Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Post by Lynn
In my post of January 23rd, I shared that I was leaping into poetry for the first time by taking a class at my local community college. Well, I handed in the final portfolio last week, so I’m here to report on what I saw during my travels into that strange terrain.
Reading, writing and revising poetry for a semester has definitely altered my view of the genre, and forever affected my writing process.
The top three things I learned in poetry class:
1. The difference between image and abstraction. In short, you get at the big issues by way of the senses. I knew this on a certain level, but I sunk into it more deeply with poetry. When you’re in your poet mode do you mention the word “war”? No. You talk about “each round of the M-16 like a high-velocity wind.” Depression? Un-uh. You write: “One plate, with last night’s half-eaten ham sandwich, still on the table this morning.”
2. Adopt a persona. Kristin Abraham, our professor, randomly assigned each student a persona. “Write from this point of view,” she said, “and address your poem to Santa Claus.” Crazy stuff! I got the Headless Horseman. What I thought might be hard turned into a romp. I became a headless fiend, begging Santa for a new, preferably non-pumpkin, head. This introduced me to a previously-unexperienced freedom. I had permission to leave my hidebound self, enter another being and let the words flow from that vantage point.
3. Revision. More than the tweaking of sentences. I learned to take numerous sweeps at a poem, each time with a different goal, and to talk to my writing. Really!
Adapted from Heather Sellers, here are a few questions to ask your poem/story:
• What are you scared to really come out and say?
• Are you keeping any secrets from me?
• What do you really want to be?
There are many more lessons, of course – more than I can share in a short post, but let me just say that with poetry I walked in new places and I’m a different writer because of it.
What strange terrain are you exploring in your writing life?