Poetry Workshop Update and Field Trip

This Thursday is the penultimate workshop of the fall term. I’m really pleased with how the group has come together. I have a nice core of participants who have been there since the summer but also have room for new people. I’m also getting more confident in developing a model that differs from other workshops I’ve attended.

dreamstime_head_tree_logo_72dpiThe metaphor of a garden of words really applies here. With its focus on positive feedback to new drafts, Toni Amato’s workshop is a wonderful place to nurture seedlings. With its focus on poetic technique and ruthless revision, Barbara Helfgott Hyett’s workshop is excellent place to thin and harden those seedlings. My vision is to create a hybrid of those two models: to develop both fluency and objectivity when looking at our work.

In earlier sessions we focused primarily on sprouting new seedlings. Germination happens through free-writes, the use of different writing prompts, and a close reading of a “host poem” — one which I feel has something to teach us about technique or language. We give first drafts written in workshop nothing but positive feedback  Now that we all seem to have developed a greater level of confidence — both in ourselves and in each other — I’ve asked people to start bringing printouts of more finished drafts. Something happens when you transfer a poem from longhand to type. I almost always end up revising as I go. Seeing it in print also gives me emotional distance. We’ve begun critiquing one another’s drafts, but in a manner that I hope is gentle and supportive. Other members of the workshop seem to appreciate this second phase of the poem-growing process.

If first and second (and third, and fourth, and fifth, and more) drafts grow a poem from scratch, the poem finally bears fruit with publication. It can be hard to keep all three balls in the air at the same time. I find that I usually fluctuate between creating and revising my work and sending it out for publication. Starting in January I made a concerted, consistent effort to send out my work and got much better results than I expected. I’ve given my students a few pointers on where they can find open calls, but the focus of workshop right now is still on creation and revision. I’m curious to see how that might grow and change in future sessions. In the meantime, I continue to be humbled by how much I learn myself while facilitating workshop. Artists really do develop in tribes, just like Julia Cameron says. I’m happy to be following in the footsteps of my teachers by creating one of my own.

Our small tribe will be taking a field trip to the Chapter and Verse Reading Series this Friday, October 9 at 7:30. The Jamaica Pond Poets are talented and welcoming bunch. I look forward to both the featured readers and the open mic that follows.