Thinking Outside the Box

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Clichés, I love them.  Take one of our current Canadian educational clichés, for example: “We teach you to think outside the box.” I have met many teachers at various levels of education who tell this to me, and to their students.  Yet most of these teachers cannot themselves ‘think outside the box’. What they usually do, when teaching, is shut off the student’s original box by teach them to build a slightly larger one around it. They must now learn to think inside this new box in the way the teacher wants. Hence the cartoon above: We build bigger boxes and Building bigger boxes.

The central motif is, of course, the original ‘tiny’ box outside which the student must be ‘taught‘ to think. For ‘taught‘ substitute one of the following: persuaded, bullied, pressured, beaten, shamed, starved, embarrassed, … depending on the time and place, all of these words are sadly suitable and yes, in my learning career, I suffered at one time or another at the hands of teachers who used each of these methods, and others equally (or more) brutal, sometimes more than one at once.

What was inside that original box? Of course the contents vary with each individual, but creativity is in there, challenging authority is in there, self-belief is in there, a desire to ask endless questions, a childish wisdom to see the world as it is, not as the grown-ups say it is. I ask you, have they really ever grown up, have they ever escaped from their own hand-built boxes? Education: locking down the walls of that original box. Do away with creativity [not that way, this way!], free thinking [you mustn’t say things like that!], challenging  authority [cheeky, disobedient child!], asking questions [little children should be seen and not heard …. silence! … silence in class!] and finally, do away with self-belief and make the child dependent on the teacher [please, Sister Mary … please, Mother Theresa … please Father Maguire …] …

As the walls of the bigger boxes grow thicker and stronger, so it becomes more difficult to once again think as a child. Questions are answered by authority figures or on the internet with answers to FAQs and pre-packaged concepts. How do we regain our creativity? I assure you, we have never lost it. Where is it? Where is it hidden? In this world of folly and rush, of hustle, muscle, and busy bustle, so few of us have the time or can afford to take the time to sit and think, to undo those false walls that surround us, to find again the child-loving pleasure of thinking for ourselves, of discovering for ourselves, of being creative in the ways that we were so very, very long ago. Remember what Picasso said of his later paintings: ‘it took me a long time to relearn how to see the world as a child.’

Creativity: it is always with us. We must rediscover it. We must unwrap it from the tarpaulins that the system placed around it. We must dig it out from under the walls, the ruinous walls, with which the system surrounded us. It is still there, waiting for us to rediscover it. Believe. Roll up your sleeves. Dig deep inside yourself. And think for yourself. Then, when you have found that original box, open it, find exactly what is in it (the universal gifts to the new born), and become creative yet again. Only then will you have taught yourself (yourself, because others won’t teach you) to truly think outside the box, the multiple boxes, that the system and society designed to trap your creative spirit. Open the cage door: , release your creative spirit and let it soar to the skies.

KIRA 1

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KIRA 1

Our first full day at KIRA, and it’s not over yet.

Last night we had our first dinner together, courtesy of Kingsbrae Garden Café. Wonderful food and a dessert to live for. All of the participants gathered around the table and we were graced with the presence of Mrs. Lucinda Flemer. Conversation was lively, with each of us defining our position and interests in various art forms ranging through painting, print-making, poetry, photography, short stories, and memoirs.

After dinner, we discussed the nature of the retreat itself. This centered on several areas: Establishing Goals, Towards a Shared Experience, Building a Creative Community, and Managing Expectations. We discussed an agenda for this morning (Monday) and agreed upon an action plan for our first day. We also agreed that we would achieve what we could during the first day and then change, as necessary, if change were needed. The main things: be flexible, be creative, talk together, work together, support each other, and cater, small group, to each individual.

This morning we discussed the creation of a personal time and space for writing. Each one spoke of where and when they wrote. We made some suggestions as to how time and place might be achieved, even during a busy working day. We then spoke about journals, pocket notebooks, hard work versus inspiration, and the need to recognize gems when we created them. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. The hard yards must be put in at the beginning. Before long they will no longer be hard. The idea of the artist as a traveler was discussed. We are all making similar journeys, but we are all on different points along the way. Many of us were helped in our beginning days, and we in our turn must now help others.

We then worked on specific goals for each person, facilitators and participants. This was very person-specific. We agreed upon a schedule for Blue Pencil Cafés and gave the first ones later in the afternoon. We finished with a ten word exercise, courtesy of Jeremy Gilmer. Write a ten word story. We took time off to write and then ended the session by reading our efforts to each other. Great fun and a good time was had by all.

My own BPC went very well. More about that later, perhaps. It went on much longer than I expected and we both had great fun looking at a poem in all it’s different shapes, meanings, and possibilities. Tonight, we have our first set of readings and we will see how they go. The BPC material, reworked, should be ready for later. Again: it will be fun and words, thoughts, and ideas, will creatively take wing and fly.

 

 

Butterflies

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Butterflies

Butterflies, as large as elephants, stamp through my gut, just when I thought I was too old for butterflies. As my old Holly-Hock told me this morning: “You’re never too old for butterflies.”

So, what’s it all about, Holly? I am packed and almost ready for the trip to St. Andrews to participate in the inaugural KIRA Boutique Retreat. And yes, I am happy, excited, and very nervous. Hence all those butterflies, walking the tight-rope of my tum.

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One of the elements of creativity that we will talk about next week is the importance of attention to small details. I attach an article on how small words, lapidiary (carved in stone) phrases, can light up our lives, in the best sense of the word. We should all work on them, for such phrases glow in the dark, unlike those cutting and damning words, so hurtful, that cut people down and cause so much harm. Hope, my friends, hope in the breaking of day. We can leave the dark night of the soul to the cynicism of our current politicians. Hope: for all is not doom and gloom and, with our best words, our best works, we can write through the gloom and bring light to lighten the darkness.

How poetry can bring light to darkness

 

KIRA Writing Retreat #2

KIRA Writing Retreat #2

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A second KIRA Writing Retreat will be held from Sunday, October 14, 2018 to Saturday, October 20, 2018. A maximum of five participants will be selected to work with the Kingsbrae  Artistic Director, Geoff Slater, Professor Emeritus and Award-Winning Poet, Dr. Roger Moore, and Award Winning Short Story Writer, Jeremy Gilmer. Full details are available from the Program Director, Mary Jones, at kira@kingsbraegarden.com or by telephone at 506-529-8281.

Click on the attached link for A Brief Overview of Life and Art at KIRA.

 KIRA Promotional Video

 

 

Sentence

SENTENCE

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Never underestimate the importance of the sentence, the power and placement of each word, the dynamism of the parts, the wisdom of the whole. I could write about this at length but, much more important, others have done so. My thanks to my friend and fellow artist, Jan Stoneist, for choosing the above sentence from my book, Stepping Stones, and carving it in Old Red Sandstone, from Wales. Cymru am Byth.

This article, attached below, illustrates the theory much better than I can.

THE SENTENCE

 

 

 

 

KIRA Video

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Kira Video

So, our July project, a video of the first KIRA poet reading his KIRA poem, is now completed. I read One Small Corner at KIRA and Geoff Slater, Jeff Lively, and Cameron Lively added video to verse in this blend of magic. Thank you so much: I really appreciate this visual rendition of my words. So much so, that for once, I am at a loss for words. I will just let the video speak for itself and myself. Just click on the link below and you will be transported to KIRA and Kingsbrae Gardens on a magic carpet. swift and smooth.

KIRA Promotional Video

Our September / October project is to inaugurate the first KIRA Boutique Retreat (Creative Writing). This will run from September 30 to October 6. I will be one of the facilitators, along with Geoff Slater, the artistic director at Kingsbrae and Jeremy Gilmer, this year’s writer in residence (July 2018). For a description of my own stay at KIRA last year (June, 2017), click on the first link. Click on either the second or the third link below for more information on KIRA and the Boutique Retreat.

KIRA: an intensive creative experience WFNB, August 5, 2017).

 KIRA – Kingsbrae Garden

KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat

KIRA & so much more

 

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KIRA & so much more

KIRA & Kingsbrae Gardens are so much more than an outdoor adventure. They offer a journey into yourself, an exploration of your inner depths, a Jules Verne voyage into the interior of the world that you are: the artist, the creator, the truly spiritual person that you are capable of being.

How do I know? Because I have been there. I have walked those beaches, explored those shores, got my feet dirty in the Passamaquoddy mud, climbed those hills, viewed those islands from both sides. I have been out to sea to see those whales, have crossed the Old Sow from side to side, have imagined myself as a pirate for the shortest of times, crawling my sailing ship around the whirlpool, listening to its sucking sound, watching the seals as they rose from the depths, the sea gulls as they dropped from the skies.

Within the gardens, I have touched those secret places, grasped the flowers, crushed the leaves of herbs between sightless fingers and raised those perfumes to blind nostrils. I have also breathed in the scents of salt borne on a sea wind caressing the cheek, smoothing the brow, bearing away the cares of city and suburb.

Renewal is here and now. It is the sea wind’s kiss, the suck of mud, between the toes, barefoot, the rise and fall of tides, the ocean’s life forced into our lives and floating our cares and despairs away. Nothing of the city lurks here to ambush us, unless you bring it with cell phone, computer, texting, and the dull, grey air that will soon be vanquished and whisked away by the breeze, terns, gannets, the seal’s nose breaking through the sea’s surface, the deer crossing the road, demanding their right of way.

At the end of my own residency in KIRA (June, 2017), I tried to summarize my thoughts about the experience. To read them for yourself, click on this link: Residency, June 29, 2017. I was invited by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick to write about my stay. To read that, please click on this link: KIRA: an intensive creative experience WFNB, August 5, 2017).

To find information about your own potential residency at KIRA, click on this site KIRA – Kingsbrae Garden or this one KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat.

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