As soon as I arrived, I was greeted so warmly as if I was among old friends! Here was a group of dynamic people who shared both my struggles—being a writer of color in America—and my passions: a deep devotion to the art of poetry. I've always heard, read, and spoken about the importance of community in any artistic endeavor. The poet's road can be a lonely one; the drifting heart needs its anchors. But I never realized how empowering a community of artists could be until I spent four days with the Kundiman staff, teachers, and fellows. I found there what I failed to find in my MFA program, or in any other poetry workshop I've taken: a deep respect and honor among poets; a desire to talk about race, identity, and history, in conjunction with one's composition process; and a willingness to be brave, to fail, and to look silly. The sillier the better! In fact, the laughter, energy, and spark never expired, despite the hot, long days and even longer nights. I thank the founders of Kundiman and the entire staff for having the vision to create and maintain such a fierce organization.
Kundiman has been a transformative experience toward courage and sensitivity. Never have I been surrounded by such an instant sense of family and fellowship, of bread-breaking over poetry. Writing and reading poems during the retreat were rare opportunities to be vulnerable without judgment. There are no words for the dams that break when we realize we don't have to apologize for ourselves as poets or minorities and can be our whole, complex selves. The Kundiman retreat and family exist in a pocket outside of real time for me, in a space where I learn to push myself beyond what I thought were grace and poise, to a new kind of balance, support, joy, and permission. Kundiman teaches me to live my poems; my successes are worth little without the celebration of this community.