Tuesday, 19 August 2014

the gift of collaborative, creative community

The poets speak of the invitation to write, to share, the poems of our despair. There is a common theme to our experience, a thread that weaves through all our stories. It is a dark thread, a blue thread - what we call mental illness, but really is a bunch of illnesses that affect our minds, bodies, hearts, souls - disturb our inner wellbeing.

Hence: mindshare. A website for the sharing of stories and experiences of 'mental' illness.

In partnership with the Media Resource Centre - which before this competition I did not know existed - mindshare offered a chance for eight poets to turn one poem into a short film for the mindshare website.  My poem 'Woe Is' was chosen to be one of the eight.

As we gathered for that first afternoon and workshopped poems, the reminder to speak out if our wellness was being unhelpfully disturbed drew attention to the blue thread joining us together. But we hardly spoke of it at all - occasionally through the afternoon making reference to illnesses and conditions, stories and experience with a natural ease that acknowledged, 'these people understand; I don't need to explain further because you have known enough to understand.' And the collective unspoken sigh of relief that such a group can release is itself another act of healing.

Our work together was to create, to do art, to bring our words to life in new ways with image, voice, music, silence. And we delighted in the gift of this time and space, taking no time at all to warm up and speak the wonderings of our imaginations in response to each others' poems.

A week separated first and second sessions: a week in which depression took a most famous, most beloved man. So on day two our talk was more often about the illness, the darkness, than it had been before. We each felt the solidarity of folk whose lives have been overturned and even threatened by the all-encompassing darkness. Creativity once again offered a healing caress, holding us safe, gently prodding us onward into the light.

The thread that wove through our stories to connect us before we began was a darkish shade of blue. Added to that we began to weave the multicoloured threads of creativity, of delight, wonder, collaboration, community.

taking footage for my short film of 'Woe Is'
Media Resource Centre, Adelaide
Artist: Francine Sherman Video: Kieran McNamara
I smile to think of my fellow poets - Julie, Frankie, Dylan, Aaron and Brenton (Danijela we did not meet as she is interstate); of Mona, our film director, Tracey our producer, Fran our visual artist, Hakim our audio expert and Nina, fellow poet and former mindshare film maker; of Gareth and Kieran and the MRC team who looked after our every technical need, even via phone on their day off. We are part of each other's stories now; part of these versions of each others' poems, and I am grateful.

Though the timing of another creative project now, as I prepare to move overseas, was perhaps not ideal, I am most grateful for this week's infusion of life and vitality, and sorry I will not be here in October to gather again and celebrate the release of our finished films.

If you or someone you love lives with depression, anxiety, or the myriad other mental illnesses, perhaps you will find comfort, solidarity, healing or hope in the stories to be found at mindshare.org.au - click, and connect with an online community of creativity and collaboration in the seeking of wellbeing.

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