Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Power of Writing

"Hungry Minds: Tales from a Chelsea soup kitchen" is an article in the May 26, 2008, issue of The New Yorker by Ian Frazier. This is a fascinating story about "the largest soup kitchen" in New York City, at The Church of the Holy Apostles at Twenty-eighth Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan.

For fourteen springs, Frazier and others have conducted a weekly writers' workshop there after lunch. In those fourteen years, about four hundred soup kitchen guests have participated. Using optional topics such as "How I Came to New York," "The Other Me," and "My Best Mistake," workshop participants write for about forty-five minutes and then read their pieces aloud: standard writing workshop precedure in a non-standard setting. The groups held public readings each year for audiences of seventy-five to one hundred.

Frazier relates the substance of some memorable workshop writings, including one man's most important moment: his attempting suicide by jumping into the East River. A former backup dancer wrote a song about the soup kitchen.

This article is not only about the writers' workshop. It is also about the history of The Church of the Holy Apostles, its leaders, and its struggles to survive, as well as a history of a Manhattan neighborhood. While Frazier's article is well worth reading for those interested in any of those topics, the part that interested me most included this line:

"Somehow, writing even a few lines makes the person who does it more substantial and real." Their writing makes the soup kitchen guests memorable, and on a mild late May evening, when the church doors are open, "For a moment, the whole city seems to flow in with the air." What a marvelous way to express the power of diversity and compassion--and of writing.

5 comments:

TravelinOma said...

I loved the info here, and especially the last paragraph of this post. It's evocative!

seniorwriter said...

Thank you! It is an interesting New Yorker article.

Pat's Place said...

I would love to try a writing project through a group we have here called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. I forwarded a copy of the article to the founder of the group. I will let you know if anything comes of it.

seniorwriter said...

Pat:

I'm a great believer in such writing projects, and hope to get involved with one eventually. My age and arthritis seem to keep getting in the way.

Lydia said...

Oh, I loved this post. Your final sentence means a lot to me in light of cruddy remarks surrounding the presidential campaign. I'm going to enjoy reading more about this church.