Wednesday, May 30, 2007

still lingering

I've continued thinking about last night's writing group. I think any good class will linger in your mind, will turn over like a ball of pizza dough, and allow you to linger on the good bits and the bits that inspire you to take action, improve. These are some things for me to remember, things I've learned before, but last night reminded me of them:

- Be surprising. Don't be ordinary. There was a stanza in my poem that I knew wasn't right, but I left it there, just to see what people said. And it was true--this information may have been helpful, but not enough for a stanza, and certainly not told in a way that was cliche. Truth needs to be altered. Tweedy coats are commonplace. What is unique to being an aging retired professor?

- Sink into the persona. There was another woman who wrote a poem from a forester's point of view with some very lovely moments in it, some striking images. One of the other poets said she ought to consider what discovery would be like, what new eyes would be like, and try to avoid what was (again) easy. Surprise your reader and become the other.

- Line breaks can be adventurous. I think we have the tendency to break at phrases, particularly of the prepositional variety. It's easy, like breathing, but can be boring. This was something that first struck me about one of my favorite poets, Sharon Olds: she would break just after conjunctions, just after the verb, in mid-tale. It kept me awake, brought new meaning to each line, each jagged breath. Her words flow juicy; the line breaks make it a little sticky. Like summer. I love, love her poetry.

- Write beyond the self. I think this is something I didn't need to be reminded, but it's something I've begun talking to my students about. At this point, I just want them to write. Nothing more. But at some point, we need to pull ourselves out of the quagmire that is sappy love poetry (everybody has bad love poetry from high school).

So much of this seems so simple, so obvious, but I think getting it down and reminding myself, again, considering how to add more layers in what I already know.

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