Hi TeacherPoets. We’re gearing up for our first live session, this Saturday (4/12) from 11:00-noon EST. Join our community page to join in the conversation that has already started, to catch the live stream from that page (or the direct stream below), and to catch weekly “writing assignments.”
Each week on Wednesday, I’ll post a reading and writing “assignment” for the week. These are invitations to engaging with poetry and our work together. Take on as much or as little as you’re able.
Assignment for Week 1: Slivers Are Big
During our first live streaming session we will talk about the power of taking on manageable bites.
Our lives often interact with huge emotions (joy, fear) or giant topics (love, death) but trying to take them on can be not only an overwhelming task as a writer, but can also lead to writing that is too broad for a reader.
The smaller the piece – almost like finding focus in a research topic – the more specific our writing becomes. Then, the more specific our writing becomes, the more universal the feelings and ideas can come across to readers of our poems.
A Writing Invitation:
- Starting next week these invitations will be specifically about writing poems. For this week your invitation is to respond to this question: “Why Poetry?” A few sentences, a poem maybe, or a quick comment. Please leave your response on our TeacherPoets Community page.
Mentor poems to read:
- The Summer I Was Sixteen by Geraldine Connolly, for the one moment in time she uses to reflect on the huge topic of adolescence and growing older
- Making a Fist by Naomi Shihab Nye, who takes a universal fear and packages it in a tiny scene and an even smaller movement of the body
- You’re invited to post on our TeacherPoets Community page links to other poems that take on a large topic through a small, specific time or action
Workshopping This Week:
Starting next week, original poem’s from our Live Group educators (the folks on camera with me) will be posted in this section. As practice, this Saturday we will “workshop” this poem by a professional poet.
- Please follow the link and print out this poem (or download a mark-up-able copy to your device):
- On The Back Porch by Dorianne Laux (thanks to Heather Rocco for tweeting this link)
- Read and write all over it, prepare comments as if you were talking to this poet:
- Compliments: Which parts were particularly strong to you? Why? How did it effect you as a reader? Where were you delighted? Happily surprised? Moved? And so on.
- Questions: Where did you find yourself confused? Lost? Where did your reading become choppy or confused? Which points did you want a little bit more? A little less?
- Considerations: We can’t write the poem, that is the poet’s task, however we can raise considerations: I wonder if there are actually two poems here… I wonder if we could hear more from… I wonder if the second stanza could… I wonder…
- On Saturday we will then practice “workshopping” this poem, so bring your written-all-over copy.
If you would like to read an example of responding to a poem through “workshopping,” then read (or listen to) Workshop by Billy Collins (in which he workshops his own poem as he’s writing/reading it… it’s pretty funny stuff.).