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First Annual Hope Springs
Women’s Poetry and Performance Retreat 

A Weekend of Nourishment, Writing, and Connection

by Chauncey Beaty, Rita J. Andrews,
and Suzanne Stevens
Peebles, Ohio

Members of the First Annual Hope Springs Women’s Poetry and Performance Retreat. Photo by Susan Joyner.
Members of the First Annual Hope Springs Women’s Poetry and Performance Retreat. Photo by Susan Joyner.

The Labyrinth. Photo courtesy of the Hope Springs Institute.
The Labyrinth. Photo courtesy of the Hope Springs Institute.

The Spirit House. Photo courtesy of the Hope Springs Institute.
The Spirit House. Photo courtesy of the Hope Springs Institute.

The Retreat

From July 16-19 a beautiful group of 26 women came to Hope Springs Institute in Peebles, Ohio to participate in the first annual Women’s Poetry and Performance Retreat. The gamut of diversity represented -- age/generational (20-70), religion, sexual orientation, geography, race, economic status -- embodied the mission of Hope Springs and enhanced the value of the retreat. 

The brainchild of board member Chauncey Beaty, an Atlanta based poet, this retreat supplied a safe space for women writers to come together and work with an outstanding faculty of renowned poets. The faculty was carefully selected to provide transformative workshops on imagery, writing as a tool for healing, and poetry as social activism. 

Not only were the women nourished by the space, land, and delicious food from Hope Springs, but moreover, they found themselves stuffed full by succulent words and rhymes, tender (and sometime tough) feelings, chewy thoughts and several helpings of authentic connections. 

With high energy, Friday morning, Rachel McKibbens, presented on imagery. A surrealist writer, Rachel boldly stated, “Everything has teeth.” She provided the participants with methods for enhancing their metaphors and was the perfect presenter to prepare the group for the subsequent workshops. Rose Smith, who is often called “gentle atomic bomb” in the poetry community, taught participants how to write themselves out of pain. She said, “You can not move out of a corner, without first imaging what the outside looks like.” The participants walked away from this workshop deeply understanding that a new reality resides inside of their pens. Ending Friday evening with music and dance, Alice Lovelace, a southern poet who has been performing for over 30 years, used visuals as a prompt for writing. The combination of Alice’s wisdom, boldness, and methodology pulled at the subconscious level of many in the group who wrote about topics that were very painful. By the close of the night, the women were beginning to understand the power of their story and perspective and were finding their voice.  

On Saturday morning, Rosemary Daniell -- founder of Zona Rosa, a monthly workshop for writers -- focused on being fearless with writing. She talked to the group about her journey as a white southern woman writing erotic poetry during the decade of conformity. She encouraged them to share their truth, their desires, and their stories no matter who may disagree. Next, Gina Loring, a two time Def Poetry Jam poet, had participants write a letter that would not be mailed. She used the letter to explain that poetry should feel like a release ... a cleansing.  Capping the night, Sunni Patterson a Hurricane Katrina survivor and mother of a newborn son (who gracefully slept on her chest as she presented) focused on Poetry as activism. Sunni, whose luminous presence had every eye in the room, stated, “Real revolution is love.” She teaches the importance of connection with others and coming from the heart. 

Over the three days, the women were challenged to stretch themselves, develop their craft, continue to learn, find their voices, and help heal their communities with their words. 

The Performance

On Sunday July 19th the faculty and several women from the retreat participated in She Speak a performance at the Lincoln Center in Columbus, Ohio to benefit Hope Springs Institute.  

Jessica Care Moore, a multifaceted writer, actor and publisher, flew in to perform at the fundraiser. And, Jessica has agreed to work with Chauncey Beaty to develop an anthology of poems from both the performance and the retreat.

Friends of the poets and supporters of Hope Springs gathered to cheer and applaud the voices of the women and their artistic performances. She Speak artists evoked a rollercoaster of emotions --joy, anger, tears, laughter, delight, sorrow, melancholy, bliss and more.

Many in the audience and the women who attended the retreat, left saying they are eager to return for the Second Annual Event -- Hope Springs Poetry and Performance Retreat and Fundraiser July 15-18, 2010.

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Published in In Motion Magazine October 26, 2009

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