I am a privileged writer. From being encouraged to write as a child through state college and with the current support of family and friends, Ive easily adopted the moniker writer as a part of my identity. Even so, it has only been in the past two years I've answered the question, What do you do? with writer instead of my day job.
WRAP's next reading will be at the First Congregational
Church, 1126 SW Park Avenue, on May 26 at 6:30 p.m. To get involved
in a workshop or volunteer, call WRAP at 503- 796-9224 or send email
I mention this because I want you to consider that if all the privilege I had throughout my life still left me unsure of my right to call myself a writer until fairly recently, imagine how people far less privileged than me must be from realizing their identities as writers.
Local nonprofit Write Around Portland (WRAP) is dedicated to encouraging and publishing writers who have lacked the support systems necessary to develop confidence as serious wordsmiths. For six years, WRAP has been making writing accessible to domestic violence victims, sexual minorities, people affected by HIV/AIDS, people struggling with mental illness and more by helping to foster personal and social connections amongst program participants in community centers, shelters, treatment centers and prisons.
Each fall and spring WRAP organizes a network of concurrent 10-week workshops ending with a community reading, and on Jan. 19, I listened as several writers from Portland's most marginalized communities delivered readings of poems and stories at In Other Words bookstore.
Every urban bird in the world
may have had to learn first hand
about the solidity of glass
William Temple House NW
This poem appears in the latest WRAP journal, Everyday Revolutions, available in bookstores around Portland. Another of several short, quirky slices of poetic wisdom shared at the reading by author Mitchell, whose writings are reminiscent of postmodernist poet Kathy Acker: I'm beginning to believe in myself out of sheer weight.
I had heard the brutally honest, powerful writings of local writer Rachel Indigo Cerise Baum before at a Portland State University Womens History celebration. At the time I didn't know who she was, so seeing her rise to speak at the WRAP event was a surprising delight. True to form, she delivered an emotional wallop of starkly simple and sincere prose, as in the opening paragraph to I5 Reno Winter Highway:
Running I-five, Red Bluff. Guy drives an old Bentley. Resembles Ron Jeremy. I try to like him and I don't care anymore. Are you hungry? Now my hopes up. His voice sounds kind. He buys me burger, fries, and Im nervous when I order the chocolate shake too. Dont want to push my luck, ask for too much. That truck driver is out on the highway somewhere. Two packs of smokes and five bucks.
Rhea Wolf, Program Coordinator for WRAP, announced after Ms.
Baum finished reading that she had received the 2004 Attic/WRAP Writing Scholarship
to take a winter workshop on memoir writing with Ariel Gore, founding editor
of the popular zine Hip Mama. The Attic is a Portland writers workshop
and Ms. Baum commented upon receiving the award, I remember when I first
came to town, I saw info on the Attic at Powells and dreamed that one
day Id be able to study and write there. My dreams are coming true.
Besides working to give marginalized people the tools to speak their voices, WRAPs mission specifically addresses community building through the shared experiences of the writing process. Organizing each workshop series in partnership with social service agencies and community centers creates not only writers with a greater sense of themselves, but also writers with a greater sense of their interconnectedness with neighborhoods and social communities.
WRAP is currently in the middle of its Spring 2005 series of
creative writing workshops at various locations around town. Workshops are
two hours long for ten weeks and are open to low-income adults, people living
with mental illness, people affected by HIV, sexual minority youth, seniors
and other socially marginalized people. Pens, journals, snacks and bus passes
are provided for participants, so if you're not taking a workshop and have
any of these items to donate, please engage in some post-vernal equinox do-gooding
and send them over to WRAP. Their office is located at 917 SW Oak Street,
Suite 406, or you can check out their Web site for more information on how
to participate as a writer, a resource volunteer, or a time volunteer.
S.M.Berg is an activist, bicyclist and writist who can be reached at email@example.com
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Last Updated: April 3, 2005