Take Away the Fear
I am part of a group at my church whose job it is to plan — we are the curriculum planners. (I write this first sentence and immediately think of that scene in The Godfather when Al Pacino yells, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” I always swear I’m done with teaching, but teaching’s not done with me.)
In our last meeting we wondered what to do for Advent, and I proposed a writing, poetry, and creative arts workshop, where we explore the word “advent” through the arts and connect it to our lives and the lives of others. Participants would write, sketch, draw, perhaps even bake their way through the season of Advent, and their final project would be a collection of their work in an Advent journal. (Who talks like this? TEACHERS! Teachers talk like this.)
“I’d be happy to lead it,” I said, (Callie! What are you doing?)
“I have all the materials,” I said. (Back up, back up, back up!)
“And I love doing this stuff.” (WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW STOP TALKING!)
I’ll tell you what was happening. I started to make a list. My feet started bopping. I sat up straight. It was nearing 9 o’clock at night, I’d been up since 5 in the morning, and up until that point I was falling asleep. But when talk of a creative workshop began, I was wide awake.
“I love this idea,” someone in the group said. “But you’ll need to take away the fear.”
“Yes, yes,” several people chimed in, and then began telling me what it was they were afraid of: that they won’t “get” poetry, that they’ll not be able to write or draw anything, that what they make won’t be good.
I listened and nodded along and remembered a time when a teacher asked Harper to sing a solo for something. “If you don’t want to do it, that’s okay,” her teacher began. “But if you want to do it and you’re afraid,” she continued, “well, we can work with that.”
I can show you how to turn your setting into an evocative scene; teach you to use dialogue that moves the story forward and develops character. I can pluck a metaphor from your story, hand it to you and say, “This is waiting for you. See what you can do with it.”
I cannot take away your fear.
What if we brought our fear to our work? What if we gave her a seat at our desk? What if we gave fear a story? A place to go, something to do? What if we gave fear a voice?
Let’s start small. Say fear is your main ingredient. It’s October after all, so it’s in season — on sale in bushels at the farmers market. Now you’ve brought fear home with you, taken it out of your cloth bag and set it on the table. What now? What in the world can you possibly make? Who would want to look at this? You can barely look at it.
How about some seasonings? Let’s start with prepositions. Maybe think of them as the angels that surround and hover, lift fear up, and walk alongside her.
My fear sits in my stomach
she tap dances across my back
she is hungry
and she wants to dance.
My fear sits next to me
in the car —
tells me to turn
the volume down
because my fear
has something to say
My fear slips
under the covers,
tells me she’s exhausted
but knows she won’t sleep
I open the bedroom window
let the fresh air in
a lullaby for her
and for me
I will sleep
and she will run and leap
she will be wild
her dreams of freedom, true
Try It: Take Away the Fear
Take your fear home. Take it out of the bag. Put it in a poem.
Browse more poetry prompts
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.