immunity through community

Posted by Daniela Elza on Oct 25 2012

On the eve of the publication of my second book Milk Tooth Bane Bone (Leaf Press, April, 2013) (or third, depending how you count), I have been thinking a lot about the community of writing and print. How on somedays my poetry community feels so big and on other days it shrinks and fills me with dread and anxiety. I really try to make those days short. But still, knowing what it takes to throw me off balance, I worry. I worry not just for myself, but for others who might not have the support of a family or community. And we are fragile, lets face it.

A summer ago we went on an outing with a friend’s boat. We were all in the same boat. When we dropped anchor we were all free to swim as far or as close as we wished. (Yeah, that is me there that floats like a T).

See, some were tethered to the boat, and I do not mean metaphorically. Some wore safety jackets. Some were on floatation devices and tethered to the boat, which was anchored. Some swam with no support or care to hang around, but at the end had to come back to the boat for the barbeque and the laughter. Not to mention the dancing.
That is a bit how the poetic community is too. (And I am aware this is too general a term, but it is meant to incorporate a lot, not just the people I know).
Everyone needs a different degree of connection to it. But at the end of the day I do not know how we will come home if we drifted off into open water, alone, if we lose track, or sight, of the boat.
We need the communities we have, we need the support we can give.

About 10 years ago I encountered Bonnie Nish from Pandora’s Collective. Suddenly, I found myself embraced and part of a community. This was such a blessing at the time when I had just moved to Vancouver. I soon found myself in a writing group, writing around Bonnie’s kitchen table.

In no time I found myself participating at open mics with Twisted Poets Literary Salon. I found myself part of a grass roots community.

I really enjoyed the Word Whips Pandora’s Collective did in Vancouver. Sita and Bonnie were the main force behind it. I went quite regularly to them for a while. A lot of poems I have published today started there. [Word Whips now has branched out (with more hosts) to the North Shore and White Rock].

Not long after I was reading at the Poetry Tent at Word on the Street. And so on and so forth.

In time I was invited to do a workshop with Sita Carboni and Bonnie Nish at a primary school somewhere in Vancouver (again, quite a few years back).

The children were eager full of energy, imagination and creativity. They always renew my hope in poetry and my trust in its magic powers.

They always find a way to stun me with the freshness and immediacy of their observation and expression. This year I did some workshops too and it is still the same. They younger they are the less inhibited and the most eager they are. Makes you wonder.

I got involved with the Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival (which this year was at Trout Lake and it felt like it has finally come home). For years now I have seen the festival go up and at the end of the day come down with so many volunteer hands and such amazing energy. Next year it will celebrate its 10th anniversary too.

The festival is a wonderful go each year at community building. It brings together in one day the different literary/music groups and reading series that get together year round. I love meeting people who just stumbled upon it and stayed for the rest of the day. I love getting the feedback from such encounters. Or hearing years later what a difference it made in someone’s life. Or the friendships that ensued from that.

Zoom the lens out now. There are many groups and communities out there. On this community map
do I hear you saying disappointments can come too? Yes. Still, it is worth it. Harassment, bullying, toxicity, psychic vampires, what community does not have them? And I have met some that still haunt me, even though they are not in my immediate community. Still, this might be a small price to pay to the benefits one gets from belonging.

Poets are not a cohesive whole. People are not. Poet or not, we are such singularities that it boggles my mind somedays when someone wants me to be more like them or write like someone else. It also never ceases to amaze me how many lines, and circles, and squares and triangles are drawn in divisions and separations within communities. You know where you will find me. At the intersections. I did my set theory in math. I know where I would rather be.

So get involved. You have more time than you think you have. If you dedicate the time you spend getting in a blue funk or feeling sorry for yourself to volunteering and contributing to your community you will also find out how much less that funk gets you.

Do not forget the people who nudged you here and there, who pushed and pulled on you and you are the better for it. Remember next time you see them to tell them that. This is a special reward in itself, both on the giving and on the receiving end.

[Photos in this post are all courtesy of the Pandora’s collective 10th year Anniversary Retrospective. Which is what really got me thinking about all this].

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