Years ago, I read a book by Christina Baldwin entitled Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture. Though I had sat in many circles before, usually created around sharing writing and poetry, I hadn’t consciously considered the “power of circle”.
Reading Baldwin’s book, I prepared to form my own creative writing workshop circles. I crafted workshops to introduce participants to the poet and writer within themselves. One thing I was privileged to witness within the circle formation was the creative flowering. I imaged it like this:
“It’s like sitting in a hot tub.
We are each self-contained,
tight as individual flower buds.
The warmth of circle
like warm water
creates a fluidity
gradually opening us
to both ourselves and one another
and to the fully blossomed flowers
that we are.”
Within the circle, I have seen this transformation. For the circle ably holds us–our feelings, our desires, thoughts, dreams, awarenesses, what is unique about us and what we share in common. There is woven a web of safety, especially when we agree to the circle principles which are clearly stated as the circle convenes.
When I called a circle, I prepared the space first. I cleaned and freshened the space. I placed the chairs and little tables (for tea) in a circle. I created an altar in the center, usually related to the theme of the workshop. I blessed the space.
If the circle is going to be ongoing with the same members, then it is wise to read the circle principles first. Each principle can be discussed and agreed upon. They can be added to or revised to fit the needs of this particular circle. If it is a one-time circle, as in a workshop, then, I usually mention a few things as I open the circle. For example, “sharing is optional”. While sharing is welcomed, personal process is more important. If something feels too tender, the writer can pass, choosing not to share. In such a circle, there is no cross-talk. After someone reads, we thank them for sharing. My circles aren’t about critiquing or commenting. We become good listeners, present with the one who is reading. And grateful to them for their contribution.
This brief video is informative on the origins and some benefits of circle in our times while introducing the two women who are proponents of the circle.
For Your Contemplation:
If you’ve ever considered forming a poetry or writing circle, I invite you to read the chapter entitled The First Gathering of a New Circle from Christina Baldwin’s book, CALLING THE CIRCLE: The First and Future Culture, first published in 1994. This is a practical guide to initiating and grounding your circle as it begins.
NOTE: Christina Baldwin and Anne Linnea have a newer book entitled The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair, published in 2010. You can Google “Basic Guidelines for Calling a Circle – PeerSpirit”, for a free handout.