Friday, August 12, 2011

Interview with Robert-Harry Rovin, writing teacher to the homeless

A few weeks ago I was introduced to an amazing fellow writer, writing teacher, and literacy advocate named Robert-Harry Rovin. (Thanks to the wonderful Ilene Dillon, host of the Emotional Pro radio show, for making the introduction.) Robert-Harry leads a writing workshop for the homeless, coincidentally also called W R I T E O N, which proves that great minds do think alike! :) He was kind enough to visit the blog today to speak about the empowerment and hope that writing can bring into people's lives.

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

I have a background of professional acting, singing and dancing in New York City and studies in Continuum with Emile Conrad, then teaching her work. I practiced Rosen Method Bodywork for twenty years and was a member of an Authentic Movement group for many years. Also for many years I’ve offered a program of the lyric poetry of nature as Green Man Alive as well as Yertl the Turtle and The Lorax for children portraying this archetypal character. Eleven years ago I enrolled as a student in Ridhwan’s Diamond Approach, a somatically based inquiry and meditation practice of self realization, which continues to be a strong foundation for my life.

Tell us about how the Write On! Workshops began.

Eight years ago I started a creative writing program for homeless people called W R I T E O N ! I had been working in a homeless shelter for years and felt that the depersonalization that results from people being enmeshed in the social service system was not being dealt with. I started offering creative writing classes to support people’s connection to their deeper selves and to nourish their well-being through self-expression. I combined the inquiry and meditation methods of the Diamond Approach with creative writing.

What have you learned through creating this program?

The creative work that has come forward also helps shift social perceptions: through the eyes of those more comfortably ensconced, the homeless can now be seen as creative individuals of worth rather than faceless abstractions; and in turn these souls without homes are supported in their ability to relate to the more affluent on a level where creativity and truth of expression are a shared experience.

I've been so moved watching people come alive as they discover and articulate their personal truth through prose and poetry. This aliveness has translated into all of us finding our deeper, more authentic voices as well as homeless people having more confidence and more success in advocating for a home, good health and work.

In your opinion, why is writing so important?

Writing provides an opportunity to give language to sensation, feeling and thought. Once articulated onto the page, this material is available for reflection and makes room for the next wave of truth telling to appear. Additionally, in W R I T E O N ! workshops the writers have the opportunity to read what they've written, then to receive only positive reflection of their writing, which further affirms the validity of their expression.

What is your writing process like?

In the workshops as well as at home or around and about, I write in a composition book with a black and white marbleized cardboard cover. Writings I wish to preserve I copy into my laptop. Occasionally I draw illustrations or elaborate doodles to accompany my poems, stories and essays.

Does teaching these workshops influence your own writing?

Extending unconditional acceptance to the writers in the workshops has had the affect of extending that affirming support to my own creative process, including writing.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

For young people, I would advise them to feel what part of their dream is most alive to them and to focus on following that aspect first; the rest will follow.

What are some of your favorite books?

Favorite books include Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems and Writing Alone or With Others by Pat Schneider. Right now I’m enjoying Speak Peace in a World of Conflict by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D; Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault; and Working in the Dark by Jimmy Santiago Boca.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

W R I T E O N ! presents public readings of creative writing and also has an internet radio program ( where people share their creative work. Type in robert-harryrovin at their web site to select an archived episode; or Google "Robert-Harry Rovin" to arrive at the W R I T E O N ! page on the same web site. Check out some of our participant’s writings on the blog at

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