NDJ:6 Sheila Felberbaum, LCSW

Leaving of Class of 2007
A Whitman’s Sampler

Great are the folks at New Directions and myself
             We are each just as good and bad writers as those that came before us and after. What machinations they went through What procrastinations before putting pen to paper… Weeks gone by without words of worth… Yet drawers and closets cleaned, files rearranged and flowers planted. Jealousy of the well-published… disdain of own work Aspirations of greatness…places on best-seller lists, Awards awarded, and book tours standing- room only.

What they felt. ..do we not we feel it in ourselves!
What they wished…do we not wish the same? (p. 156)

Transformative moments:
Essays so ably given by Peter Shaft and Judy Batchelor
at NMCOP, a Psychoanalytic Conference, in 2003
which serendipitously influenced my path, propelled me toward
New Directions and the summer option at Stowhof
in the hamlet of Stowe Vermont.
Fifteen pages of writing required,
what had I? Professional jargon to hide behind or
the poems of my he art….personal candor I decided
All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor (p.20)
Piecing together fragments written during the illness and the dying of my mother
A poem, I did transfigure, Never expecting this elegy would the template be for three years of workshops; Revision, revision, revision (my computer screen spell check message suggests that I should consider revising the aforementioned fragment).

A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning.
Has anyone fancied he could sit at last under some due authority and
rest satisfied with explanations and realize and be content and full!
To no such terminus does the greatest poet bring. ..he brings neither
cessation or sheltered fatness and ease. (p.24) Oh, what of that virgin experience? Sue Willen’s free writes… joy, did bestow in prompts: prodigious, evocative, instructive and catalytic. They included:
I couldn’t believe my eyes
Remember it’s a secret
Describe the flower provided using simile, memory, and metaphor. I will never forget that summer: the welcome from alumni who offered me a place at the table to eat, to write, to laugh, to cry, to grow;
Gay, Peter, Ursula, Doris, Michael, and, of course Judi
who asked me about my menopausal flashes and adolescent exuberance
as we lounged beside a reflecting swimming pool,
the small group process with Bob and Bo Winer, deconstructing my poem,
forming a dyad with Martha Dupecher reconstructing our analyst’s offices
in rhyme and verse and
basking in the glow of Sharon Alperovitz as she dispensed grace, beauty, and an
uncanny ability to calm wounded healers.
I take part… .1 see and hear the whole (p.7l).

Two more Stowe summers, at Edson Hill, Denise Orenstein, Mistress of Knowing, taskmaster supreme, provoked the best and the worst, the deepest of the deep, the ridiculous to the sublime in memorable prompts:
Close your eyes: touch, feel, and smell the object in your hand
The worst meal you have ever had
The word or image you associate to writing
The worst thing you have ever done in your life

In the Beginning
First weekend New Directions: One Washington Circle,
a boutique hotel in Washington D.C.
All is made ready by our Wizard Paco Martinez-Alvarez, a genus of coordination, humor and endless patience absorbing two page papers snail mailed, e-mailed or faxed, and procuring rooms to sleep, work and learn.

Critical Thinking Thursday:
Who am I to judge the work of others? Read and critique.

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, stuffed with the stuff that is course, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine. (p.45)

It is with confusion we wander among:

Discussion Groups, the Combined Scientific Meeting,
Writing Workshops, and Writing groups.
I ultimately refer to the Sunday morning meeting as my Home Group:
Mary Carpenter and Liz Hersh steer us through the rough, the tough,
the touching and the transcendent.
“Write for yourself first, as honestly as you can, later on deal with other concerns”
Mary tells us. “Don’t change a word of it” Liz intones at the end of my poem.
We began with 6 students then reduced by assorted life experiences to myself
and Ann Devaney, a finer writing partner, a finer friend, there could never be.

Full Circle
In March of 2007, a paper I did present
for NMCOP, the conference from which, for me, it all began.
Peter Shaft provided the frame, as we extolled New Directions
and described the writing process for

“Poetic License: Mourning a Parallel Process” by Sheila Felberabaum I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new washed babe… (p.34)

As We End
Can the years past truly be three? What New Directions has meant to me:
intellectual stimulation, collegial bonding, emotional stretching, finding a home.
Will you seek a far off! You surely will come back at last,
Happiness not in another place, but this place…not for
another hour, but this hour (p. 107) ■
Great is the flow of words, and equally great is the ending of words, knowing when enough
Is enough is also great.

[Page references are to excerpts from Whitman, Walt (1855, 2005). Leaves of Grass, 2005, 150th Anniversary First Edition. Oxford University Press.]