HARRISONBURG — “The time cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.”
That is an excerpt from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Second Sermon on the Warpland,” which serves as an inspiration to two female writers in the Valley, Shirley Showalter and Joanne Gabbin. Today at Bluestone Vineyard, the women are leading a discussion on what it means to live fully throughout all stages of life in an evening of poetry, hors d'oeuvres and wine titled “Swaying in Wicked Grace.”
Showalter is a novelist and poet who said she uses writing as a medium to explore her subconscious emotions and probe beneath the surface of her reality. She has written three haikus for the event and will read various poems to inspire women to embrace their age and expand their horizon of possibilities to redefine retirement as a jubilee period.
“Joanne Gabbin and I will both be speaking about poetry -- using poetry as an example of how women can sway in wicked grace; how we can become resilient and move from one phase of our careers to the next. Facing the difficulties and discovering the joys of aging,” Showalter said.
The night is hosted by Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.
Judith Trumbo, VMRC president and CEO, was part of the original conversation to hold the event with Showalter and Gabbin. Trumbo said her hope is to witness women enthusiastically own their age with a renewed sense that they are capable of living the life they want, regardless of how old they are.
“Here's how we would define success: is a room full of women of many ages ... celebrating all that makes them strong, vibrant and resilient and leave inspired with confidence and energy for whatever part of the journey they are on. You’re never too young or too old to age well and live fully,” Trumbo said.
Drinking, dining and inspiration will be had from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The evening is meant to be an informal gathering and celebration of life, so guests are encouraged to get to know one another and dine overlooking the vineyard, stretching into the mountainous horizon as the sun sets. Gabbin and Showalter will speak for 20 minutes about their lives and how they learned to sway along with the changes in life.
Gabbin is the executive director of James Madison University’s Furious Flower Poetry Center, the nation's first academic center for black poetry. It is named after the same poem as tonight’s event. Gabbin has authored six books, worked as a journalist and, through the center, promotes and preserves poetry by and for black people.
Gabbin’s literary journey began when she was 7 and has continued to manifest in a plethora of ways. She will share anecdotes in hopes of encouraging women to delve into their passions to explore all life has to offer.
“Sometimes we have to stop and reflect on what we've done. We have to celebrate all the good that has come out of our lives. And then we have to look forward to what could be even more productive years,” Gabbin said. “This is a time when you can be sassy about your age. It is a time to be celebratory. It is a time to be adventurous. It is a time to take risks.”
Tickets are $20 per person and available online until the start of the evening. The meeting house at Bluestone Vineyard is located at 4828 Spring Creek Road in Bridgewater.