Search for:
Back to Blog

Ten-Minute Poems by a Professional Actress & Teacher for Refugees in Berlin

Our 10*10*10 video series, featuring ten days of guided prompts for writing poems in ten minutes taught by Dave Johnson, has invited an outpouring of poetry, from New York and around the world. Christine Heiss of Berlin, Germany, sent in poems she composed in response to prompts about food, sports, and the Li-Young Lee poem “I Ask My Mother to Sing.”

Christine is a professional actress and a speech teacher and trainer who has worked with museums, universities, and refugee populations. She writes: 

Dear Poets House,

Thank you so much. All credit goes to Dave Johnson, because the way he introduces poems, his concrete requirements, the lines he chooses, the way he reads poems enables me to dig into the well I know I have, but I couldn’t get the right words in the right order.

It is a shaky ground, which I try to step upon. My whole life I have been dealing with words, as an actress; then while studying German literature, attending especially courses on poetry; as a mother inventing endless stories for my boys; and as a teacher for refugees, encouraging them to bring in poetry from their mother tongues and translate it into German.

Now the almost-lockdown in Berlin opened up the possibility to restructure my day and to start with Dave’s 10*10*10.

I am alone with all the words of my life, and Dave gives me a kick toward where to search.

Otherwise, I would have been lost.

For all of you great people of Poets House, good luck and stay safe!






in the vineyard.
They strangle the shoots
And lure with flyeyes.


Merce Cunningham stands still

Merce stops
on the left side of the stage facing
the exit seems
to pause
but the dance does not pause going
through his feet formed
by a lifetime dancing. Between
 ending a movement and
 starting the next a moment without
 beginning and without


I asked my mother to sing

I asked my mother to sing
while we were doing the dishes.
She sang in an opera way
And asked me to join her delicious
kidssong about early spring.
I couldn’t get the right key,
so she instantly scolded at me.
My tears mixed with dishwasher soap
on the back of my hand wiping my eyes.


Videos of the 10*10*10 workshops are available on our website for free! We invite you to join in and send us your poems, as we develop a community anthology.