Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Strange Terrain

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?


John Paul McKinney said...

It sounds like you had a great time. I really like the playfulness or freedom, or looseness you can experience with poetry. I'm not sure if those are the right words, but it's always fun.

John Paul McKinney said...

I'm exploring the strange terrain of creative writing after a lifetime of academic writing, which, I'm finding out, is very different.

Lynn said...

I'm still fighting off many years of exposure to administrative jargon, which, like academia, uses way too many "ion" words :)

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