Poetry Workshop: “What ‘oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” Workshops that include recitation, discussion, and learning exercises for turning casual poems into well crafted poems.
Bill’s Quick Take on the Poetry Workshop
I’ve always disliked gentile poetry readings by local amateurs almost as much as polite afternoon readings by the famous visiting poet. But I have always liked teaching poetry. Mainly, I love writing poetry, and think I can help others learn to love writing it as much. The more you do it, and obviously the better you do it, the more you can’t help but like it.
Do I enjoy reading my work out loud before large groups? Not really, I’m shy, although I do know poetry is meant to be voiced, not just silently read. But given the right conditions–which we try hard to create at the Lowe House–reading and even critiquing can be enjoyable as well as helpful. I guess writing poetry without taking time to share and improve it is a little like bouncing the tennis ball against the wall instead of across the net to another player.
Quite often a poem strikes us somewhat stridently, saying, “I’m a poem” when you don’t think it’s been earned. It’s rhyme scheme is too obtrusive; line division too arbitrary. It may even sound exactly like prose, or may be too hard to understand. Fortunately, it can be repaired. Maybe a musical background has to be foregrounded (or just found); maybe the prevailing imagery and metaphoric intent has to be emphasized. Sharing the poem with other emerging writers can lead to painless and meaningful revision.
So what about the thorny matter of critiquing? Our workshops are structured so that the writer reads, then explains what she or he was trying to communicate (e.g., the hidden theme, what provoked the writing, etc.). Then the participants–who have already bonded over other activities–respond. Knowing what the writer was trying to achieve, they can honestly tell what did or didn’t work for them. The rule of no negative feedback is always observed.