Sunday, August 16, 2009
bread loaf, workshop three
My notes for today's workshop are scant, mainly because we did both my poems back-to-back, and so much time was spent scribbling as much as I could, between writing notebook (general notes) and poem drafts (specific notes); also, we are getting the hang of some of the language EBV wants us to use in workshop, ways of seeing, and so we are beginning to branch out a bit more.
How did we begin to talk about Kay Ryan? Perhaps about readership, and how slim and chancy the whole venture can be. EBV speculated Kay Ryan was not a popular poet until her laureateship vaulted her to national attention because, in the time she has been writing, the movements have not always matched up with her dry, slender poems: she is not confessional, she is not discursive (Pinsky), she was not part of a new narrative, she was not connected to Ashberry and surrealism.
This brought us to a discussion of discursive (wandering around the thing without going straight toward it) and non-discursive and simultaneity. Susan Langer was mentioned, and she referred to how in a newspaper or as she was speaking to us, we were forgetting right after hearing because we needed to get the gist, but "poetry does not want that to happen" (unless skillfully--you see, rules can always be broken).
And outside, during break, I realized, indeed, not smoking has kept me from the interesting conversations again--why is it that we are so often silent when we linger behind, but when we are huddled in a small group (and we huddle, in Minnesota anyway), we speak more openly?--and EBV came to me, asking if it was helpful, and I nodded like a bobble-head, not mentioning that it was explosively helpful, my workshop, and she said she suspected that, at some point, I was told my poems were "too obscure," and I've begun the habit of over-correcting with the discursive, you see. (And if M-W's thesaurus entry is anything like EBV's, then I am discursive in just about everything I do.)
Some bits I copied down:
- "Don't let yourself be satisfied with the surface." (See notes from workshop one and two on figure and ground, etc.)
- On working syntax (see later post on verb tense craft class also), EBV recommended going beyond just putting your poem in a prose block for the sake of revision (ah, that word, so tricky, the re-vision) but to write them out as sentence lists. We'll be able to see if there is a pattern and if we want that.
She reminded us something that, I think, lifted a bit of a pathetic weight off my chest: you see, the idea of revision terrifies me. I'm afraid of one, changing the wrong thing and two, not seeing how it needs to be changed in the first place. I've been staring at those first drafts dumbly, not knowing what to do. I would envy my friends, who would say they love the revision process the most, because it's like solving a puzzle. My own puzzle came without the instructive box, I would think.
But now, I'm reminded of the trick I learned when teaching literary theory to my (former) high school students: just use lenses. In this case, read through the poem look just at syntax, just at diction, just at figure and ground. It's not all zinging and magic, but a series of careful steps and analysis, techniques we are learning to organize in our chaotic (Dionysian) brains.
who: ellen bryant voigt