Clients from Bread and Life, the food pantry and community center that St. John’s operates in Brooklyn, shared poetry and songs with STJ students Tuesday during common hour at the Writing Center.
The Common Hour event took place in the Writing Center. The artists all attend creative writing workshops that are offered every other week at the St. John’s Bread and Life shelter.
According to Associate Director Tom Philipose, the Writing Center began working with Bread and Life to give students a chance to use their writing talents to serve.
“Bread and Life came to us,” Philipose said.
“We had a little bit of success with a writing program. We have all these folks who are trained to listen to writers and help them. This is perfect.”
According to Philipose, Bread and Life is a service that uses the art of writing to connect the students to people that need help.
“We can go there [to Bread and Life], and work with folks who could use an ear,” Philipose said. “This is what we do here with students. We can go to a place where folks really need help, maybe writing a letter to a landlord, or folks who want to know if their poetry is good.”
Several of the artists read their work and talked about the ideas behind their writing.Eugene Carrington presented several of his poems at the event. Carrington became involved with writing at Bread and Life when he was having coffee there one morning. Currently, he publishes his own poetry review, which features his work and the work of others.
“I was walking through the hallway and I saw a flyer that said ‘Creative Writing,'” Carrington said.
“At the time I was writing and I was pretty frustrated, because all of my stuff was getting rejected. I was able to link up with Tom [Philipose] and some of his students and they helped to polish up my poetry.”
Carrington could only see one flaw with the program.
“The only shortcoming is that the class is only one hour,” he said.
“The time is kind of limited. But on the lucky days, there are only two or three of us, and I can receive personal attention from two or three tutors.”
Carrington mentioned that his poems are about his everyday life.
“My writing focuses on a lot of my life experiences and what I see around me,” he said. “I’m the type of poet that likes to write poems and essays about my immediate environment.”
Songwriter Karlene “Shadz” Williams also shared her work at the event. Williams became involved with Bread and Life through Carrington.
“He and I did a couple of shows together and he invited me over to St. John’s,” she said. “I’ve been working with them ever since.”Williams said that her work contains the central theme of love.
“Without it, we don’t exist,” Williams said. “In this world that’s full of strife, we need that. [Spirituality is] my passion and I believe that God gave me the gift, so I’m just going with it.”
Philipose said that ideas for a similar event are already circulating.
“The students love it,” he said. “This event went great. We’re already talking about next time here.”