COMPARED TO WHAT?

Poetry zine gives voice to Sand Point Housing youthCover of Compared to What? A publication of Solid Ground's Sand Point Young Artist Workshop

The youth who live at Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus do not see themselves as a continuation of their parents’ lives. “I get super annoyed when I am compared,” one girl says. “It’s just irritating because that is just saying that you don’t really know who I am if I am being compared.”

Thus the title COMPARED TO WHAT? was born for the zine that developed out of a writing and arts workshop series Solid Ground held last fall for the older teens living with their families at Sand Point, a neighborhood of 175 households at the old Naval Station of Puget Sound in Magnuson Park.

The workshops were based in the principle that everyone’s voice should be heard. Starting with writing sessions led by Seattle storyteller and educator Kathya Alexander, they continued with photography and design sessions led by Solid Ground staff. Through it all, young people found their voices. “Their growth was beautiful to see,” says Christina Shimizu, Annual Giving Officer at Solid Ground and one of the staff supporters of this youth-driven project.

Creative prompts helped unleash the power of the pen

Starting out with writing prompts and progressing to original poems helped the participants feel comfortable, not only with writing, but also with one another. Within this supportive group setting, the youth quickly gained confidence and began to share their personal experiences – an important outlet for previously homeless youth who have not had many opportunities to express themselves creatively.

One of the teens comments about the project, “This is the first time we are actually getting heard, with a different point of view. Our point of view. We think differently from the way adults think. We can also teach adults how we think, because our generation is so different than your guys’ generation. I feel like we know so much more.”

I am a rare solar eclipse
Gray and overlooked
A tough cactus
Midnight, calm and relaxing
I am needed like air
A glistening diamond
The illusion that the sky is blue”

Teen photographer After a few writing sessions, Sand Point Case Manager and experienced photographer, Bellen Drake, led a photography workshop focused on visual aspects of the storytelling process. She spent a day with the youth taking photos and teaching them to use their cameras to capture the essence of their experiences, which for most is shaped by poverty-induced instability. Although most of the poets moved into long-term housing years ago and no longer identify as being homeless, Bellen notes that “it was a valuable opportunity to reflect on a time that impacted them as children, and they have now grown out of. It was a time in their past; homelessness is not their current situation.”

There were multiple leaders within the group and it was an entirely collaborative effort to put the zine together and publish it in January. The poems and images bring to mind the vividness of young romance and deep angst, mixed with materialistic egos and happy innocence. The young artists reveal their dreams and aspirations of growing up, as well as their multidimensional approach to discovering the answers to “What is Justice?”

COMPARED TO WHAT? showcases this unique community and amplifies voices that too often go unheard.

Our published writers & artists are: Ayanle Abdikadir (Abdi), Mohamed Abdikadir, Nya Rambang, Marie, Sahvannah Glenn, Maar Rambang, Heaven, Ryahnna, Geo, Chris Gainey, Ben Dessalegne, Jen Matapula, Andrea R, Deiosha Sparks.

To get your copy of Compared to What? or learn more about how you can support the youth at Sand Point Housing, contact Christina Shimizu at christinas@solid-ground.org.

Call for submissions for Footsteps 步: A poetry anthology honoring homeless veterans

Footsteps: Poems for Homeless Veterans (due out on Cave Moon Press, 2016)

Footsteps: Poems for Homeless Veterans (due out on Cave Moon Press, 2016)

Since 2006, Cave Moon Press (CMP) – a family-owned publishing company out of Yakima, WA – has been “bridging global and local issues through the arts.” Solid Ground has been fortunate to partner with CMP over the past four years.

Editor Doug Johnson says, “The model of CMP is simple: We ask poets and artists to collaborate with the cause of their choice. Poets. Books. Community. Why such a simple model? Because complicated erases our humanity. There are so many causes it is easy to lose track of the people we are helping.”

Call for submissions for Footsteps

To celebrate 10 years of helping communities, Cave Moon Press will produce a new book to aid homeless veterans in 2016 and is requesting original poems centered around the theme of footsteps. They encourage poets to take license in interpreting whose footsteps you honor, and translations are welcome. To apply:

  • Submit poetry anytime between April to September 2015
  • Send to: cavemoonpress@gmail.com
  • Subject line of email: Footsteps for Homeless Veterans-Poet Name
  • Include your name, physical address and email as a cover letter
  • Submit 2-5 poems in one MS Word document, and name the file with your name and the date you submit (ex: FirstLastName_041515)
  • Preferred fonts: 12 pt Garamond in Latin alphabetic languages; SimSun preferred in Asian Kanji

More about the Footsteps project

Doug writes, “This is a book of witness to the invisible. As a poet holds their duty to the page, soldiers hold their duty to serve. Others hold their duty to the environment. Cars wage war on the environment. Politics change like the newspaper wrapping fish. We all know of someone setting out on their quest without ever getting the homecoming of Odysseus. When duties disillusion, people wander. The invisible still wander. Write to honor the ignored. Write a poem. Help a friend.”

This book intends to honor people, not causes. After publication it is hoped that each accepted poet will combine readings around food and music with proceeds going to the local homeless network of their choice – e.g., your local VA, YMCA/YWCA, or nonprofits with programs that serve formerly homeless vets (such as Solid Ground’s Santos Place, etc.).

Cave Moon Press & Solid Ground

In 2011, CMP published Denise Calvetti Michaels’ Rustling Wrens, and she chose to donate a portion of sales proceeds to Solid Ground and also spread the word about Solid Ground during her readings. Similarly, when poet Esther Altshul Helfgott published Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems in 2013 and Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s in 2014, she designated proceeds toward Solid Ground’s Penny Harvest youth philanthropy program (which her granddaughter participated in before the program sunsetted in summer of 2014).

As Doug puts it, “Poets write. Poets read. So far poets have found a home at Solid Ground, and CMP is grateful and happy to bring awareness to their great work.” He adds that, “CMP has been able to help other groups around the country. Each nonprofit and poet set up what works in their community. They know their needs. They have passions for their people.” With the publication of Footsteps 步 in 2016, CMP will continue their commitment to creating poetry and art partnerships that support social change.

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A poetic partnership: Rustling Wrens & Solid Ground

Rustling Wrens front cover

When you purchase Rustling Wrens by Denise Calvetti Michaels on Amazon.com, a portion of the proceeds will support Solid Ground. (Cover art, “Bloom V” by Christy Michaels Tremblay)

Poet Denise Calvetti Michaels is a teacher, a mother and a former children’s human services provider. While she has previously published many pieces in a variety of journals and publications, her first book of poetry has just hit the shelves: Rustling Wrens, published by Cave Moon Press. Her rich poetry depicts family life and the human condition through the vivid imagery of nature and the environment.

A published book is an enormous accomplishment in itself, but Denise has even greater aspirations for Rustling Wrens: She hopes to turn it into a vehicle to build community, inspire others to take the risk to put words on paper as a healing form of expression, and also help support Solid Ground’s work. To this end, a portion of all proceeds from her book sales will go to Solid Ground, and she plans to encourage her readers to donate to Solid Ground above and beyond the list price. (To support Solid Ground by purchasing Rustling Wrens, please visit Amazon.com.)

Denise connected with Solid Ground first as a supporter of our Statewide Poverty Action Network’s advocacy work – which builds grassroots power to end causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper – and she felt a connection with the shared mission to address racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty. But Solid Ground’s direct services resonate with her previous work with families with children at various stages of homelessness. She says, “It really exposed me to the complexity for families; I realized from my experience how the important thing is to really create a community net.”

She chose Solid Ground for this creative partnership because, “I think this is where I need to be. I’m at a point in my life where it really matters to me if I feel an organization has certain pieces in place. Addressing racism, addressing inequities – that’s what’s really important.” Additionally, her publisher, Cave Moon Press, has the unique mission “to bridge global and local issues through the literary arts.” Denise says, “To feel that a book that you publish is not just about the writer – but also it’s about engagement with the community – just really made sense to me.”

Denise also received a 4Culture 2012 Artist Grant, which will enable her to provide poetry readings and writing workshops at local libraries, community centers and classrooms over the next 18 months. As part of this process, she eventually hopes to provide workshops for the Solid Ground community, including families who access our services. “Working with Solid Ground is an opportunity to come back and say, ‘This book that is a lot about family – and that I will be using to offer workshops for families – will also benefit Solid Ground.”

Denise is just now beginning to schedule readings and arrange workshops around King County. For books purchased directly from Denise at a reading or event, she plans to encourage buyers to make a donation to Solid Ground above and beyond the book price.

Tonight, Friday, September 7th, 5:30-8:30 pm, she’ll read samples of her poems along with other writers and artists sharing their work at the Artist Trust event: A Celebration of Washington Artists Reception at the Washington Convention Center (800 Convention Place, Seattle, 98101-3550).

For updates on her schedule, visit her blog, Rustling Wrens, poems by Denise Calvetti Michaels – or stay in touch with Solid Ground via Facebook and Twitter.

To purchase Rustling Wrens, please visit Amazon.com and a portion of the proceeds will go to Solid Ground. We are thrilled that Denise and Cave Moon Press have chosen Solid Ground for this unique partnership.

PRAISE FOR DENISE CALVETTI MICHAELS’ RUSTLING WRENS:

Luminous, delicate, sensual, mournful – Denise Calvetti Michaels’ first collection of poems transports us into the land of memory, juxtaposing Mediterranean and Southwestern geographers, with detours to other sites, from post-Katrina New Orleans to war-torn Iraq and Viet Nam. And while some of these locations remain mere ghost-like names of the places where loved ones have gone, the voice of the poet, lulling and relentless, roots them in the terrain of a past that must be recalled again and again. There is a dream-like, hypnotic quality to these poems, and the reader willingly surrenders.”

—EDVIDGE GIUNTA, author of Writing with an Accent
Contemporary Italian American Women Authors

The New Guy

This post, written by Mitch Cameron, was originally published in the July 2012 issue of the Santos Place Q-Notes, a newsletter written by and published for the residents of Santos Place. Santos Place is Solid Ground’s transitional housing program for single adults at Sand Point Housing.

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

The New Guy

Today I am the New Guy, I moved into Santos Place two weeks ago.

Tomorrow I may be the Old Guy, who can say.

My past is unimportant, it is behind me; I won’t compete with anyone for the best story.

My future is before me and it may be formed by fate or destiny, I don’t know; I choose to believe I make my own future.

I try to live in the here and the now, this day, this moment; I am still learning.

I am the Slow Guy with a limp, except when I am on a bicycle where I am more free to travel in harmony and with speed.

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

I am no different than most people; I am an imperfect human who wishes to be a part of something to better myself and to be loved and respected.

I am the New Guy and I wish to treat all people the way I wish to be treated; with dignity and respect.

I am the New Guy, if you can, give me helpful advice, I will gladly accept and give back if I can; or a friendly greeting and I will do the same.

I am the New Guy and I have lost my way in this world and my confidence is slow to return.

I am the New Guy and I love the Great Northwest and the outdoors; including fishing and camping.

I am a Veteran of the Vietnam War and I still remember being spit upon while wearing my uniform, but still I remain “The New Guy.”

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

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