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Poetry For the People 

In 1981, with the creation of the Mary Agatha Furth Children’s program at Glide Memorial Church, Fredrick P. Furth put forward a vision of helping children rise out of poverty.  The program encouraged children to tell their stories in writing, on computers, in song, dance and art.  In 1989, The Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, San Francisco’s poet laureate from 2000 – 2002, collected the poems into a book, the first in a series of poetry books published by the church.  For over twenty years Janice continued to inspire, advocate and help others at Glide through poetry.  

“June Jordan, grant awardee of the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, selected Glide Church as collaborative community partner for the Poetry for the People program in San Francisco.  In the Spring and Fall of 1995, our sessions attracted 50-60 students per season, all ages, races, sexual orientations, classes and backgrounds.  Together, under June Jordan’s guidance, her magical spell of teaching, her beautiful gift of writing; and the compassionate dedication of student poet teachers, poetry flowed between street, and church, and university.”  – Janice Mirikitani

The Poetry For the People program began working with a more than just the children of the congregation, supporting those in addiction recovery and other programs. The program published several volumes of poetry and inspired countless Tenderloin residents to express themselves in new ways.  In return, those gathering at Glide Church also inspired world class poets like June Jordan and Maya Angelou: 

“Many Thursdays I’ve been tired and worn and so even contemplation of the trip across the Bridge has seemed nearly impossible.  And yet, every single Thursday, after our workshop get-togethers, I have made the return trip home absolutely full of the sense of blessed privilege, blessed purpose.” -June Jordan (4/9/1996). 

“This compilation of poetry, prose and drawings by children living on the ledge of life humbles me.  I am humbled by the mysterious information in its contents: despite our society’s malignant neglect, they the children, still reach their arms out searching for our love.  Despite the many ways we have abandoned them, their poems still dance with hope for our acceptance.”  -Maya Angelou (March 1989)

Glide Church has continued Janice’s legacy through its Writing Church, handing out free journals and pens to all at Sunday Celebrations and providing writing prompt.  In 2023, Glide Church is reviving Poetry For the People and providing special writing prompts that will help us celebrate, create and cultivate hope.   Those who are interested in sharing their poems, may have their poetry published in new book of poetry featuring both contemporary writing and some of our favorite poems from previous Poetry For the People publications.  The new books will focus on justice, love, faith and prayer.

 

Our first writing prompts are about justice: 

Part 1: Liberating Ourselves From Our Shame 

  • Language is a mirror in which we find ourselves, in which we discover our history, our hope and our home.  Language liberates us, especially those of us who have been imprisoned by secrets and silences and shame.  Words crafted with passion and truth are an affirmation of power.  Creating the various forms of poetry to contain the experiences we wished to express freed many of us. – Janice Mirikitani5 
  • How would you like to be liberated from your shame?  Or, How Would you life be different if you were liberated from your shame? 
  • What kinds of injustices have you experienced? 

Part 2: Seeking Recovery 

  • The circles of poets in Poetry for the People classes are yet another way we enact being a community.  In Glide’s circles of recovery, men and women reveal their secrets, their addictions.  In the circles of the congregation, diversity is celebrated.  In the circles of poetry, our words break through barriers created by inhumane systems, institutions that perpetuate racism, homophobia, sexism, classism and ageism.  We open the vaults of our isolation and loneliness.  With the power of the word we define ourselves and speak to one another in a language that is beautiful.  These circles contain the worlds we create, and like ripples, our compassion spreads. -Janice Mirikitani6 
  • “Recovery is the discovery of who we are…” says Cecil Williams 
  • If recovery is viewed as a process of healing from the injustice you have experienced, how have you been seeking recovery? 
  • What does the path to recovery look like for you or your community? 

Part 3: Loving Our Skin 

  • “We seek one another in a community of acceptance, diversity, celebration, spirituality, redemption.  Here we experience that healing comes form revealing ourselves, telling, writing, singing.” Janice Mirikitani 
  • “Love affords wonder, because it gives us the courage to go inside and see who we are really…” sings Maya Angelou 
  • What are some of the ways you love yourself and why? 
  • How can loving your self heal the injustice you have experienced? 
  • What is your dream of freedom from injustice? 
  • How is your humanness beautiful? 

If you are willing to share your poem with Glide Church, including having it considered for publication in our next volume of Poetry For the People, you can submit your poem in the offering basket during our Sunday Celebrations or email them to mrohrer@glide.org.