Guest Post by Alison Luterman
A posting by a former instructor at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, a woman not bound by the usual rule of genre.
Alison Luterman was raised in Massachusetts, the oldest of four children. She began writing poetry at the age of six or seven and has never stopped. She also began making up plays as a child, and cast family members in these early dramas. In high school, she was president of the Drama Club, and acted, wrote, and produced plays, as well as continued to write poetry.
She studied poetry at Emerson College and then at UMass Amherst. Her writings have been published in The Sun, The New York Times, The Boston Phoenix, Rattle, The Brooklyn Review, Oberon, Tattoo Highway, Ping Pong, Kalliope, Poetry East, Poet Lore, Poetry 180, Slipstream, and other journals and anthologies.
Since 2000, Alison has taught Memoir and Poetry through The Writing Salon in Berkeley, California, as well as at Esalen and Omega Institutes, at the Great Mother Conference, and at various poetry festivals and conferences around the country. She currently lives in a rambling house in Oakland where she gardens, writes poems, essays and plays, and offers writing consultations, workshops, coaching, keynote addresses and poetry readings.
I spent a few days in Ohio, teaching high school students in a program called Wellspring of Imagination. The young people were brilliant and deep. My grown-up poet colleagues, Alan Cohen, Dave Lee, Rosemerry Trommer and I kept saying versions of the same thing, "Aren't they amazing?" It is a privilege to be invited into the hearts and minds of thoughtful young artists, to witness them grasping the chalice of their craft and pouring their considerable energies into it.
It's also a privilege to be invited into the hearts and minds of older people who have always loved the arts but never allowed themselves full expression. They come to the practice of writing with a lifetimes' worth of experience and passion and wisdom to share.
The older I get the more I realize what a trickster's game this chronology thing is. Older people alive with playful mischief. Teens who are old souls willing to be fully met in their dignity and wisdom. All of us coming together to play and learn from each other. This is how the world should be, and every once in a while it actually manifests. I dream of more and more spaces like this where the generations can come together joyfully.
On November 16, I got to dance with my beloved Wing It! tribe at Grace Cathedral, in celebration of the Night Ministry. For fifty years, dedicated clergy and volunteers have walked the toughest neighborhoods of San Francisco, offering warm blankets, listening ears, and other kinds of help to people in need. Whitman said, "Make of your life a great poem" and surely the people who serve like this have done that.
In December, I look forward to coaching again for Poetry Out Loud, a nation-wide program that promotes poetry recitation for high school students. It is always a pleasure to see a student falling in love with "their" poem, uncovering deeper layers of it with each reading. I remember my grandmother, who at age 93, could no longer remember if I was her mother or her daughter. A series of small strokes had decimated her once-sharp mind. But she could still recite with the barest of prompting, "Ah Helen" by Edgar Allen Poe, a poem she had learned in school eighty years before. As my friend Kim Rosen would say, that poem was lodged in the deepest quadrant of her heart.