Performance, education, and collaborative research for health, justice, and community-building.

Artist's Poetry of Purpose

Added on by Marie Garlock.


At a July InterPlay Arts + Social Change training in Oakland, CA  -- a 2 week training for "Millenial Leaders under 35" -- we trainees were asked to play with our life purpose as poetry. As you might sense already, the framing of "play" and the invitation for poetic license invites a little more freedom than the typical "So.....what are you going to DO with _____(fill in the blank practice, methodology) !?!!?".  Our co-leader Cynthia, in her way of flipping boundaries inside out and approaching BIG questions with a PLAYFUL spirit, suggested that listening to our "call" may not mean meting out a "mission statement" with a hammer and a hard focus, but instead may unfold a bit more like poetry. I think poetry trickles in at the nexus of complexity and simplicity. Poetry, Cynthia mused, is typically something more easily remembered and held, alive in the bosom and belly. 

So much happened in the 11 days our cohort shared to apprentice in InterPlay: a practice of creativity, rest, and play. A form of carving out collective and individual space for ease by linking movement/dance, story, voice, stillness, and improvisation. Among other things, InterPlay brings spontaneity and interactivity to hefty social and political issues. To places in our bodies and societies that are long-term stuck, and to practices or habits that are short-term icky. InterPlay allows fun (what!? as adults, or patients, or addicts or researchers, we're allowed?) and spirituality (the container through which many substances flow) to shift us into new ways of listening, seeing, and exploring. Thank you to our teachers (Cynthia, Phil, Soyinka, Agnotti, and more in the Oakland arts + social change community) for the chance to be in Big Breath. Thank you to my 12 fellow participants and dear friends, from all over the world (India, Australia, Canada, across the US), for the chance to be soulful and embodied companions, looking over a widened vista, with widened arms.


InterPlay Arts + Social Change Training

The performers, teachers, facilitators, leaders in the 2014 InterPlay Arts + Social Change training were asked the following question by Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter (cofounders of the now 25-year-old practice called InterPlay): What IS your artist's call? The scary-good kind....

"Scary-good", as far as I can tell, means engaging the gifts you actually *like* to use -- versus those you or others are simply in the habit of asking you to employ. Your purpose is probably not something you've already completely mastered. Cynthia suggested our life-purpose may be something that will make you a bit nervous -- because life is neither meant to be pure glassy surface to skim atop nor pure struggle to rough-house through. Instead, life is a chance, a series of mountains and valleys, a beautiful initiation.

So, this -- the poetry of purpose -- will be the topic of my very first bog post .... ! (BIG DEAL, SMALL DEAL ;)  ). I write it with the hope that some of you may want to write yours, too.....

Art at Redux Studio, Cynthia Winton-Henry,  

Art at Redux Studio, Cynthia Winton-Henry, 

I feel broken open by this whole process. I did at the time it spilled forth, with a bit of abandon, and then showed up again in what InterPlay calls a "Big Body Story" .... no limits to how you use your full physicality and the spatial surroundings you're inhabiting. BIG BODY STORIES allow you to be surprised and, in a way, let the story tell you. No limits.... so I thought! This workshop piece, and the below writing, inspired an improvisation in our "art shares" (15 minute performances from each person in a "circle walkabout" around your seated, inward facing audience, which is thus freed to look or listen however they please).

My unexpected story brought me through an arc of gratitude and grief (and political renderings of health injustices in my state of NC, where my mom's brief lapse in insurance meant cancer spread, and where thousands will die and half a million will be without health insurance due to politicians' block of free Medicaid expansion. ....SO THOSE ARE BIG THINGS).

...And in one of the larger jumps which became a part of the performance I did, this arc of gratitude and grief landed me on my ankle all wrong (a few torn ligaments etc). Something big to be released. Cracked open. (Certainly being hurt teaches you is how to accept help and generosity from others: self-image check!). One of those big things is being real -- in a way that does not pretend or portend answers or ultimate "truth" -- about the ways that Spirit with a BIG S just keeps on keeping on, moving through my life. I want to be brave and give it thanks in ways that allow others to do the same. 


So here's to being broken open. And learning that rest (yes, I said REST!) is a HUGE part of what Cynthia names the trifecta of "creativity, rest, play" vital to all beings. In the lens InterPlay frames, my "body data, body knowledge, and body wisdom" (all three!) told me that, too. Thank you very much :). The body and the divine move together -- it's not that there are "no limits" but rather, that we sometimes in this human form get to touch places where limits and limitlessness have their waltz. What a blessed boundary to traverse.


Poetry of Purpose (July 23) 

Try # 1.  I a(i)m to be 

a listener, lover of people,

of elders in all ages, forms,

of the very chance to soak up    



being with other ways of seeing

      part of a moving body

        dancing the fluidity 

  of tradition and innovation, 

         allowing intuition 

         to build poetry 

    new metaphor through 

          ancient wisdom

I am  (who me!?) 

called to be with African and diasporic roots, the wisest communal-modes and flows of knowing, sensing, praying, growing

to manifest cross-cultural connection and curious respect among continents 

Try #2.

{  gasp:  my purpose on this planet is   }

helping — self (with more ease), others (with clarity) — set sail on big oceans

knowing the wind

the Big wind

will blow breath through

our words, fingertips, souls,

an inner-flame will be our guide and fuel


reminding, hint-learning 

to vessel-be, conduit-see

to envision, respect, affirm dignity




Try #3. how / what? (we may not know why….) 

…… by dancing fullest body, THE moving body, OUR moving, movement-body (which is sometimes still)

trying to be good at what I, and you, do not yet know (and to listen to what we do)

to build opportunity, challenge, resiliency, creative trust, to surrender to God-Be


..... to Be Unafraid to Be Unafraid

To invite the discipline of ease

to accept the play and work and play of brotherhood and sisterhood, beinghood

the magic in the every-single-moment


....To follow the miracles that will unfold, and already do

....To unbelieve dis-belief


to be with and break down, break down

the color boundary and continental hierarchy (that keeps showing up in divisions of ethnicity, gender, sex, and economy)

to Liberate Consciousness through Peace = Body = Soul

and Unabashed Ancestor Comradery



Try #4.


..... It's my "job" (whoops) ....privilege to write things down

in body scripts

and paper scrolls

so that the toll 

of injustice will not 

continue to be marked across our skin

(nefariously sneaking in 

to sew up hearts that are meant to burst - wide - open)

we     shall not     bleed internally.

  let's pump life force:





Unafraid to Be Unafraid.








                        - marie garlock, interplay 2014