Last fall, the Denver VOICE partnered with Write Denver for a special walking tour and writing workshop that focused on the ideas of place and time. VOICE vendors and Denver residents joined members of Lighthouse Writers Workshop—which hosts Write Denver—on a two and a half mile walk around the City Park, Cheesman Park, and Congress Park neighborhoods.
While we walked, Lighthouse creative curator Dan Manzanares told us stories about neighborhood landmarks and gave us writing prompts. We wrote about a mural on the side of Pete’s Satire Lounge, we pondered Cheesman Park’s ghoulish history, and finally, we took refuge in a community garden in Congress Park while we thought (and wrote) about the evolution of place.
We were a diverse group of people, but we all call Denver home—and Denver is going through growing pains.
Colson Whitehead once wrote that a person really belongs to a city when her memories of a place become more real than the current incarnation of that place. When we’ve lived somewhere long enough to say, “I remember when that used to be…,” that’s how we know we belong.
Although Whitehead was writing about New York City, his theory can be applied to any city. Denver is evolving so rapidly right now, even people who have only lived here for a few years might already be nostalgic for little pockets of it that no longer exist.
After the Write Denver walk, I invited participants to submit their writing. As mentioned, we were a diverse group, and I was curious: would we notice things differently? Or would the collected writing show some universal observations?
There are recurring themes that crop up in the Write Denver submissions featured in this issue. One in particular that shines through many of the pieces is a love of this place we call home—whether it’s the reluctant love of a transplant or the fierce love of a native.
We have two other stories in this issue about writing programs for people experiencing homelessness. In Colorado Springs, a group of Colorado College students is publishing Grits Collective, bringing the art and words of the city’s homeless to print. And down in Bent County, Denver’s very own Lighthouse Writers Workshop is sponsoring a new writing program at Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community. Fort Lyon is a two-year program focused on helping homeless veterans with substance abuse problems. The Lighthouse instructors will help the Fort Lyon residents share their stories.
These projects do more than help people express themselves through writing. They also create community. This is something we’ve known at the VOICE for a long time: Art can be invaluable for someone healing from a trauma like addiction or homelessness. ■