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“Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.”

-Lucille Clifton

Commission a poet to add a verse to your family’s story.

The Spark & Stitch Family Poetry Project offers you the chance to have a personalized live session with partner poet Diver Van Avery. Let a poet create words that provide a powerful and creative mirror of your family’s experiences.

“Parenting during a pandemic has not only been isolating, it felt truly invisible at times – marked by wildly mundane yet totally exhausting juggling acts day after day. There are just fewer opportunities to share both the losses we’ve experienced and the strengths and delights of our little family systems. Poetry creates evidence of where we have been together and who we are to each other.”

– Erin Walsh

“I really didn’t know what to expect and to be honest I was a little nervous. But the conversation flowed and by the time Diver read us our poem on the phone we were all crying.”

– Emily Sturm

You deserve more than just information and strategies – you also need experiences that honor who you are and create opportunities for reflection, meaning-making, and connection. 

Neuroscience has demonstrated over and over again that we human beings are powered by story and emotion as much as cognition. This is why we are thrilled to be able to launch the Family Poetry Project as we mark a full year of parenting during a pandemic. 

There is no simple way to feel about all we have lived through, individually, as families, and as a collective. Undoubtedly, we have been impacted in profound ways. We want to offer you the chance to commission a session with founding Spark & Stitch collaborator and partner poet Diver Van Avery to talk about you and your loved ones, what you have struggled with and been grateful for, what you have lost and what you have learned, what you done and who you have become.

Why a poem?

This month marks a year of living through a global health crisis and long overdue racial reckoning. We each have our own identities, vulnerabilities, strengths, and stories. We are also tired. In our own exhaustion, letting someone else be witness and put words to what we’ve done together is an incredible gift. Commission a poem…

To honor yourself, your family, your partner, your children, your loved ones. 

To make meaning.

To pause for reflection. 

To have a record of this time. 

To receive a gift that is completely personal, completely yours, and completely unique.

How does it work?

Schedule it.

  1. Decide how much you want to pay from the sliding scale fee.
  2. Fill out the form and select a date and time for your 30 minute session.
  3. When your date/time arrives, you will receive a phone call from Diver.

Participate in the session.

  1. You will decide if you want a poem for yourself, for your family, or for you to give as a gift to someone in your life.
  2. You don’t have to have anything prepared! Diver will ask you questions. All you have to do is talk. Questions range from; “Tell me about what it looks like and sounds like in your house.” to “What has it felt like to fall apart?”
  3. After 10-20 minutes of talking, Diver will put the phone on speaker and set it down next to the typewriter. Your poem will be written as you sit in reflection. Remember, YOU ARE NOT WRITING THE POEM! Diver will write you the poem that emerges from your conversation. When the poem is done, Diver will read it to you. Perhaps there will be crying. There often is.

Enjoy it.

Your typed out poem will be mailed to you. You can frame it, put in on your refrigerator, send it to the person you write it for, or keep it in a secret place to pull out when you need it the most. 

Schedule Your Poetry Session

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does this cost?

We are able to offer a sliding scale of $45-$65 for the poetry session and a personalized poem that will be sent to you in the mail. Your money goes directly to paying the artist a livable wage for her creative work, for increasing Spark & Stitch Institute’s work in the arts, and to our anti-racism commitment of donating 5% of all proceeds to  the Conscious Kid’s Anti-Racist Children’s Books Education Fund.

What do you mean by "family poem?"

We use family in the broadest sense here, including but not limited to your loved ones, family of origin, the family you live with, or your chosen family.

You are certainly invited to have your entire family present during the poetry session. Kids have a lot to contribute and participating in the process gives them more ownership over the poem that emerges! That said, these sessions are flexible. You might choose to do a session to talk about your kids, partner, grandparents, a new baby, or a beloved outside of your home and present the poem as a gift to them!

In other words, this poem can be for you, for your family, or presented as a gift from you to someone you love. We all need to be seen right now. You get to decide who participates in the session and who the poem is for / focuses on.

 

Can I give a session as a gift?

Yes! There are two ways that these sessions are often used as gifts.

  1. You can book a session to participate in yourself but the focus of the session is your loved one. For example, you may choose to talk to Diver about your own parents, your partner, your children or a friend. When you receive the poem in the mail, you can gift it to them!
  2. You can choose to gift the session itself for a loved one to participate in.  In this case, you might want to present your loved one with the idea (you can even use our gift card template). Then come back to this site to book a time that works for them and simply forward them the confirmation email with the session details, time, and date. Make sure you use the phone number and address of the recipient in the form!

What is the finished product?

Your poem will be typed onto a designed 5″ by 8″ high quality print and mailed to you at the address provided in the scheduling form. You might choose to frame it and hang it in a common area, mail it to a loved one, place it in a special spot, or make a copy for everyone in the family. You do you.

Do I have to prepare? Do I need to be creative/articulate/artistic...?

No and no. You have already prepared for a poem by parenting and living! The Family Poetry Project commissions a poet to create a personalized poem for you based on your conversation. No preparation or background in the arts or poetry necessary.

Why is Spark & Stitch offering this project?

We re-branded as Spark & Stitch Institute just before the pandemic. We chose the name because it is active, creative, playful, and leaves room for both the science and art of raising connected and courageous kids. The Family Poetry Project is the first of many offerings to come that integrate creative arts . Neuroscience has demonstrated over and over again that we human beings are powered by story and emotion as much as cognition. We are committed to sparking new ways of connecting and stitching new neural pathways – made stronger by engaging in science, creativity, and the arts. 

This month also marks a year of living through a global health crisis and long overdue racial reckoning. We know that children and adults alike build resilience by narrating their own stories and by engaging in activities that build meaning and connection. Creative opportunities like this one allow families to take time to process this year in a creative way and build an identity that says “we can do hard things together.” 

Who is Diver Van Avery?

Diver Van Avery is a writer, educator, and public artist based out of Minneapolis. Her relationship with Spark & Stitch long precedes the Family Poetry Project. Diver and Erin Walsh co-created and co-taught an undergraduate program called Making Media, Making Change with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs for years. Van Avery was a founding collaborator of Spark & Stitch Institute in 2019 and, among other projects, worked closely with Erin and Dr. Dave to design and direct the entire library of Spark & Stitch online parenting classes.

Van Avery founded and is the Director of Poetry for People (PfP) whose mission is to embed poetry into the daily lives and geographies of neighborhoods. Van Avery was a lead artist for two projects selected for Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Awards, an award that highlights the most compelling art projects across the country. In all of her work, Van Avery believes that art is an essential catalyst for connection and can lay the foundation for political change.  Her original performance and directing work has been presented at the Walker Arts Center, Pantages Theatre, Bedlam Theatre, Pangea World Theatre, Intermedia Arts, and Pillsbury House + Theatre. She has been a Community Cultural Leadership Institute Fellow at Intermedia Arts, and received the Arts on Chicago Public Art Grant from Pillsbury House Theatre, the Jerome Travel and Study Grant, the Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Residency, the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, the Jerome Foundation’s Fellowship at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Writer-to-Writer Mentorship Program at SASE, and the Naked Stages Emerging Performance Artist Fellowship Intermedia Arts.

Her award winning past projects have all been done in collaboration with other artistic luminaries and have allowed her to partner with Mississippi River Connection, Northern Lights, the Community Planning and Economic Department of Minneapolis, Shakopee Women’s Prison, public libraries,  the Public Works department, and City of Lakes Community Land Trust. Van Avery received an MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University and is pursuing a Masters in Counseling to allow her to focus on healing the disembodiment and wounds that are caused by oppression. A single queer parent by choice, Van Avery lives with her dog and her daughter in the Powderhorn neighborhood.

Close up photo of Diver Van Avery, poet and Spark & Stitch Institute collaborator

“I’ve been writing poems for people for over ten years. It would be an honor to write one for your family.”

-Diver Van Avery, Spark & Stitch Partner Poet

  • Poet Diver Van Avery reading a poem to a parent and her two children in a park
  • Image of person typing on typrewriter as seen from above