and arranged a display of fruit, vegetables, plus other food items and eating implements at the centre of the table to inspire the group. I distributed photocopies of some superb food-based poems by a diverse range of acclaimed poets such as Joy Harjo’s poem, “The World Ends Here” that reveals the symbolism of the kitchen table, Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blackberries,” Lorna Crozier’s “Onions” (from her Sex Lives of Vegetables collection) and others which I read aloud at the start of the session to invoke these poets’ lyric vision and stimulate our own flow of words. A platter of frosted sugar cookies was kindly provided by staffer David for us to snack on.

We went around the table mentioning our favourite foods or dishes (e.g. oranges, Campbell’s mushroom soup, squash, mac and cheese, sushi, shish kebab, kibbeh, congee, roast beef dinner, chicken) which generated some terrific and evocative draft poems. For the second round, we went around the table to state our least favourite food (e.g. stinky durian, an inedible mush served at school, watery slimy Lebanese moussaka, mushrooms). This definitely inspired some vivid writing based on strong memories. We even managed to squeeze in a third round of writing!

Next month’s poetry workshop facilitator will be Vancouver’s wonderful past poet laureate, Evelyn Lau (March), followed by former Thursdays Collective Coordinator and present Vancouver Manuscript Intensive co-director, the warm and engaging Elee Kraljii Gardiner (April) in advance of the eagerly anticipated Downtown Eastside Writers Festival that will be held at the Carnegie Centre on May 25-27, 2023.

Thank you to Oppenheimer Field House coordinator Jennifer Taylor and Carnegie Centre coordinator Beverly Walker, as well as all Oppenheimer Park Field House staffers for their invaluable support and assistance over the past three sessions!