Creating Peace

When I first joined Tiferet’s Spiritual Poetry Writing class in July 2020, I never expected to find a well-spring of creativity and a source of sustenance in an online community of writers, never imagined I would spend an entire year of Thursday afternoons on Zoom, connecting so deeply with strangers.

The class is hosted and facilitated by Donna Baier Stein, an award-winning novelist, short story writer, and poet, founder of Tiferet Journal and a gifted teacher. Donna selects poems from a range of religious and spiritual traditions. She reads the first poem aloud, suggests a writing prompt to us, instructs us we’re free to choose a different prompt, sets a timer for 10 minutes, and reminds us to mute ourselves. 

Then we free-write. 

We repeat this process for the second poem. Then Donna invites us to share one of our poems with the group. Finally, we read and write a third poem, and, if there’s time, we share a second poem we’ve written in class.

Donna has not only created a safe space for us to share our work; she has created a haven in turbulent times, where compassionate and kind people gather to support one another. Donna creates peace.

In September 2020 I posted about my experience in class and shared a poem I’d written on the Rabbis Without Borders blog. In January and June 2021, my poems were published in class chapbooks. 

Then I was forced to take the summer off from class to attend to other pressing life issues. 

This week I return after a 3-month hiatus. I’m moving forward into this second year with a more expansive mindset, open to discovering new meaning and forging new relationships. I’m looking forward to scribbling barely legible lines of poetry in the pages of my writer’s notebook during the 10-minute intervals before Donna’s timer gently pulls us back together. 

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Here is one of my poems from Tiferet Spiritual Poetry Chapbook Volume III. You can find all 3 volumes on the Tiferet website, each available for a $10 donation.

Creation (after The Thousand-Stringed Instrument by Hafiz, a 14th century Sufi poet)

When the Beloved takes my pen in hand, 

and turns my wrist gently, 

aligning it carefully, 

so it rests vertically, 

intersecting the lined paper

of my notebook, 

holding it poised 

mere millimeters above the page, 

waiting patiently, and then 

allows it to caress the page 

like a lover, 

who pushes aside a strand of hair 

that has fallen across my cheek,

When the Beloved takes my pen in hand,

and sketches fine lines into letters,

I straighten my spine 

to view what is formed 

in partnership with the Divine.