Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Poetry Writing Workshop Blues

Today was the first meeting of the Teachers as Writers Poetry Workshop that I'm attending this summer at Inprint. I've done several of these since 2004, including a short story one last summer which I really enjoyed. The class was full--15 participants, three of whom were also in the short story with me. Some of them are kind of scary. One has an MFA in poetry and has published a chapbook. One just graduated from undergrad with an emphasis in creative writing before teaching this past school year. One is using the class as a way to get back into writing before applying to an MFA program. Even some of the others who are "just" teachers seemed especially talented when they read their bad poems, which we wrote as a writing exercise. I'm not sure that I ever felt this intimidated on day 1 of a workshop.

As part of a writing exercise, we had to brainstorm some first lines of poems, and then we had to share the most interesting one and tell why we selected that one to share. Once we had our say, others could say where they would go with that first line, and then we had to give the first line to one of the others to write the poem. I was first to give, but I ended up getting the last person's poem, and not for lack of trying either. So here's the first line of my poem:
  • You with the teeth that balloon like porcelain scrotums--this poetry is not for you
What the hell am I supposed to do with that line? The person who created this line said that he was thinking about the two conflicting approaches (not sure if that's the right word or not) to poetry, one that poetry should be rather academic and not easy to understand by just anyone and the other that poetry should be written so that anyone can enjoy it and find meaning in it (Billy Collins is often cited as taking this approach to poetry). Even knowing what he was thinking, I still don't have a clue where this line will take me. At least I don't have to have the poem that comes from this line workshopped. I can choose to submit another poem for that next week, but I am expected to write this poem.

I should probably get to work on one of those poems now, but first, I need to do some work-ish type things. Later.

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