It was just half a year ago that inaugural youth poet Amanda Gorman rocked our world with her original poem “The Hill We Climb.” Dressed in her daffodil-yellow trench, she spoke with embodied eloquence from the highest national platform in a way that awoke our collective psyche. Where just a minute before our rational minds had been listening to speeches from a familiar positioning of rational deliberation (do I agree with that, or not?), suddenly as Amanda spoke, our minds were led by our emotions. It was like Amanda welcomed us into a whole new field of possibility.
All of a sudden, as I listened to Amanda Gorman speak, I was in that wide open field of yellow flowers, with pure blue sky above. And everyone else in the world was in that field too. We were there, finally all together, whole, opening to this new world together. This feeling was immediately familiar. Just like a Co-Active conversation.
The inaugural poem traveled from her lips and easily breached the walls of individual differences, reaching into our homes at the speed of sound. Through her wise and youthful voice, she touched our hearts in a way that was at once both surprising and fulfilling. Just like a Co-Active conversation.
While none of the words that Amanda used were new, the way she put those known words together certainly was.
Gorman says of poetry, “It is an instrument of social change. It is one of the most political arts out there. [As a poet] you are disrupting and destabilize language. You are pushing against the status quo.”
That’s what poetry does. It is an art form that takes familiar ingredients and makes up a whole new recipe designed to inspire and challenge. This poetic process is very similar to a Co-Active conversation.
This poetic pulse is almost guaranteed to arise in the space between two or more people who are Co-Actively trained. In that way, we honor the core of poetry through the work of Co-Active every day.
When I accepted a coaching challenge to write a poem a day for a month in March of 2020 (the weekend before COVID hit), I had no idea that this practice would become my lifeline through the pandemic. This practice became incredibly nourishing for me, and I learned a ton from it about manifesting the Co-Active pulse in a new way.
A poem a day?!
One poem led to another, day after day, week after week. I followed my muse into the woods, into conversations, into late night writing sessions. Slowly, poems began to write themselves through me and, one word at a time, began to form a body of work. (Holding me accountable was an email list of over 100 people who generously read my work, or at least received it!)
This practice gave me a lens through which to integrate and make sense of these strange COVID times. I feel as though I am walking around with a wide wicker harvesting basket, collecting things each day — feelings, thoughts, snippets of conversations, insights, quotes, metaphors, visions and images that I stubble across. Just like a Co-Active conversation.
At the end of the day, I sit down and sort through my haul. Sometimes my basket is overflowing, sometimes it is sparse. No mind. I toss things out that don’t feel important or true, and arrange the rest on the smooth wooden table of my mind.
Using words to convey the day’s unique gifts, I allow myself to play and create something that synthesizes the essence of learning of the day’s experience. Co-Active wires the head and the heart together, just like poetry.
Two weeks ago I attended a poetry class. The late summer grass poked through my linen pants as I sat under a loaded apple tree. My 14 year old daughter sprawled gazelle-like at my side, as we scribbled furiously into notebooks balanced awkwardly on our knees, shaking our old pens — clack clack — praying that our ink would not run dry.
We were a funny ole group, about 20 in number, loosely scattered in a semi-circle in the dappled orchard behind the familiar red shape of the island’s beloved library. A varied group; ages 14-90; differing shades of skin; a visible spectrum of genders. All of us were responding swiftly to the writing prompts called out with confident jubilance from the mulberry mouth of Rena Priest, Washington state’s poet laureate.
“What was the last news headline that you had a reaction to?”
“What was the name of the pet that you never had but you wanted?”
“Write about the first glimpse of a beloved place.”
Rena kept challenging us to get out of our known boxes, to write into prompts that seemed to be irrelevant and disconnected — until suddenly, after diligently exploring these prompts from different angles, out of the mist, a sudden theme emerged.
By the end of the two-hour class, I was deeply moved by the new perspective that I experienced on a previously tabooed and calcified subject matter. Poetry had literally changed my mind. Just like a Co-Active conversation.
I have been in this profession for over 20 years, and I swear, the power of being coached never loses its power to open doors that I never even knew existed. Just like a good poem. “A good poem,” Rena tells us, one hand cupping her bright mouth in a secretive hush, “Is one that ends up back where it started.” We all nod appreciatively. Rena draws a circle in the air in front of her. An apple fall behind me — thud! — to the ground, punctuating her wisdom.
Coaching is an instrument of personal and social change. It is one of the most transformative arts out there. As a coach you are disrupting and destabilize language. You are pushing against the status quo. How about you, how can you apply your poetic creativity to coaching?