Wisconsin Poetry Activists | Michael McDermott

Interviewed by Lisa Vihos, November 27, 2015

Black Earth Institute has a new group of fellows every three years. We bring people to Wisconsin from all over the country. The Institute promotes people’s work, and they in turn do projects that further the goals of the Institute.

Can poetry change the world? You bet! Sure it can. Sometimes it feels like we are speaking to the choir, and sometimes we are. BEI exists at the intersection of social justice, environmental justice, and spirituality. We are a progressive think tank.

Artists speak truth, but they go beyond that to a deeper sense of things. Art embodies truth.

Michael McDermott, MD, is the co-director of Black Earth Institute, founded by McDermott and poet Patricia Monaghan. BEI is a Wisconsin-based progressive think-tank dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society. In addition to its fellows’ program, BEI publishes the journal About Place. Read a reflection by Sarah Sadie on Brigit Rest, where BEI is located, here.

Photo at Brigit Rest by Lisa Vihos.

“Wisconsin Poetry Activists” is a flash interview series by Lisa Vihos, which grew out of research that she conducted for an article in Wisconsin People & Ideas, Turning on the Lights, Spring 2016.

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nothing is lost: coming home again after Brigit Rest

photo credit: Sadie

photo credit: Sadie

When you go on a weekend retreat, waking up Sunday morning everyone has one foot out the door already. Packing papers, books, pens and notes away. Stripping the sheets off the bed. Taking home any leftover chocolate or half-open bottles of wine that didn’t quite get finished.

Pausing a minute, I turned the knob on the prompt-and-fortune teller for one last word.

Nothing is lost. Not the car keys. Not even paradise.

The next day, Monday, fellow participant Lisa Vihos wrote a brief essay about our time together and published it over at the Best American Poetry blog, titling it “To Heaven and Back Again.”

So there’s a theme here.

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“Listening for the Small Voice” at Brigit Rest – FULL

Be you painter, poet, music maker, cook, quilter, justice worker, community builder, or simply someone trying to steer a new path in life, creativity benefits from dedicated time. Go off the clock for a weekend to write, draw, make, plan, stare out windows, take walks, and dream. Get out of your head and engage your senses to listen for the small voices, to seek out the not-yet-explored potential of a project or an hour.

You are invited to bring whatever project(s) you are working on, or simply bring your  enthusiasm. Each retreat offers a collage station, a creativity library of articles and essays, group conversation and plenty of time for work.

The comfortable, homelike atmosphere of Black Earth Institute’s Brigit Rest ensures a productive weekend for all, whether your goal is to dive into a project and lose yourself or wander the woods and find yourself.
Together, we’ll explore how place and community help us listen for the quiet voices.

BR Library reading area

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