Words From the Cafe Reading

Elliott Bay Book Company,
1521 10th Ave,
Seattle, Sunday, March 5, 3-5 pm.

Join us for another great reading from Anna Bálint‘s class at the Recovery Cafe. Cohosted by Tod Marshall, current Washington State Poet Laureate.

WORDS FROM THE CAFÉ, An Anthology (Raven Chronicles Press) edited by Anna Bálint. A group reading, co-presented by Tod Marshall, Washington State Poet Laureate, 3pm, Sunday, March 5th.Every Friday at Seattle’s Recovery Café, people struggling with addiction or mental illness or homelessness come together in Anna Bálint’s Safe Place Writing Circle to write and share writing. Here they discover their own unique voices and ways of shaping language to write stories and poems as part of reclaiming their lives. Words from the Café, a book/cd compilation, introduces us to voices from some of the most marginalized members of society.

“Gritty details are, perhaps, to be expected in an anthology of poems gathered from a group of writers who come together in recovery. What’s so astonishing about this collection is the range of emotions and the quality of the writing: joy and grief, exuberance and ennui, as well as a host of other emotions, all dwell together in this compelling book…Words From the Café reminds us that every day is a challenge to find our best selves and that art—poetry, story, song—can connect us.” –Tod Marshal

Words From the Café, An Anthology: what readers are saying!

Gritty details are, perhaps, to be expected in an anthology of poems gathered from a group of writers who come together in recovery. What’s so astonishing about this collection is the range of emotions and the quality of the writing: joy and grief, exuberance and ennui, as well as a host of other emotions, all dwell together in this compelling book. I’m glad, too, that the editor decided to feature some voices and give readers several works from so many different writers; each of these features (and there are so many good ones: Hirsch and Torres, Nguyen and Ybarra) gives us just a little more insight, a little more connection with the imagination behind the writing. From editor and teacher Anna Bálint’s wonderful introduction through each of the cutting vignettes and memorable lyrics (and the quality production from Raven Chronicles Press), Words From the Café reminds us that every day is a challenge to find our best selves and that art—poetry, story, song—can connect us.

—Tod Marshall, Washington State Poet Laureate, 2016-2018, He is the author most recently of Bugle (2014), which won the Washington State Book Award in 2015.

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Words From the Café gives us the chance as readers to sit with interesting companions, have a cup of coffee, and listen to their stories. It’s a transformative process for our companions and for us. For our companions there’s the change that happens when people feel heard, respected; and for us, there’s the change that happens when we open our hearts to our own vulnerability, to life. What a comfort. We don’t have to go down that unhappy path of isolating ourselves from others, from pain, or from our own feelings. We all need a safe place. Thanks to Anna Bálint, Safe Place Writing Circle, Recovery Café, and Raven Chronicles Press for this book.

—Richard Gold, founder and executive director of the Pongo Poetry Project and author of Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method.

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As I read and listen to Words From the Café (Raven Chronicles Press), I find myself entering not only into the lives of others through their poems and prose, but into a whole range of physical, cultural, philosophical and psychological territories some of which look and feel and smell very familiar and some not. Territories like RECOVERY, Food, Trauma, Mental Illness, Spirituality, Art, Addiction, Memory, Age, Prison, Public Assistance, Death, and COMMUNITY. Twenty-two writers with good strong voices, ten of whom are featured allowing the reader to firmly step into their shoes and walk a while. When people feel safe, they can start to explore new territories within themselves. And sometimes they discover the poet, the writer, the artist inside. Recovery is serious life business, but there is also a lot of humor coming out of so much of the work here, which I appreciate especially during these difficult times. Megan McInnis writes, “It’s possible that art, music, and literature have brought me closer than anything else, besides acid, to understanding spirituality.” Many thanks to Anna Bálint, founder, editor and facilitator of the Safe Place Writing Circle, and to the Recovery Café for creating the space for this important work. We are all the better for it.

—Martha Linehan, chemical dependency professional, OPS (Organization for Prostitution Survivors)

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Speaking plainly, Words From the Café is a recovery program knocking on the door of mainstream American culture. Editor Anna Bálint has shaped an anthology that breaks down conventional definitions and boundaries. This anthology builds character and energy, writer by writer, making its credibility as it proceeds. There’s no room for fancy talk in recovery that works, perhaps that’s why so many in American culture fear it. And Higher Power? What is that? Literature, too, needs its allies. Literature finds them in the Sister/Brother siblings of Higher Power and Recovery. These alternate realities combine in the empirical world breaking out from under cover. They witness. Words From the Café is a book that speaks and testifies.

—Jim Bodeen, carries a notebook and camera, and follows a split discipline, exploring the poem and liberation theology. “I’m interested in people whose lives cross borders where the borders may or may not be geographical. I’m interested in the poem of witness and testimony.”

Order on our website http://www.ravenchronicles.org/shop/
$14.99, and receive a CD with readings by the ten featured readers.

Or purchase a copy at OPEN BOOKS or Bulldog Press in Seattle’s University District, or at BookTree in Kirkland; or on Amazon’s website.

2 Poems from WORDS FROM the CAFE

2 poems from Words From the Cafe, An Anthology,
Edited by Anna Balint, Raven Chronicles Press, 2016
ISBN 978-0-9979468-0-2, 202 pages, $14.99

Ocean
by Esmeralda Hernandez

In the heart of the city
if you listen carefully
you can hear the cries of humanity.
Each night I lie in my bed at the shelter
not knowing who will enter,
with no telling what will happen

I have seen a sea of faces of homeless women.
As I make my way through that sea
I get to know some of them, gently pushing
my way, I make my own wave.

Some waves move forward to find land.
Some waves fold long before reaching land.

Like many, I’ve walked
through a sea of tears, yet still felt
God’s gentle push, to remind me
that His love is wider than any ocean,
and whenever I weep He turns it into love.


Cry and Transform
by Taumstar

5 A.M.
Walk briskly.    Will rain.
The ego is anxious.
The ego wants no change.
But change has already occurred—
an exercise in love,
picking up and going forward.

At the same time, sadness.
Feel older. Accomplishments?
Not everyone gets to accomplish much.
Gratitude.
Thanksgiving.
Going to a back and spine doctor—
they are not so quick to prescribe.
Started doing yoga, again.
No longer able to sweep, prune, saw, hammer.     No heavy lifting.

Learn/unlearn.
No longer get to drive.
Must think about
mobility = long term ability.
The little stuff more hard . . .
Cry and transform.

A Reading & Reception, Celebrating a new book & CD: Words From the Café, from Raven Chronicles Press

Cover photo: Ginny Banks
Cover photo: Ginny Banks

RAVEN CHRONICLES PRESS & JACK STRAW CULTURAL CENTER
present

A Reading & Reception, Celebrating a new book & CD:

Words From the Café

with MC/Host Anna Bálint

October 7, 2016, Friday, 7:00pm., Free

Jack Straw Cultural Center, 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E. University District, Seattle

Readings by:

• Johnnie Powell

• Taumstar

• Angel Ybarra

• Bang Nguyen

• Megan McInnis

• Tamar Hirsch

• Donald W. Butler

• Steve Torres

• Esmeralda Hernandez

• Mary Jo El-Wattar

Every Friday at Seattle’s Recovery Café, people struggling with addiction or mental illness or homelessness come together in Anna Bálint’s Safe Place Writing Circle to write and share writing. Here they discover their own unique voices and ways of shaping language to write stories and poems as part of reclaiming their lives. Anna’s 2015 residency with the Artist Support Program at Jack Straw, and funding from 4Culture, made it possible to capture some of the magic that takes place each week in Words From the Café, a book/CD compilation. These are voices that need to be heard. Their literary diversity and range of human experience fly in the face of prevailing stereotypes of some of the most marginalized members of our society.

Thanks to Recovery Café, 4Culture, Jack Straw Cultural Center and Raven Chronicles for making this program possible. Contact Information: ravenchronicles.org

206.941.2955, editors@ravenchronicles.org, Mailing address: 15528 12th Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA 98155

No, That’s My Name…

The Recovery Café sits on the corner of Boren and Denny, in downtown Seattle. It is a unique and remarkable place.

“Recovery Café and its School for Recovery serve men and women who have suffered trauma, homelessness, addiction and/or other mental health challenges. In this loving community, men and women experience belonging, healing and the joy of contributing. The Café and School for Recovery helps participants develop tools for maintaining recovery and stabilizing in mental / physical health, housing, relationships and employment / volunteer service.” —Excerpt from mission statement on the Recovery Café website [www.recoverycafe.org].

Writer/teacher, Anna Bálint, joined the Café community as a volunteer, teaching writing classes with the School of Recovery. Over time, her classes evolved into Safe Place Writing Circle, an ongoing and fluid group that has met weekly for the past year and a half. Its purpose is to provide a “safe place” for Cafe members to creatively explore many different aspects of their lives through writing, and give voice to their beliefs, hopes and fears. Some amazing stories and poems emerge, on a regular basis, from everyone involved. Here is one of those voices.


 

No, That’s My Name…

It’s Bong with an A, not bAng.  No, it sounds like bOng, but with an A.
Yah, yah, like a water bong, or the sound of a gong.  bOng!
It’s got an A, not an O.  You have to stretch the A: Baaang.
In Vietnamese it means equal.  Not anything fancy like Equality and Liberty.
It’s more common, like “same.”  Like “these two are the same,” or “we are the same.”
My whole name in Vietnamese means, “Man of the people among them”
and goes all the way back to ancient Vietnam.

Anyways, we’re just talking about the Americanized way to say my name.
In my language it’s not even said this way.  There’s a whole lot of accent marks missing
in your “American” language.  The “A” should have an accent mark like a bamboo hat over it.
That makes the A sound low, then high, then low again, all in one letter.
No, your language is too flat to say it.  No way you can pronounce it.

OK, OK. Bâng…
No, lower, then higher, then lower.  Start with a dip, go up, then pull back.
Bâng … Forget it.  Let’s talk about something else, and you can practice later.
And no, I don’t want to get stoned ’cuz of my name!

—Bang Nguyen

 

Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.