There is a great scene in the wonderful picture book, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, in which Wesley, the outcast boy who decides to build a new civilization for summer vacation break, has an argument of sorts with an adult neighbor. Wesley has been prepping a garden, and the neighbor tells him to plant tomatoes, Brussel Sprouts and other common crops.
Instead, Wesley looks towards the unexpected, and makes room for it.
“Wesley found it thrilling to open his land to chance, to invite the new and unknown.”
He decides to leave it to the winds to decide what will grow, and one night, a magical wind of chance does come a-blowing, scattering strange unknown seeds in Wesley’s plot of ground that become the flowering plants that will transform the backyard into the civilization that Wesley calls Weslandia.
The neighbor tells Wesley that if he doesn’t watch out, he will have trouble with the sprouts.
“You’ll have almighty bedlam on your hands if you don’t get those weeds out,” warned his neighbor.
“Actually, that’s my crop,” replied Wesley. “In this type of garden there are no weeds.”
Way back in early January, I started a poem project. A connected poem project. A slow-moving connected poem project. Here’s how it began and still is unfolding:
- I wrote a poem
- I cut up the poem into words and phrases
- I sent a word or phrase to a dozen or more people who have been part of a periodic Making Learning Connected MOOC Postcard Project (we send postcards to each other)
- I asked them in a note on the postcard to go to an online space and add the word and any media they thought applicable
- I suggested they try to reconstruct the poem, sort of like a puzzle (which is difficult with no context, I know … that is part of the whole endeavor)
And I waited. And I waited. (Not my strong suit, this waiting for projects to unfold … I like to do things nownownow)
Nearly eight weeks later, a few postcards are still arriving (some of the postcards went to other parts of the world.) Some postcards never made it. Some may have been forgotten or ignored. But the Padlet wall where the poem is being reconstructed? It’s pretty cool.
While waiting for the postcards to be delivered, I had also started up a Twitter Messaging forum with the folks I sent the postcards to. Originally, I had just intended to “warn” them about the postcard on the way (my handwriting stinks so if they could not read it, I wanted a way for them to reach out).
That string of messages in the Twitter backchannel has become a very interesting space over the past eight weeks or so, as conversations have turned on the project, on the use of traditional mail for a connected learning project, of patience and perseverance, of global connections, and of the nature of “chance” in an open environment. I feel more connected with that conversation that I have with the poem itself, interestingly enough.
And then something interesting happened … one of my friends shared the link to the poem project in a blog post about process of writing (which I think is cool to think of it all as a process of writing and collaboration over time) and one of their readers, another friend of mine outside of the postcard project but in other networks, went and left a piece of media and their own new word on the poem wall. Suddenly, the poem was becoming something new, moving out of my hands in an intriguing way.
So, while I have not yet come to a point of writing about my intent as the first writer behind the Postcard Poetry Project (since the poem is not yet completely reconstructed .. this post is not the reflective post I still intend to write someday), I want to open the whole poem itself to the Winds of Chance, as Wesley did when he was beginning his summer civilization project, and I want to invite you (and you and you) to come into the Padlet wall, and maybe add a word and a piece of media.
What shared writing can we create together? What will the winds bring? Come add to the poem. We will write this next phase of the project together. Wesley would be proud.
Peace (in the poem),