Allowing oneself to engage in the reading and writing of poetry with other like-minded individuals is a most rewarding experience. Last night I facilitated the first in a three part workshop series called “A Beautiful Catastrophe.” The title is a play on a poetic line by Frank O’Hara, and it was his work we focused on last night. I presented three poems and after reading and discussing one poem at a time focusing on techniques employed by O’Hara, I provided a writing exercise challenging the poets to utilize some of those techniques. I found this difficult to develop without making each exercise completely imitative, but I think the format was successful. I cannot take full credit for ‘inventing’ this format, or thinking it up on my own. I’ve had great experiences, past and present, as a workshop participant with both Kristina England and Baron Wormser. Kristina runs a workshop that meets every couple of weeks (I haven’t been able to get back to it for quite some time, but I hope too, because the process is quite valuable) and participants bring 1-2 poems they’ve been working on in order to receive feedback on their work. I do not believe that a writer can exist without readers and that is a lifetime that exists from draft to publication.
I attended four workshops thus far facilitated by Baron Wormser and he is by far one of the best teachers I have had the opportunity to work with. He developed a workshop series called “Being with Poets.” Each workshop -usually weekend length- consists of in depth readings on 1-3 poets. Most recently we read and discussed works by Denise Levertov and Sylvia Plath. The group size is small, which allows everyone to participate in discussion. Through these readings and conversations I find that my own writing is greatly impacted because I am considering my craft as a poet and taking what I am learning to inform my own work.
When was the last time you attended a workshop? I understand writers are sometimes apprehensive about attending or joining a workshop, but if you find yourself the right group of people that are interested in positive criticism that goes beyond the “yes, I like it, ” or “this is good” your writing will reap rewards.