About myself, and poetry: What I learned at an Anne Waldman workshop

“Out of a very small thing you can create a whole world…it can be as modest as a book of matches.”
–Anne Waldman, 21 April 2017, Pensacola State College

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop given by world-renowned poet, Anne Waldman (http://www.annewaldman.org/).  My poetry class, taught by local Pensacola Poet Laureate, Jamey Jones, is studying “Fast Speaking Woman.”

I must admit, my initial reaction of “Woman” was one of bewilderment.  It was like a book of spells, or chants.  However, upon recursive reading, and especially after reading it aloud in class, I grew to appreciate this pocket book of list poems (and essays) in the same way I appreciate Shakespeare.

I see “Woman” as performance poetry–something to be shared, not read in solitude.  It is a sort of litany of the “every woman.”

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Me, holding my autographed copy.  This will be the first textbook since I’ve been in college I’ve chosen to keep.

I think the problem with poetry is that only other poets (or faculty from English Departments) read it or listen to it, unlike novels, which even the worst non-writers will read.

Perhaps it’s because one can speed through a book and “get it,” but with poetry, one must slow down (even if the poet is a “fast-speaking woman”).  We live in a world where captions and headlines are the most read items in the newspapers.

I say, I’ve never been interested in being part of a book club, but there is something about poetry that brings people together.  It connects people in a way books do not–perhaps because of the very personal nature of the art form.  Books are inside me, but I am inside my poems.

Poetry is my aura.

One thing I learned before Anne arrived is that one doesn’t miss out on anything by arriving early, because I met Robin, an artist (see below), who did a phenomenal pen ink drawing of Anne.

Now, why do I write and not draw?  Because I can’t hit backspace.  Perhaps that’s the perfectionist in me, for I won’t even read my articles after they’re published in the student newspaper out of fear I will catch a typo.

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Robin, having presented Anne Waldman with her portrait.

Even though I am majoring in Health Information Technology, I need writing in my life to help me stay awake enough to do the work that will help me support my family, even as the arts support me.

~

We are living in an exciting time.  “We’re all feeling the interconnectedness of our world,” Anne said.  She went on to talk about multiverses and exoplanets, and all the information and knowledge (or access to knowledge) available to us.  Even just learning a new word has inspired me to write an entire work.

Furthermore, she said it was an exciting time to be an investigative, or field, poet, but as for me, I will stick to writing about “the verities,” or the things that transcend time.

Though my primary focus is a career in one of the STEM fields, art is (almost) as essential to me as breathing, for can you imagine a life without art or music or poetry?  Such are like that last moment of twilight.

Anne said, “I want to live in a reality where I can create another world.”  This resonated with me.  Perhaps growing up in near poverty, I, like Francie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), created multiple universes I could slip into at will.  I didn’t just slip through time and space, but through time and space.  I could be anywhere, any time. This was my way of “having it all,” and all at once.

~

Anne had us write a genealogy poem (how many times have I had to tell people I am NOT named after the cake and pie lady?).  The fun was in the sharing.

She also taught us of the three “poieias” (which I had never heard of because I am not an egghead, though I wish I were):

Logopoeia:  words
Melopoiea:  music
Phanopoeia:  image

She explained the philosophy (rather than the structure, which I’ve always found to be a bit of a drag) of a haiku:

Heaven (5 syllables)
Earth (7 syllables)
Man (5 syllables; man connects the first two lines)

I appreciate this form now (though my Irish heart will always have a fondness for the limerick).

I also learned about different poetic art forms, where it isn’t just about content, but the way the words look on a page.  She mentioned a poet (whose name I cannot remember) who wrote a poem about rain, the words written like rain dripping down the page.

One of the scribblings produced from this came to me in the form of a mere “thought poem,” which I call, “A New Era.”

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I like the idea of “creating something beyond your own lifetime,” as Anne said.  That’s one of the many reasons I love technology, for I like to think of my blog as a portal to earthly immortality.  Long after I die and my soul has been perfected in one of God’s many mansions, I pray that my stories will live on in this alternate universe we call cyberspace.

~

“The purpose of art is to help the world wake up to itself,” Anne said.

My art has awakened me to myself.  I am not quite the same person I was when I went back to school more than two years ago at the age of thirty-two, as a newlywed and new mom.  I’ve gained some self-confidence that was lacking.  I’ve conquered, for the most part, my fear of public speaking; my motto has become, “Aw, what the hell?”

It has served me well.

 

From Literature to Journalism: Writing for Two

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Last week, I got to read my poem, “When the World Went Deaf,” to a group of student artists and faculty at the unveiling of The Kilgore Review. Ironically, I was asked to read the piece that didn’t win last year’s collegiate writing contest and not the piece that won, which was a short story I had originally written for myslexia magazine (a UK publication).

Figuring it was a quintessential American story, I submitted it to the writing contest, because what college students wouldn’t want to read about what happens when a girl sneaks in pot brownies and spikes the punch at a Mormon potluck?

It was a humor story, of course, which has become my favorite to write (as well as read). I’ve found that during my time in college, I am not only evolving as a person, but also as a writer and speaker/storyteller.

Creative writing will always be my first love, because I don’t have to depend upon anyone else to give me the story; if I do need to conduct research, I can find it with a few clicks.

I will always be a writer first, a reporter second, but more on that later.
Last time I read my poetry, I opened with a joke. This time, I ended the reading explaining what inspired the poem, which adds context and a more personal touch.
I have unilateral hearing loss, and I know I’ve missed out on things (which is why I am a shameless eavesdropper.) I probably look quite apt when someone is speaking, because I have to make a conscious effort to listen. That’s why I don’t notice people snoring behind me–I am too focused on what’s in front of me.

On “When the World Went Deaf,” I wondered what life would be like, how humans would adapt, if everyone was like me, more than I was like me (i.e. completely deaf). The film Perfect Sense, which epitomizes the cliché, “poetry in motion,” also inspired me.
I made sure to plug my story; when you use the words Mormons and pot (and mention that it was a first-place winner), you just might get people to read it.

I invited my mom because there was free food, and it was nice to have someone there who loved me with me. When my husband tells me he’s proud of me, it means a lot, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as when my parents say it; it’s not because I love them more, it’s just that way (I think) because we all have an inner child that never grows up.
We grow up, innately wanting to please our parents.

~

The next day was our journalism workshop.

So this Michael Koretzky (http://www.koretzky.com/) was the VIP, wearing a Che Guevera shirt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara) with a monocle hanging from his neck. As soon as I saw him, I thought, this guy looks a bit intimidating (I usually only see other women as intimidating).

Within the first ten minutes, I could tell he was the type of person to psychoanalyze you, and that puts me on my guard. He didn’t care about our names–he just wanted to know what we did for the paper (some people didn’t know!), where we saw ourselves in 5-10 years (some were still figuring that out), and our favorite genetic/communicable disease (I chose Huntington’s chorea, because I’ve written two poems on it). https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/02/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-2-theme-secret/.

Some he referred to by our “favorite” diseases (glad I chose one most non-medical students have never heard of), but never by our name. I’m the type of person who feels humanized when people use my name, so I wasn’t crazy about this tactic, but it was creative. It did spark some interesting conversation, so perhaps that was the intent.

He said the people who had quick answers are those who are always reassessing what others think about them. I’m not sure that’s true, but I will say I don’t always ask certain questions because of the Mark Twain quote about opening your mouth and looking like a fool, so maybe there was a little bit of truth to that. I don’t even like it when my husband reads me, but that’s the poker player in him. I don’t like to be studied (just admired).

Ten years ago, I would’ve burst into tears when he pulled up my story on green living and said it was good writing, but shitty reporting (which I still don’t understand, as I had three good student quotes on things they did to be more environmentally-conscious). However, I didn’t have any pictures, and that is something I’ve learned–take your own or arrange for a photographer. Instead, a bunch of lame graphics/clipart were used, and I think that’s something we need to get away from.

But on the shitty reporting. I will be the first to admit, I am much more a writer than I am a reporter. I am still learning, but reporting includes stills and video now I still think the reporting was good, but what I gathered was that I was supposed to find someone on campus who did something outlandish to be green; I would then profile that one person, and I say, I much prefer to prearrange to interview one person than go out and get quotes from strangers. I like in-depth profiles, but where to find these people? My eyes and ears are wide open–maybe I should hang around the biology department. I don’t know. I think what I need to do is find the story, rather than write the story, and build the narrative around it.

Koretzky went into detail about all the different ways you could write for companies without being a journalism major. That would be something I would do freelance, but my primary career will be working in a hospital or clinic in an administrative capacity until my creative writing pays off (i.e. I become a best-selling novelist or win the lottery and buy a million copies of my book).

I like writing “the verities” that Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson (http://www.rhetasbooks.com/new-columns.html), who visited our Corsair class, talked about. I write the kind of writing that transcends time.

That said, I believe all kinds of writing are important, and so I want to become better. Reporting has helped me become more comfortable with others, and learn how to ask good questions. I’ve had experiences writing for the paper I would never have gotten just writing my own thing. I am not a news junkie, which I believe you must be if you want to be a journalist.

However, I wouldn’t mind writing for a newspaper as a correspondent on a freelance basis, or what I call citizen journalism.

I never have a problem with finding ideas for my writing, but for my reporting–that is a challenge.

So even though I don’t want to become a journalist, I want to become the best reporter I can become while doing it for the paper.

Koretzky helped us discover that our largest problem was communication. We don’t always make the meetings or collaborate; most of us work independently. I prefer to just write the story and let them do with it what they may. I don’t hang out in the Corsair office; I already work in an office all day during work-study. I prefer to work remotely, but I do show up for the meetings. However, I do need face-time once in awhile. The only thing that drives me crazy is when the meeting doesn’t start on time and its just dead time, wasted time.

The workshop was a good (if lengthy) experience; I learned a great deal and got more motivated. Did you know that group photos suck because they’re boring? Journalism doesn’t have to be fair. There was a great shot of a girl in the geology club climbing a rock, and it wasn’t used, but rather a posed group shot was. I am also a fan of including negative space in a photo and overlaying text in that space, because I do that with my poetry sometimes. (I call it “phoetry,” which is just a little too precious.)

One of his best lines was about talking about your own media–not someone else’s. We all discuss our favorite shows on Netflix, books we’re reading, etc. Let’s give that same attention to the content we create.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #390; Theme: Title of the poem is a music genre

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To ABBA (an apostrophe poem)

You were a break from my childhood
of George Jones and Tammy Wynette,
from the punk rock
my brother would bang out while I tried to study,
a break from the world,
XXXXXmy world,
XXXXXXXXXXmy thoughts.

You were what candy-colored dreams
were made of.
You fought for space inside my head
as I drove the Three Mile Bridge to the beach,
with the balmy gulf breeze blowing in my unhearing ear,
so that the wind was the feel,
and you,
the sound.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-390

 

#Micropoetry Monday: Lawlessness & Disorder

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The contents turned to ash,
time blowing away the dust of the past,
degrading the DNA,
so that justice delayed became justice denied.

Jill Ellen Roth had suffered for the sins of their envy,
for being beautiful,
their sloth, for being an overachiever,
their greed, for being wealthy.
To them, they were not because she was.

Her conception of justice birthed a career in law,
but when there was a miscarriage of it
due to a poor delivery,
she wrote a book
& overturned a verdict.

She obeyed the letter of the law,
he, the spirit of the law;
they each broke the other,
canceling each other out.

He was a famous plagiarist,
stealing the words of his betters,
until he wrote the story of his ill-gotten fame,
& his victims became his lessers.

33 Poetry Themes and Forms to Spark Creativity

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Acrostic:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/17/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-16-theme-science/

Apocalypse (There are many ways the world can end; remember, it doesn’t have to be the whole world).

Childhood memories (If you sit and relax, you will remember more than you think you will; it doesn’t hurt to ask family members or old friends what they remember, because we all remember different things.)

Christmastide couplets (or any other holiday–even foolishness like National Donut Day, etc., can spark a verse):  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/12/27/micropoetry-monday-christmastide-couplets/

Current events (These are not my favorite, because they age-out quickly, but they might grab the most attention, as most people like to be “in the now”.)

Education (People like to learn information in new ways; make it entertaining, for even adults like to “learn through play”.)

Ekphrastic (This is a poetic form inspired by a piece of fine art): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-371-theme-ekphrastic-poem/

Faith and Spirituality (and extrasensory writing.)

Fairy Tales (especially the compound fractured kind):  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-340-theme-finally-or-at-last/

Family Dynamics (or, in my case, my crazy family): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/29/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-29-theme-haphazard/

From your own work (a piece can have many incarnations–each can take on a life of its own.  I did this with my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/07/22/fiction-friday-micropoetry-based-on-the-book-2/

Haiku (the perfect balance of brevity and needing a post in a pinch): https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/24/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-24-theme-love-or-anti-love/

Lawlessness & Disorder (just open your newspaper, peruse cold cases, etc.).

The Lighter Side (humor is always welcome.)

Limerick:  https://sarahleastories.com/2017/02/17/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-383-theme-nope/.  The Saturday Evening Post hosts a free limerick contest that’s worth checking out:  http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/limerick-contest

Love Comes Darkly

Love Story 

Modern Proverbs (list poems or life lessons, in poetic form or with line breaks): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/02/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-1-theme-foolish/

Nature (just-so stories are my favorite):  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/22/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-22-theme-nature/

Opposites (I like three-line poems where the first two lines are opposites and the third line brings them together in a surprising way.)

Our Beautiful South (or your geography; even overexposed places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York have their microcosms): https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/02/nonet-poems-my-geography/

Pantoum (What I love about this form is that some of the lines repeat): https://sarahleastories.com/2017/02/19/pantoum-poem-an-exercise-in-repetition/

Pet Life (If you’ve never had experience with a pet, don’t worry–there are many animal stories out there.  I love stories about animals who help people, through service or therapy.)

Persona (or “human interest poem”):  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/01/26/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-337-theme-persona-poem/

Realms of Motherhood:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/07/the-seven-wonders-of-hannah-an-exercise-in-non-rhyming-poetry/

Reconstruction (People, like buildings, can be torn down and rebuilt.)

Social Media

Thanatology (or any other -ology)

Things We Set on Fire (This was a title of a book that showed up on my Kindle, and I thought it so clever, I’m going to use it as a theme.)

Weapons, and Things that are Hard (Anything can be used as as weapon:  sex, the Internet, wrenches, revolvers, lead pipes, etc.)

What if? (I probably ask myself this question everyday):  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/05/05/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-348-theme-when-everything-goes/

Working  (dirty jobs, unusual jobs, etc.):  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/10/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-9-theme-work/

The Writer’s Life (Writing about writing doesn’t have to be boring; have fun with play-on words or phrases.)

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

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The distinguished-looking man sat with the woman who would pull the thread that would help me come apart at the seams through an unholy act.

Sister Wiley wore a mask of syrupy sweetness, but the mask didn’t cover her eyes that emitted a cold, calculating glare.

Glancing in Sister Wiley’s direction I saw, as she looked at Mother, something that resembled fear, for Mother’s new faith overshone her old one.

Like the kapps Mennonite women wore, both sexes wore sacred garments under their clothes, where only God could see them.

Mother had never had any use for girlfriends before, & I wondered why she had let Sister Wiley choose to be hers.

I saw something in Elder Roberts then that I often saw in David: tolerance; but it would fail him when I needed it most.

Sister Wiley watched us from across the room, plucking a prune from a pewter platter & taking a bite, smiling that Mona Lisa smile.

David wanted me to go to University, but the Relief Society (or, as Caitlin said, the Sisterhood of the Raveling Dresses) had me rethinking such an endeavor.

The day our Little Miss stopped being a drama princess was the day we would know her personality had finally split.

I’d never seen our secular, nuclear family as isolated, but rather insulated from the world. The Mormons made me see that we were the world.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #389; Theme: Improvement

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Improvement (is an Inside Job):  In Acrostic

It starts with the self
Minimalism and mindfulness
Productivity over busyness
Recursive reading
Occupational happiness
Variety of experiences
Eat well, pray often, love the one you’re with
Making time, taking time
Endless intellectual curiosity
Not afraid to say no
Thank you, please, and I’m sorry

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-389