Organize a Garden Poetry Circle

Gardeners grow more than plants - every one of us has stories to share. For a change, why not share them in the form of poems? Like gardening, writing and reading poetry helps us explore and share our individual style. Poetry is meant to be a liberating medium for expression, yet it also encourages precise use of words as we home in on what we wish to communicate - in much the same way we choose the right plants for a garden's particular soil and light conditions. And since poetry is meant to be read aloud, it offers another way to join with others in community.

Here's how to put together a one-time event.

Plan

Find a space. Places that have meeting space for rent include community centers, houses of worship, and schools. If the organization has a park, gardens, or other green space nearby, that's even better. You might even hold the event outdoors in a picnic shelter or park gazebo! Handicap accessibility is important if you want to be inclusive. Establish attendance number. You want enough people that you get a diverse group, but few enough that everyone gets to participate within the established time period - say, 6 to 10 people.

Find a volunteer or two to help you with logistics (e.g., setting up chairs, postering).

Promote

Contact your local gardening groups - Master Gardeners, garden clubs, botanical garden staff - to find out if members are interested in participating. Hang posters at garden centers; if your event will be free of charge, ask the local paper to add the poetry circle to the community calendar. In promotions, list the items participants should bring (e.g., water bottles, clipboards, paper, pen, poems to share).

Workshop outline

1. Introduce yourselves.

2. Establish guidelines for offering feedback. Find out if people want constructive criticism and suggest that people use "I" statements when giving it (e.g., "I feel that this poem could be more effective if you started out with a more precise description of the cosmos blossom, but I like the way you ended it with the butterfly "choosing" one bloom over another.")

Priming the Poetic Muse

If people have poems they have already written and want to share, do so. Or, start by reading some of your own poetry, or with a favorite from a published poet.

Before composing poems, "harvest" words/images. Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. Label one column Observations (information about an object/process captured with the senses) and the other Feelings/Reactions (the internal response to stimulus). If possible, wander about the garden/park where your circle is convened to harvest observations and reactions; otherwise, have gardening books available, or ask participants to remember a garden they tend or have visited, or a specific garden experience, and to draw words from there.

To stimulate composition, suggest the following:

  • Choose an idea, feeling, or image from your "garden visit" that you want to communicate, and write it down. Use the words on the sheet to illustrate it.
  • Start with a single word or phrase from the sheet that you like the best, and use that as a topic. Don't feel confined to using the words you've listed.
  • String entire phrases from worksheets together in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Connect words that sound pleasant together.

Share, get feedback, rewrite, and share again.

Back to Ways to Celebrate in Your Community

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