One of the telling phrases that sums up the practice of transformative mediation is ‘turning conflict into conversation’. We believe that conflict is essentially a crisis in interaction, that the crisis can be addressed through interaction, specifically conversation, with the support of a trained intervenor. One of the key ways support is given is through interventions with the aim of having the speaker hear their words and having the listener hear the speaker’s words.
Often mirroring this conversation with the other is a conversation that we have with ourselves.
Naomi Shihab Nye, an American poet, refers to poetry as a “conversation with the world, conversation with those words on the page allowing them to speak back to you– conversation with yourself” in an interview with Bill Moyers of PBS recorded in 2002.
I’d like to share with you the first poem of hers I came across. I think it echoes very well this sense of a conversation with ourselves:
Missing the Boat
It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy–
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.
Naomi Shihab Nye Different Ways to Pray– Breitenbush Publications, 1980
I’m afraid I cannot resist a couple more samples of her work:
My Grandmother in the Stars
By Naomi Shihab Nye
It is possible we will not meet again
on earth. To think this fills my throat
with dust. Then there is only the sky
tying the universe together.
Just now the neighbor’s horse must be standing
patiently, hoof on stone, waiting for his day
to open. What you think of him,
and the village’s one heroic cow
is the knowledge I wish to gather.
I bow to your rugged feet,
the moth-eaten scarves that knot your hair.
Where we live in the world
is never one place. Our hearts,
those dogged mirrors, keep flashing us
moons before we are ready for them.
You and I on a roof at sunset,
our two languages adrift,
heart saying, Take this home with you,
and only memory making us rich.
And, Bill Moyers’ favourite:
NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: The Art of Disappearing.
When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.
You can learn more about Nye, her life and work at Wikipedia as well as find other links to her.