by Dennis Dalman
Nicole Borg of Sartell carries within her many places – her early years in North Dakota, the high-plains country of south central Colorado, her time in California and the four-season places of central Minnesota.
Her keen awareness of those places, those landscapes that she interiorized all of her life inform her passion as a teacher. Borg teaches composition, American literature and creative writing at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. Her students are juniors and seniors.
As of Feb. 12, Borg began teaching writing at the Minnesota Street Market in downtown St. Joseph (27 Minnesota Street E.) Any adult, no matter their writing-skills level, can join the group. The free ongoing workshop will meet from 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. every third Saturday of each month through July.
The name of her workshop is “Poetry of Place.” It’s just one of eight workshops involving writing, art and conversations that have already begun or will begin in the greater St. Cloud area. Each workshop (called a circle) is part of a series called “LyricaliTea,” a program formed by “Lyricality,” a group of many area writers founded several years ago by Tracy Rittmueller, an award-winning poet who lives in Sauk Rapids.
During a Feb. 5 interview with the Newsleader, Borg said she is so happy to be a part of one of the LyricaliTea circles.
“We (workshop participants) will first read from local writers,” she said. “When we moved here from Colorado, I was just amazed to discover the quality of local writers living here.”
The circle’s participants will then begin to write whatever they wish: poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction. “Playing with language,” Borg calls it.
“We all carry where we’re from inside of us,” she said. “We carry it with us, that rich history of places. The ‘place’ of childhood is so powerful. When we walk those roads again, we can better understand ourselves and connect with others.”
Borg is confident the “places within” will inspire workshop participants to do some very fine writing.
Borg was born in Jamestown, N.D. but spent most of her growing-up years on Colorado’s high plains. She graduated from Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo. and began her teaching career in California. Her husband, Glen Irvin, taught Spanish for 20 years and is now a technology integrationist for Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. The couple has two sons: Lyzander, a freshman at Sartell High School; and Lynx, who attends Riverview Intermediate School.
Tracy Rittmueller, the founder of the Lyricality writers’ organization, said the eight workshops (Circles) of LyricaliTea were inspired by a letter-to-the-editor.
The letter, published in the St. Cloud Times on April 11, 2021, was signed by 70 local civic leaders who called for people and organizations to foster diversity and interpersonal kindness by creating “safe spaces for brave conversations.”
Rittmueller and others thought writing/art workshops do just that, and so they decided to start ongoing workshops for a variety of age groups for people of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The Circles are designed to nurture creativity and empathy among central Minnesota participants.
The “tea” in LyricaliTea is an homage to the fact that tea is a symbol of hospitality in many cultures that promotes connection, mindfulness and presence.
A grant from the Central MN Arts Board paid for the founding of the LyricaliTea Circles program.
“Circle Keepers (as the workshop leaders are known) have been trained to create a culture of connection, mindfulness and presence,” Rittmueller wrote. “Research has shown that this method of connecting to self, others and nature through writing is a healing modality that helps people find meaning in life. It is highly effective in guiding us forward through difficult circumstances. After LyricaliTea members become comfortable meeting in their own communities, Lyricality plans to bring its Circles together for intercultural celebrations where participants can appreciate one another’s way of life and socio-cultural identity.”
Lyricality Circles will meet for about 90 minutes on one day each month – some in person, some via Zoom and other with a variety of the two. The following is a list of the workshops, in addition to Nicole Berg’s “Poetry of Place” Circle, as detailed above.
Linguist, writer, poet, artist and teacher Anisa Hagi-Mohamed will lead Black/African women in how to explore grief and grieving in their communities. Every third Friday starting at 6:30 p.m. These will be virtual (Zoom) meetings. For more information, go to firstname.lastname@example.org
Artist Vatsalaa Jha will partner with Great River Regional Library to lead youngsters and adults on a journey to learn about teas throughout the world. During that journey, they will boost their creative talents. Last Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Children’s author/playwright Dr. Wendy Muhlhauser will host children grades K-5 who want to playfully explore kindness and empathy. Her circle will meet at Art in Motion on the Wobegon Trail in Holdingford once the weather warms up.
Poet/writer and Lyricality Founder/Director Tracy Rittmueller will host adults 55-and-plus who want to deepen connections to themselves and others in order to foster empathy and healing. First Mondays at 2:30 p.m. at St. Cloud Whitney Center. A Zoom link is offered.
Poet Chenel Sanders will host Black children 13-17 years old who want to gain trust in one another through sharing their words, thoughts and feelings. Last Thursdays at 6 p.m. Higher Ground Church, 402 Eighth Ave. S. in St. Cloud.
Poet/memoirist and elder Asian-American women’s leader Hedy Tripp will host a circle for BIPOC women poets, writers, artists, scripters and memoirists. First Tuesdays at 7 p.m. via Zoom. BIPOC is an acronym for “Black, Indigenous and People of Color.”
Poet and English-as-Second-Language instructor Kelly Travis will lead first-generation adult immigrants who want to create collaborative poems. First Mondays at 2:30 p.m. LaCruz Community Center, 1546 Sixth Ave. S., Apt. 6, in St. Cloud.
To learn more about LyricaliTea Circles or to sign up for one of them, visit the following website: email@example.com
Readers may also want to find out more about the overall Lyricality organization by visiting its website at lyricality.org.