In 1995, I lived on a friend's couch for eight months, in depression. During that depression I wrote only one poem. Because I now call couch-surfing being "homeless in denial," I will include that one here -- when I find it. A lot gets lost in the Great Gray Fog.
Finally I became officially homeless. I was fortunate: Seattle has good community health clinics, and after 40 years of undiagnosed and untreated manic depression (bipolar disorder), I was finally diagnosed. I was doubly fortunate: the first time I walked into a homeless shelter was the night a mental health outreach worker was there, and she got my prescription filled. I was triply fortunate: I respond well to Lithium.
Only a week after I began taking Lithium, I was able to push myself into participating in a craft project at Noel House, the homeless women's shelter where I stayed. We were making Halloween cards. This was the first poem I had written in several months.
- Now all threatening shadows
into warmth and light.
I was still confident of my writing, but I wanted to do something more visual at the art gallery, so I decided to try something new. I checked out some books from the library on handmade paper and found art, and walking back I "found" this poem.
- Creating With Found Objects
Out of Limbo
across the pavement
with found objects
The first couple of years of the workshop, I often heard lines like, "Homeless people don't need to be writing poetry! Homeless people need to be out finding a job!" I don't get those comments any more. A number of homeless service organizations have started writing programs and art programs. People noticed that if people are going to recreate our lives, we need our creativity.