Auld Lang Syne

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Distance learning in poetry; it can work

I signed up for, and have been doing, an online open university, course in writing poetry. It was offered by the University of Iowa Writing Workshop. Me, with over 3,000 others (of all abilities and sensibilities and aesthetic stances for their own work). Two other poets I know and admire have been doing it too and I have read their work and they mine.

How does this work? Hmm, we listen to (watch) video lectures on craft and then do the assigned work and post it. Others can  weigh in and comment as is the norm for writing workshops. No, all 3,000+ poets are not commenting on all the work, rather picking and choosing at random or finding one person and looking at that work.

Skeptical but game, I got on board. We're in our final week.  And I must say:    LOVE

This experience has been a most remarkable opportunity to learn from a variety of poets, some I knew already (Michael Dennis Browne, Marvin Bell both of whom I have learned from in person at the Univeristy of Iowa) and others I do not know even by way of their poems. Only one was a total bore (IMHO) and only because she simply read from her notes. I do not engage well, if at all, with that kind of lecture/talk. I felt checked out the whole time. But, taken as a gestalt, the topics have been far-ranging and eager.

I have diligently written and posted. I have brought the things I learned to my poetry group and (I think) got them excited about trying a few new strategies. I have tried (and succeeded I think) in writing my first-ever CENTO, done and LOVED doing a mindfulness writing exercise. I will repeat that as a way IN to my daily writing practice.

Today was the final author talk. Well!
Today I wrote my first, purposefully-attempted, prose poem. YIKES!

The poem was based upon two ideas/strategies: parataxis and the prose poem. You who know me well know that I have been engaged in a battle with myself over the existence of the prose poem for a very long time. I now might just agree that the genre, sub-genre, exists. I do think that it might be a rare thing however.

What I can say (for myself only) is that it appears to exist in its associative leaps and detailed diction.
It exists in parataxis. Once the writer falls into hypotaxis, it is straightforward PROSE.

I am having lunch today with my friend and fellow poet, DiTa. We will go to an art gallery after to see her show. I am glad of this road trip for that part, but EXCITED to talk to her about today's poetry work.

I also am at work on a poem I began yesterday while looking at the nudes at the Farnsworth Art Museum. (oh is this poem ROUGH at this point!) It's title (the poem) is Eve, After. A bit of a feminist thing and some quirky takes on the banishment from the Garden. We'll just have to see.

Back to the online course: my best moment (and poem) is an epistolary poem, inspired by a couple comments made by Michael Dennis Browne last week. He spoke about how nice it is for poets to write letters (actual hand-written ones) to poets they enjoy, telling them how their work has been influential or admired. He spoke too about what an epistolary poem is: a letter to someone in poem form. I wrote one to him and enclosed it in a hand-written letter and popped both into the mail to him.

I ramble here. But you get the idea: writing is elastic. Keep snapping the band and letting it fly.