I had a wonderful 10-minute conversation with the teacher of the workshop I started attending late last summer. We spoke largely about how difficult it is to bear listening to criticism of one’s own work — how hard it is to separate the poem from the poet. And also how necessary it is. She described for me some of the things she did during her first workshop at Radcliffe 25 years ago. They were petty, but they worked, and they hurt no one. I’d be interested in hearing how other people manage to keep mum while the best-intentioned of colleagues make suggestions for how to make a poem better. I’m thinking of putting a stone in my shoe, literally biting my tongue, or doodling the price of the workshop in the margins, as a way of motivating myself to stay silent and as receptive as possible.
What are the things you’ve done to keep yourself mum during workshop? The pettier and the sillier the better.