Tuesday, January 31, 2012

POETRY: Read More, Blog More #1

This post is the first in a series of monthly poetry posts written in response to the READ MORE, BLOG MORE challenge sponsored by Regular Rumination

I would appreciate your response to the posts as they go up. Be honest. I'm a big girl. Just remember, house rules: Do unto others & such.

I'll ease into the challenge with a bit of reflection:

I will admit, my desire to publicly discuss poetry has taken a few hits through the years. Back in school (late Paleozoic period) my teachers had definitive and unassailable ideas about the meanings and messages in each poem we read. Invariably, my thoughts and ideas were different, and therefore wrong. Slapped down in class repeatedly, I shared less and less. I never lost my love for poetry, but I stopped sharing it.

The final blow, however, came while in a grad school. A hole in the university's scheduling left me a rare chance to take a poetry writing class. I was an English education major in a seminar with writing majors. It was also my first writing seminar, and my peers were veterans of many years. I shouldn't have been surprised by subsequent events. But I was.

We were prompted. We wrote. We sat in circles and offered critique on each others' writing. I loved the writing and steeled myself for the critique of my peers. Initially, I was more worried about evaluating the others than hearing their comments. But that changed. Quickly.

My peers delighted in literary allusion. Well trained writing, packed to the rafters with them, forced me to spend more time researching than reading. Even then I was left with the feeling I had missed something.

I, on the other hand, an avid reader, a Literacy and English Language Arts teacher, loved to play with words. Manipulating the sounds and meanings to create something that is just a little bit more than it was, gave (and gives) me tremendous pleasure. And making it seem effortless is an art to which I still aspire.

The comment I heard most often was, "I didn't know that word, so I didn't 'get' the poem." Did they look it up? no.

They were polite. They were supportive. They tried hard to hide their exasperation as they patiently explained how to rewrite each poem; changing allusions, changing symbolism, changing word choice - especially word choice - until it said what they thought it should. Until it was a completely different poem. Not my poem.

I smiled. I explained my choices. I thanked them for their kindness. And I retreated into silence.

I still love poetry. I read all that I can get into my greedy little hands. I write it. I share the poetry I love on this Blog. But do I talk about it? Until today, no.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next installment, scheduled for February 28. Who knows what wonders may take root and grow in this modest little place.


  1. It's so tough, isn't it! I recall arguing with an art teacher about a watercolor I painted - she disliked my color choice. It still makes me mad.

    I would recommend Nancy Aronie's Writing From the Heart book - her workshop was one of the most warm embracing amazing I've ever had the privilege.

  2. This is not the environment that should be talking poetry...interpretation and writing is personal....research and understanding requires time and if they are not willing to put in the time, they are not serious about helping other writers with their work or even appreciative of that which is not their own. I'm sad that these were your experiences...and I wish that you could find another place to share your ideas and poems...without fear or the imposition of others' notions of what the interpretations or poems should be rather than what they are.

  3. I had a roommate in college who wrote poetry that I didn't really understand. However, I still enjoyed it and I liked when I had to look up the words, even if it was every other word ;). Like Serena, I'm sad that those were your experiences with poetry.

  4. School hired an assassin, with the sole aim of killing my love of literature. I was stalked down the halls & classrooms a red spot lasered to a point to one side of my tie.They hired a torturer equipped in the most subtle of the art of pain, ripping page upon page from my heartsoulmind until books became fortresses that no longer were journeys into distant fairytales, words took flight to be captured placed under a killing jar & pinned in a catalogue labelled, defined dead................ Took me many years to slip my apprenticeship.

  5. First of all, I love the theme of your blog. :) I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I remember having a horrible creative writing teacher in college who made me give up whatever vain hopes I had of ever writing anything. She could skewer work with just a word or two. I don't think she ever got tenure, so maybe that was the source of some of her bitterness. I'm looking forward to following your poetry journey this year. :)

  6. That kind of laziness gets to me, especially in any kind of online forum. How difficult is it to look up a word? Or two, or however many?

  7. Best of luck continuing to discuss poetry. It's fdefinitely tough to find like minds, but when you do! :)

  8. Thank you all for your kind words.

    It feels great to know that I'm not alone. But at the same time, it's sad to know how common my experience really is.

    I'm looking forward to the coming journey - and the new friends I make along the way.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Workshop can be either an excellent experience or a horrible one like this. I'm sorry they made you feel like you had to write a poem that wasn't even something you cared about. Often, honestly, it's jealousy, I think. I once sat in on a workshop where it was anonymous. They read my poem and praised it and decided to put it in the literary magazine. When I announced that it was mine, they all of the sudden found all sorts of problems with it. Then they took it out of the literary magazine. It was a very frustrating experience, but fortunately I had a lot of much better, productive experiences in workshops later in college. I hope that through these discussions we can bring you back to a passion for poetry. Thank you for joining us this month and I can't wait to see what you write in February. Just from this post I can tell -- you're a beautiful writer.