Saturday, August 9, 2008

Baron Wormser

Though I imagined he might have a royal emblem stitched on his shirts or something, he turns out to be a nice, intense middle-aged man.

He doesn't use the usual Iowa Model in the workshops. Instead, he has someone else read your poem, then he asks questions of the class (you have to be silent, of course). Where is the narrator in this poem and what, if anything, has happened to the narrator. Why is this a poem and not an essay? Where in the poem does the ending begin? And so on. Very intense and articulate. The class responds to this very well, though occasionally someone will slip back into "Well, I feel the image in this line should . . . "

I like his style.

We're doing one poem of each member each day. He said my poem of the day was more expository writing and that I should reconsider it as an essay. I was stunned because I would never have thought of that in a million years. It was not a criticism of my language or skill but just a different perspective. I can't wait to see what happens with tomorrow's poem (which is a poem and not an essay. I think).

Even though our poems are for workshop I've been surprised at some of the work. Some people simply cannot get to the heart of the poem, are not skilled enough in the use of language to make it say what you think you're trying to say. JBH always said you have to risk something in your work -- if you're not risking something don't bother writing. This is far, far easier said than done, but at least it's the right direction. But so many people use clever language and turns of phrases to skate over the emotion in the poem, as if language was a way to avoid any risk whatsoever.

And what can you say to those people? We all have our defenses and our own good reasons for staying out of those dark risky places -- but I don't think you can ever do good work, especially in poetry, if you don't get down to those dark and risky places. The skill in using the language is crucial, of course, but secondary to the risk.

Of course, I've had two whiskey and waters and can expound all night about poetry as if I were some sort of expert in all matters of art.

It's a beautiful night here, chilly with a half moon hanging in the sky.

My birds are at home, asleep by now. I wonder if they miss me -- there's not really any way to make a pet understand that you'll return to them when you have to go. They become accustomed to the daily absences, I think, but when a flock member "disappears" what is the parrot to think? In the wild, a disappearance means that the flock member is dead, lost, gone, never to return.

And what must they think when you return -- out of nowhere -- as if nothing has happened? It must be a shock, and good reason for the punishment they mete out on you. I wish I knew some way to make them understand.

Well, I think the thing to do now is go back to my room and have another drink.

1 comment:

Mary said...

When the other member is reading the poem, do the people in the class know in advance who the author is? This sounds very interesting!

The first time we ever left Max, we didn't have any other birds, so we were her entire flock. We boarded her for 7 days. Apparently she just sat on the bottom of her cage for the first 6 days and started seeming a little happy the day we picked her up.

That made us not take another vacation for several years! But now that they have a flock, we've gone on several vacations, and they have a good birdsitter, we haven't seen those problem reoccur again. But I still wish I knew exactly how upset they got with our leaving.