Where Words Meet Addiction: Part 1

The following article by Anna Joranger will be presented in four parts, each Thursday through July. Italicized portions of the article represent writing excerpts from anonymous participants in this Urban Gateways program.

Persephone, Falling

One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful flowers, one unlike all the others! She pulled, stooped to pull harder— when, sprung out of the earth on his glittering terrible carriage, he claimed his due. It is finished. No one heard her. No one! She had strayed from the herd.

(Remember: go straight to school. This is important, stop fooling around! Don’t answer to strangers. Stick with your playmates. Keep your eyes down.) This is how easily the pit opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.

[Rita Dove, Poet Laureate of the United States 1993-1995]

Before you became that young woman walking down the road, you were the tiniest star up above down the road, you were the tiniest star up above the world where the unknown is, floating by the moon. You were the untouchable and unpredictable. You were a little gift in your mother’s womb, waiting to be born. You were the shine in her eyes that gleamed when she looked in the mirror, the light when you were born was undescribable, so dim yet so bright. [Anonymous program participant]

When Urban Gateways teaching artist Maia Morgan chose the myth of Persephone as the theme for a writing and performance workshop with girls recovering from substance abuse and addiction, she used Rita Dove’s poem to introduce the topic and spark writing. Dove’s poem speaks directly to the darkness that Morgan was tasked with addressing: How do young women fall into the ‘underworld’? How can we bring them back? Or, maybe more importantly, how can we empower them to return on their own?

And how can writing and art help empower them?