Week Four Poet-in-residence Robert Ostrom to talk fostering empathy, ‘constructive daydreaming’

Ideally, Robert Ostrom would write poetry in the early morning with coffee and a notepad. But with a new baby, his sense of routine has flown out the window.

Robert Ostrom

Like coloring books designed to increase mindfulness, writing poetry can also provide a platform for thoughtful living. The Week Four poet-in-residence, Ostrom uses prompts that become “restrictions” to encourage imagination. Like the lines of a coloring book, the constraints allow space for creation.

Ostrom will deliver a Brown Bag titled, “What Work Is: Writing as a Practice for Living” at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

A Jamestown native, Ostrom has authored Ritual and Bit and The Youngest Arts Poetry Chapbook Competition for his work, To Show the Living. He currently teaches at New York City College of Technology and Columbia University.

Much of the inspiration for Ostrom’s talk came from his own life. Until Ostrom went to graduate school, he never had poetry assignments or prompts before. He discovered these “constraints” to be useful.

“It was a relief to find out that there are these things you can fall back if you feel the well is dry,” he said.

While Ostrom was completing his most recent works, he found himself questioning and trying to understand why it is he spends so much time writing poetry. He realized he needed to focus less on factors such as audience, and more on the act of writing and his role and life as a poet.

“I really felt like it needed to be meaningful and useful for my life right now, and so the act of (writing) needed to be meaningful,” he said.

His talk will be split into two parts. The first is about what work is, including the characteristics and history of work. The second half of his lecture will look at what work can “foster” in a person.

Even revision has something to teach about opening, or even changing, one’s mind, Ostrom said.

“I feel a little awkward talking about becoming more present in the world because … I’m not present most of the time. I do feel that when I’m really working, I feel more aware and more mindful. And so I hope that (people) can find that to be true for themselves.”

-Robert Ostrom, Poet-in-residence, Chautauqua Writers’ Center

As a whole, Ostrom talks about this mindful approach as “constructive daydreaming,” and he hopes his lecture and discussion on thoughtful living will “encourage love.”

“I think it can also encourage you to be curious about other people and about the world,” he said. “I think that it can even help you practice empathy.”


Tags : Chautauqua Writers’ CenterLiterary Arts Center at Alumni Hallpoet-in-residenceRobert OstromWhat Work Is: Writing as a Practice for Living

The author Emma Francois

Emma Francois is the literary arts reporter and a returning Daily staffer. She attends Georgetown University, studying English, art history and studio art. When she isn’t laughing at her own jokes, she is the highest-pitched voice on the fashion and politics podcast, “Stripped.” Ask her about feminism in the Avengers, backyard birding and her love for bike baskets.