On the first day of workshop, we discussed the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence. We discussed poems by Ada Limón and Robert Hayden, focusing on their use of literal and figurative language to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing poems of gratitude.
On day two, we delved into the first skill of emotional intelligence—recognizing emotions. We discussed a short story by Tommy Orange, focusing on his use of craft to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing short stories focusing on identity and community.
On day three, we delved into the second skill of emotional intelligence—understanding emotions. We discussed poems by Patricia Smith and Natasha Trethewey, focusing on their use of poetic form to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing ekphrastic and persona poetry.
On day four, we delved into the third skill of emotional intelligence—labeling emotions. We discussed a poem by Philip Larkin, focusing on his use of cliche to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing poems that reinvent cliche.
On the final day of workshop, we delved into the final two skills of emotional intelligence—expressing and regulating emotions. We discussed a short story by Karen Russell, reviewing all that we learned about emotional intelligence throughout the week. We finished class by revising our creative work and sharing our revisions.
Ruby and Gayathri’s poems, which you will encounter below, and the rest of the poems, short stories, and essays shared in workshop, are extraordinary for many reasons, not the least of which, their mindfulness. I am proud of and thankful for their creative work as well as the generosity and enthusiasm they had when creating it. I have no doubt that their work will resonate long after you are done reading.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
Joshua Balicki is a graduate of the University of Iowa and an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin where he is a James A. Michener Fellow. He teaches at the Iowa First Nations Program at The University of Iowa and is an editor for the Iowa Prison Writing Project.
Before you were born, you were a twinkle in the shimmering eyes of your parents
You were the swishing of your mom’s flowy skirt as she danced and weaved
Before you were born, you were the hollow bounce of a leathery ball on a slick, wooden court that smelled like home
You were the crinkle of an old book’s worn paper being flipped through
Before you were born, you were a glossy, red mixer incorporating ingredients together to make a perfect batch of mouthwatering butter cookies
Before you were born, you were the hard work and love of many before you
Sunday mornings are dusting,
sweeping, vacuuming, organizing.
To me, just another fun day.
As I slip into outdoor clothes,
rushing out the door,
my Mom’s voice, “take care!”
When I play and play, finally home,
on the sofa gulping down a huge glass of water,
I take a huge breath, filling my lungs with the aroma.
It’s my favorite food.
My Mom’s cooking lunch.
After my Mom drops me to class,
when I’m back, the house is clean as a whistle.
While my Mom cooks dinner, I bathe
With a full stomach, I brush my teeth.
Before going to bed, I take a peek at my Mom.
I hadn’t seen her sit the whole day.
Now she’s getting clothes from the dryer.
I walk to the big pile of clothes.
I take a moment thinking about my Mom.
The only magic that I witness every day.
Then I start folding the clothes,
one by one.