Hold It All

Category: Courses

Writing Our Own Histories: A Spring/Summer Class

“First We Read, Then We Write”
–title of Robert D. Richardson’s study on Emerson’s creative life

“Something that you feel will find its own form”
–Jack Kerouac, U.S. novelist and poet

“You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you. “
—Allen Ginsberg, bard, activist, professor

This class invites you to experiment with several creative forms that I have found engaging, energizing, and intriguing. The practice of imitation can lead to fresh inspiration for embarking on new work or for reclaiming work we’ve been putting off.

During class sessions we will examine the structure of works by Alice Walker, Svetlana Alexievich, Eduardo Galeano, and Joe Brainard. We will cover each book in two sessions. We will do relevant writing practices in and outside of class, for example, getting in touch with our vast storehouse of memories (Brainard). Also, by the end of each session we will make plans for writing on our own in the week ahead. Possible areas for exploration are personal and collective memoir and autobiography. Participants will be encouraged to connect during the week, and share how the writing and reading processes inter-are. I will be happy to meet up, listen, and share when it is convenient for you. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating Attention and Animating Conscience: Reading Thoreau in Desperate Times

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.”

“On reading the words of Thoreau
I vow with all beings
to cherish our home-grown sages
who discern the perennial way.”
–Robert Aitken

Being a human being means benefiting from rich cultural traditions—not just our own traditions, but many others—and becoming not just skilled, but also wise. Somebody who can think—think creatively, think independently, explore, inquire—and contribute to society. If you don’t have that, you might as well be replaced by a robot.
–Noam Chomsky

In this course we will explore Henry David Thoreau’s prophetic and spiritual writings as a resource for living, in poet Marge Piercy’s words, “consciously, conscientiously, concretely, [and] constructively” in this time of domestic disparities and global crises.

We meet on eight consecutive Wednesdays from February 26 to April 15. We are hosted by Dianne Lee and Bill Quick at their home in Richmond Heights. We gather at 6:45 and go till 8:15. Sessions will have time for paired sharing, writing exercises, discussions of Thoreau’s works, announcements of the local scene, poetry recitations, viewing of documentaries, and more. A class blog will enable us to share our various responses in between classes.

Some Essentials—
An outgoingness of heart
“Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will” [Antonio Gramsci]
A notebook, tablet, or laptop
These two books— Henry David Thoreau, The Higher Law: Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform, with an introduction by Howard Zinn and Tim Flinders, ed., Henry David Thoreau: Spiritual and Prophetic Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters).

Tuition is $150, payable to me by check or Paypal.
Email me if you are interested —markjchmiel@gmail.com.

Anne Waldman on The Art of Writing, Reading, and Sharing—Winter Class/Arco-Online 2020

Imagine you are not alone. Consort with other writers. You are in a League of Writing. You are part of a conspiracy to lift the discourse and practice of writing higher. Think of your writing as a way to alleviate the suffering of yourself and others. To make the world more beautiful and interesting.
—Anne Waldman, “Creative Writing Life”

If you writing life needs a recharge, if you want to reconnect with your writing practice and other kindred spirits, please join us in this class as we will engage the accumulated wisdom of Anne Waldman, poet, teacher, cultural activist, anthologist, and subverter of the patriarchy.

In her inspiring book, Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews, & Manifestos, Waldman has short chapter entitled, “Creative Writing Life.” It’s nine pages long and this will be the chief text for our class. Each week we will read, discuss, and write off of a page of Anne’s prompts–both friends who want to share via a class blog, and those who can meet up in St. Louis. We will spend our time in and outside of class experimenting, practicing, and integrating what she has to offer (I count 136 specific suggestions). Perhaps you will discover that 10 of these are really what you matter to you at this time in your life.

For Saint Louisans, outside of a 90 minute weekly class, you will need at least another 1.5 to 2 hours. Friends joining us via the class blog count on 2 to 3 hours a week. Make room in your schedule for cultivating creativity, clarity, and community.

We meet on Thursdays from January 30 to March 17, 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. at the home of Andrew Wimmer, 4400 Arco Avenue 63110. Online participants will receive an agenda on Friday mornings to direct their activities for the week.I will be frequently in touch with you, and try to connect people in the same city. The more we share, the greater our learning and expansion!

All you need are your writing materials and/or devices and, ideally, a copy of Vow to Poetry, or one of Anne’s other books, such as Fast Speaking Woman, Beats at Naropa, Civil Disobediences, or Outrider. Check out your bookstore or public library, or contact me for assistance–I have access to university libraries.

Tuition for St. Louisans, $100.
For online participants, $50.
You can send tuition to me by Paypal or by check at the first class.

For those of you who have done a class with me before and found it worth your time, please pass along this announcement to anyone you know who may be interested in this class, especially the online version.

Penny Smith, Northwest Coffee, Central West End

Start a club/”study group” around the work of a deceased writer or writers or a literary movement or a book. Meet once a month and plan to read aloud (or translate), write “off of,” and examine texts. The Sappho Club, the Niedecker/Zukovsky Salon, the H.D. Room, the Beat Trope Circle, Robert Duncan Lab, New York School Gallery, Black Arts Solarium…
–Anne Waldman, “Creative Writing Life”

Another Class Is Finished

Appreciation is the sacrament.
—Allen Ginsberg

Another class is finished…the autumn one entitled
“Facing the Future: Resources for a Rebirth of Wonder”

“Rebirth of wonder” comes from lines in a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem—
“I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder”

I’m not “awaiting” …I’ve experienced rebirth over and over
From the gathering of friends on and beyond Wise Avenue…

Dianne Lee’s commitment to “Whenever we see or think your name, you exist”
Provokes a more ardent anamnesis

Bill Quick’s ever genial receptivity
Models how to be in a learning environment

Chris Wallach’s intimate connection to Dipa Ma
Shows the way for “concentration, lovingkindness and peace”

Sarah Burkemper’s Nerudean ode to the first cucumber of the summer season
Awakens my amazement at the ordinary Read the rest of this entry »

With Gratitude for Amy Schimdt

I am happy to be able to introduce friends to Dipa Ma in our “Facing the Future” class beginning next week:

Because Dipa Ma was able literally to see through the stories of the mind, she did not acknowledge personal dramas of any kind. She wanted her students to live from a deeper truth than their interpretations of, and identification with, the external events of their lives.

One night a student showed up who began asking Dipa Ma a lot of questions. He was quite challenging and confrontational and coming from an abstract intellectual place and trying to get her to argue. At one point she stopped and said in a very calm voice, “Why have you come here? What is your intention?” The sincerity of her question immediately silenced him.

Her heart, like the door to her apartment, was always open.

Dipa Ma and I were on an airplane coming to the States from India. It was very, very turbulent, and at one point the plane hit an air pocket and dropped. Drinks and other objects flew up to the ceiling as the plane dropped downward before hitting stable air again. I kind of screamed. Dipa Ma was sitting across the aisle from me and she reached out and took my hand and she just held it. Then she whispered, “The daughters of the Buddha are fearless.”

–from Amy Schmidt’s essential book, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master

Facing the Future: Resources for Resistance and a Rebirth of Wonder

Dipa Ma’s greatest gift to me was showing what was possible—and living it. She was impeccable about effort. People with this ability to make effort are not disheartened by how long it takes, how difficult it is. It takes months, it takes years, it doesn’t matter, because the courage of the heart is there. She gave the sense that with right effort, anything is possible.
—Jospeh Goldstein

Listening to birdsong and the wind sift through the t0ps of forests never failed to provide respite from bearing witness to ecocide.
—Dahr Jamail

The only worth globalizing is dissent.
—Arundhati Roy

and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

_________________

Recently, a friend, acknowledging the pressing issues of the climate, told me matter-of-factly, “Relationships are the most important thing in life.” In this fall class, we will engage in minute particulars of care for our natural world, practice choosing skillful means in daily life, pursue political and cultural investigations, call things by the their true names, savor and circulate poems, and cultivate neighborliness and the dear love of comrades.

Among our teachers will be two women from India, the Buddhist meditation adept Dipa Ma and the activist and writer Arundhati Roy, as well as the intrepid U.S. American journalist and mountaineer Dahr Jamail.

We meet on five Tuesdays in October, and three Tuesdays in November, beginning October 1. We are hosted by Dianne Lee and Bill Quick at their home in Richmond Heights. We gather at 6:45 and g0 till 8:15. Each session with have time for silence, paired sharing, writing exercises, book discussions, announcements, poetry recitations, and deep looking. A class blog will enable us to share our various writings and sources of inspiration. Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Classes

Bob Dylan Approximately [Summer 2019]

The Essential Edward Said [Summer 2019]

An Introduction to Simone Weil: Concentration Is Consecration [Spring 2019]

Ram Dass and Be Here Now: American Sadhana and the Search for the Real [Winter 2019]

Making the World Bearable: A Reading/A Class on Diane di Prima [Fall 2018]

“What Am I Living My Life for?” Ivan Ilyich and Ikigai [Summer 2018]

Share the Wealth Writing Class [Summer 2018]

Improv Wisdom [Online Spring 2018] Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Dylan Approximately: Summer 2019 Course

“That’s all we did in those days. Writing in the back seat of cars and writing songs on street corners or on porch swings, seeking out the explosive areas of life.”
—Bob Dylan, 1977

“I wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in 10 minutes, just put the words to an old spiritual.”
—Bob Dylan, 2004

“Elusive, oblique, mercurial, and always in motion, he has resisted in both his life and his work being categorized, encapsulated, finalized, conventionalized, canonized, and deified.”
—Jonathan Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews

This summer I invite you to join me in exploring the works and worlds of Bob Dylan, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Literature. One critic said that Dylan “brought the linguistic beauty of Shakespeare, Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and the expansiveness and beat experimentation of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Ferlinghetti, to the folk poetry of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams.” His influence has been planetary. (One of my favorite Dylan covers is the Magokoro Brothers’ “My Back Pages,” featured in the film, Masked and Anonymous.)

In our time together we will be listening, reading, listing, sharing, interviewing, memorizing, researching, and writing, as we sample a tiny fraction of of Dylan’s work over almost sixty years. Themes we may explore include dreams, aggression, lineage, social injustice, camaraderie, spirituality, impermanence, performance, masks, multitudes, mystery, writing, influence, heartbreak.

We will meet on eight Monday nights, starting June 24 and going until August 12. We will gather at 6:30 p.m., and wrap up by 8:15.

We gather together in the lovely home of Marty and Jerry King at 830 Demun (third floor) in Clayton (63105).

You’ll need the following—
A device with which you can listen to music
A notebook of some kind for writing
A book of your choosing by or about Bob Dylan. I recommend his Chronicles, v. 1 or Cott’s collection of interviews. Pick something you’d enjoy dipping in and out of, and sharing your reflections throughout the course.

His lyrics are available online.

Tuition: $175, payable to me by check or Paypal. Online: $125, if anyone is outside of Saint Louis, and wants to connect with this [somehow], email or message me.

If interested in joining us, let me know by June 17 to markjchmiel@gmail.com.

“Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”

Mark

Literature has become, for me and many others, a crucial way to fill ourselves with the blessing of more life.
–Harold Bloom, Possessed by Memory (2019)

 

 

An Introduction to Simone Weil: Concentration Is Consecration–Spring Class 2019

Humanity is divided into two categories—the people who count for something and the people who count for nothing.

To believe in God is not a decision that we can make. All we can do is to decide not to give our love to false gods.

Today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.

_______________________________

French philosopher Simone Weil has been described variously as a “utopian pessimist,” a “mystic of passion and compassion,” a “cross between Pascal and Orwell,” a “Catholic Jewess,” and, by French writer Albert Camus, “the only great spirit of our time.”

In this spring class, we will learn about Weil’s life and work, and let these interrogate our own. We will explore selections from Weil’s classics books, Waiting for God and Gravity and Grace, which will serve as promptings for examining our own spiritual path through journaling and correspondence.

Essentials:
Simone Weil, Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us
Notebook and pen
Curiosity, attention, openness Read the rest of this entry »

Be Here Now: American Sadhana and the Search for the Real

If you’ve ever …

put your faith in a guru
traveled to India and were blown away and never took a single drug

recited a mantra throughout the day
met your future wife at  a retreat in north India

had a mid-Seventies practice of TM
acknowledged 1970 seed planted from radio frequent playing of My Sweet Lord

engaged in a conversations where such words as Atman, samadhi, and sattva were common
quoted often one of your Gujarati-American students who told her classmates, “I look at you and see God”

went “off-script” after having read Be Here Now
smiled with a Namaste and palms together several hundred times

underwent 190+ hours for Yoga Teacher Training
learned how to play the sitar Read the rest of this entry »