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25th July 2016

Pausing for the Small Things - Workshops at Monte' Sant Angelo Mercy College

By Zainab Zahra Syed

Every time I enter a school to lead a workshop, I have butterflies in my stomach. Not the nervous kind, but the ones that are so eager to fly out and look for some place beautiful to inhabit in someone’s story. It was no different at my workshop with Lilly.

In a world that will tell you to run as fast as you can for the big things, it was beautiful to watch these young, fierce, brilliant girls pause for the small things – tiny everyday objects set in the center of a circle. They didn’t need much prompting before the stories began to spill, poetry worked its way into them and the butterflies found a place to rest and marvel. As did I. I had never used physical objects in my workshops before, and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how far they would be able to take us. However, I underestimated the power of physicality – of holding onto things while writing: a necklace, a photograph, a soft toy. It helped to make the process more tangible instead of conjuring a memory of the thing itself. I particularly enjoyed observing Lilly as a facilitator – she created a safe and welcoming space from the very beginning (all of us sitting in a circle) and held it so well all the way to the very end from the way she conducted the conversation on poetry, to engaging with the girls’ objects and then helping them craft their stories. I felt very honored to be able to witness it and walked away with a handful of new techniques that I will be sure to borrow for the next set of workshops I facilitate.

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These workshops provided professional development for Zainab and Jessica Santosa, who were mentored by Lilly Blue and Candy Royalle.

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Zainab Zahra Syed is a poet engaged for Red Room Creative Learning.

She is a Writer, Performer & Educator. She graduated from Brown University in May 2014 with a degree in Political Science. As an internationally touring Pakistani Spoken Word Artist, Zainab has performed & taught workshops at venues in the US (as part of her Partitions Tour with fellow poet, Paul Tran) as well as in the UK, Europe, South Asia and Australia. She taught writing as healing and empowerment at the women's prison at RI, and to trauma victims in Pakistan.  In 2015 she was a finalist in the National Australian Poetry Slam and... read more »

View the Monte' Sant Angelo Mercy College Poems here »

Find out more about the workshop »