There is a poem written by a much-respected performing poet and the author of at least five collections of original poems, Brendan Constantine, that captures an exploration of the power of language and the creation of meaning quite beautifully.
The poem, “The Opposites Game,” arose out of a writing exercise for Constantine’s elementary school creative writing students at Windward School in Los Angeles, California. It is also a powerful look through the eyes of children about a perennial and perhaps quintessential American question: “What is the opposite of a gun?”
Blank Verse Films, a project to film spoken poetry started by filmmaker Mike Gioia, turned Constantine’s poem into a short film that quickly went viral on YouTube in April, 2018. Here’s the video:
The following year, in 2019, the “The Opposites Game” poem was made into a TED-Ed short film by Anna Samo and Lisa LaBracio. If you click on the button below, you can also see what they did with the poem. It’s a very different take.
POETRY AS COMMUNITY SERVICE AND A BLESSING WAY
Besides being a teacher at local schools and colleges, an award-winning poet and a popular performer, Constantine is an ardent supporter of the poetry communities in Southern Calfornia. Among other things, he has helped to organize poetry workshops for veterans, hospitals, foster care centers, and shelters for the homeless.
Constantine is especially proud of his work with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, an initiative developed by Gary Glazner in 2003, that brings interactive poetry reading into the lives of those with Alzheimer’s and their families.
Then in 2017, Constantine worked with speech-language pathologist Michael Biel who teaches at California State University, Northridge, to develop the first poetry workshop for Biehl’s remarkable “Aphasia Book Club”. The book club, the first of its kind for people coping with the effects of aphasia, was organized by Dr. Biel and his public librarian wife Francie Schwarz and has been in existence since 2013. The group meets at the public library where Schwarz works.
(You can find out more about it by clicking on the Book Club name above.)
Aphasia, in case you didn’t know, is a language disorder caused by damage in a part of the left brain that is responsible for language expression and comprehension. It also messes up reading and writing skills as well.
The condition may happen following a stroke or severe head injury. It can also be the result of a brain tumor, a brain infection, or progressive neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s as well. It affects about a million people in America, according to the National Aphasia Association, who say that nearly 180,000 Americans acquire it each year.
HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: “Rijksmuseum – The Gun Room 1, Amsterdam” by Gilbert Sopakuwa via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Please note: If you would like to contribute a poem to this LIFE-BUILT POEMS: Living Out Loud blog, please click on the button below and check out the “Guest Poet Portal.”
I do ask three things of my guest poets:
- a poem of your own making that has great meaning and mana for you,
- the back-story for the poem — what inspired you or how you made it or whatever you want to tell about it, and
- an image you own that I can use as the featured photo in the header. (The last is optional. I do ask that the image you share is one you own — either an image of yourself or something that relates to the poem. If you choose not to send an image, then I’ll go find something that works.)
Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.