Shared secrets

Human beings may be connected to poetic experiences by thick jump ropes or silk threads, but we all love, suffer and survive. By virtue of the fact that we exist, we have access to some damn good stories. A recent collaborative project by several local writers probes the connection between life experience and creative material.

In Beyond the Lines: Writing What You Couldn’t Say, 12 Michigan writers (ranging in occupation from letter carrier to actress) examine life-altering experiences … then view these illuminated moments within the larger constellations of their personalities. Chapters begin with autobiographical pieces and contain poetry and/or prose that the authors produced in a yearlong writer’s collective.

The book’s approach is intimate and the writing struggles to make sense of events that were perhaps too painful for contributors to lay claim to at the time they occurred. Dale Prentiss grieves the death of a younger brother, Rhonda Hacker struggles with a career change from journeywoman to caretaker. In a lighter moment, Patricia Washburn escapes thoughts of dying parents to dream of “Sudsing Tom Selleck.” Jim Perkinson closes the book with a chapter of gorgeous, rhythmic poetry, chronicling his often-taken-up role of the outsider.

Beyond the Lines features stylistically tight pieces, but the real draw is the content’s humanity. Contributors acknowledge difficult, personal experiences. And beyond that — they drag these elusive moments to the surface and put them into words. What the authors couldn’t say … you should definitely read.

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