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Optional Workshops 2014

On Voice

Jane Hirshfield

As with any chosen angle of the protractor, the direction of foot-point at the start of a poem has immense consequence by the time you’ve travelled even a short way down the road. It may be that the choice of voice that happens before the first word is dry on the page is the most important for any poem, shaping not only what can be said and felt, but what will. In this workshop, we’ll look at voice in both the large sense (as in when we ask ourselves, “Do I have one?,” though in truth, you always do, or as in when we speak of a “public” or “private,”  a “formal” or “colloquial” poet) and in the term’s more narrow meaning: the various grammatical voices and their effects. There’ll be some looking at poems by others, and also the chance to explore these questions by writing and feeling the effects of using one voice and not another.

 A Craft Talk About Quest

Gregory Orr

We rightly emphasize Craft in our talks and our teaching. Craft is what is teachable. We can, by and large, learn it, or lots of it. We also can rest secure in the knowledge that no matter how much craft we learn, we will never learn everything there is to know about poetry, to do with it. As Chaucer laments: “the life so short, the craft so long to learn.”  If Craft is learnable (within our limits), then Quest is learnable in a different way. First, quest needs to be recognized as a legitimate aspiration for the poet. The more I write and teach and live, the more I feel that Quest is easily as important as Craft, though more elusive when we choose to speak of it.

What is Quest? Today, I’ll define it as “what we want to do with poetry or what poetry wants to do with us.” “What purpose or purposes we bring to poetry or what purpose poetry brings to us.” In this talk and conversation we’ll explore the notion of Quest and we’ll discuss some very specific ways that each of us might become more alert to and deepened by an awareness of how Quest functions in our own work and lives as poets.

Can you discover your Quest  through introspection? I don’t know. We certainly try to. I think it has a pretty high success rate, but who can tell. I’m here to persuade another direction: looking outward to see inward.

The Care and Feeding of the Spirit of Your Creativity

Joy Harjo

We inhabit our love of poetry, writing or music, whatever that art is, and the spirit of our art, as well, inhabits us. And everything has a price; there is a give and take. This workshop will explore how we take care of that spirit, with words, thoughts, dreams, food and always, by practice.

Pulling Out All the Stops

Tomás Q. Morín

Sometimes a poem can stall during revision for various reasons. One way to address this problem and break through the revision block is to make a dramatic shift in style. While there are a variety of ways to change the style of a poem, one of the most disruptive is to make a poem a single sentence. We’ll look to poetry and fiction for models of the extended sentence. Students should bring a poem no longer than a page they need help revising for an in-class exercise.

Reading Your Audience While Reading Your Poetry

Susan B.A. Somers-Willett

Reading poetry aloud to an audience requires skill, confidence, and grace—but most of all it requires the understanding that what makes for a powerful performance in an auditorium is not the same as what works in a quiet bookstore.  We will cover vocal and physical techniques to bring your poem into performative spaces—be they poetry slams, poetry readings, or recording booths—in order to help you make the right choices for different venues and audiences.  We will also discuss how to begin and end a reading, what to do when the sound system fails, and how to best honor the poem in its performance. Participants should bring a short 14-24 line poem to practice. This workshop is designed for all levels of experience, from those who want to take their poems into more theatrical settings to those who want to begin reading their work aloud.

Poetry, Second Voice, and the Descent

James Tolan

Rilke, in his third sonnet to Orpheus, argues against the notion that the poetic education is born of the discovery and cultivation of one’s poetic voice. His claim that real poetry is born of listening begs the question to whom or to what? In this talk we’ll consider how a variety of modern and contemporary poems evoke poetic voices beyond the personal and the singular. We’ll practice the sort of careful listening Rilke and others advocate. What Lorca calls duende. What Etheridge Knight calls belly and what others have called the tradition of the Blue Flower.

Jump-start Your Engines Poetry Workshop

Jericho Brown

In the Jump-start Your Engines Poetry Workshop, Jericho Brown helps participants generate work through a set of unconventional exercises that keep our ears open and our fingers moving. The workshop engenders new ideas about writing, and as there is a profound relationship between reading poetry and writing it, we participants read, discuss, and even recite the work of several poets whose examples might lead us to developing our craft. (Poets may bring a single and short poem for one of the exercises should we have time for it.)

Dwelling in Language

Eduardo Corral

A word or phrase is often the seed of a poem. In this generative workshop we’ll discuss ways to enlarge our word banks and ways to open our poems to various dictions. We’ll examine all kinds of language, from family proverbs to advertising copy.  Writing exercises and class discussion will guide our exploration of the words around us.

Dear Stranger: Epistolary Impulse and Innovation

 Jenny Browne

While Congress and the U.S. Postal Service debate ending Saturday delivery and many mourn the lost art of letter writing, poets from Horace to Pound, and from Hugo to Clifton, have persisted in mining the tunnels of the epistolary mode.  Epistle is Latin for letter, and an epistolary poem is simply one that is also a letter to someone, whether an intimate or a stranger.   Focusing in on a specific listener helps us tighten language, tone, and narrative detail.  One might argue that we continue to write letters for the same reason we write poems, to say something we can’t say another way.  In this workshop, we’ll look at a few brilliant epistles, and then try some exercises designed to stretch the boundaries of our own poetic correspondence.