Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Art of Conversation

          Isadore "Izy" Gruye interviewed me for Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads this week.  The result, In this Version of My Life--An Interview with Susan Chast, carries the marvelous tone of an engaged conversation, an unusual event in this time of my life.  It was fun to chat with Izy on-line, hear her voice on the phone, and then watch her shape the posted interview through her generous emails.  I laughed and learned while interacting, and regretted the end of the conversation.  Here's part of the raw conversation from Facebook chat

  • Isadora Gruye

    I think you are saying wonderful things thus far, I wouldn't want to reign in a wild horse....but let me circle back
  • Susan Chast

    I just noticed how close p o e t i c a l and p o l i t i c a l are in spelling
    A wild horse!
  • Isadora Gruye

    you deserve to run free
  • Susan Chast
    O, we all deserve that. But could we get jobs? Could we survive in the wild?
    Easier and safer to let the wild survive in us.

              Ha ha!  I remember being in settings such as college housing, bars, coffee houses, and beaches where rising dialogue was plentiful.  Nothing else was quite as effective at making me forget to go to bed, meals, classes, work, and even dates.  In these conversations I had the sense of rising up in an elevator through tall mountains of thought; I felt movement from peepholes to picture windows at the same time.  Heat was generated, but not the heat of battle--more the heat of building a high-rise in the light of day or walking in sunshine without a protective hat.   That was talking to think, just as now I write to think.  's image of conversation nicely captures what I mean:

The art of conversation - Rene Magritte

L'Art de la conversation by

          This week I was blessed with two of these conversations, after missing them for what seems like years.  The second one occurred at the yearly 2-day conference of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts.  There we each shared our art(s) at an open mic of poetry, music, song, theater, and slide presentations.  Visual arts--paintings, fabric and paper art, pottery, and sculpture--formed a gallery, and I actually entered my raw notebook of first drafts here (besides reading 4 poems in the show).   We expanded our perception of the world through trying out new ideas in workshops and at meals.  Here is a picture of me with Pat Reed in the "Clay: Naturally!" workshop she led with Marilyn Morrison of the Lancaster County Art Association:

Pictures are by Blair Seitz

In his "Revision" workshop, Blair Seitz read from his new book and led us through an exercise of writing for 20 minutes and then work-shopping our work in the intimate group.  I wrote about my broken heart, one still evident despite retirement from teaching English in Philadelphia's secondary schools.  The conversation climbed because it did not hinge on  particulars but on the theories and experiences of learning we each brought into the room.  I was finally moved to tears from an overflow of gratitude, tears from being part of a true meeting for learning in the Parker Palmer sense:

Meeting For LearningMeeting For Learning: Education In A Quaker Context
"Much of what I want to say about education in a Quaker context can be organized around one of Quakerism's most central, concrete, yet spacious images: the image of "meeting." Among Friends, of course, there is first the meeting for worship, but then there is the meeting for business, the meeting for marriage, the meeting on the occasion of a graduation , the meeting in memorial of one who has died.... Friends made a simple and compelling point: The common element in both worship and business should be the search for truth - and the expectation that, if we give it space and time, truth will come to us."
            - Palmer, from the pamphlet   "Friends Council on Education" 2007 13 PP. Paper
          When I speak of the "Art of Conversation,"  I am not speaking about the discipline of Rhetoric taught in academies, but the meetings for learning that can occur inside or outside of them when the spirit comes out to play as well as emotions and mind.  In this art, we find our vulnerabilities, our meanings, our friends.  In these meetings we grow.