ENG 326 Writing Poetry: Intermediate
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Note: My intermediate poetry class is wrapping up workshop on their third poems and they are getting ready to turn in their fourth workshop poems this Saturday. This exercise is meant to allow them time and space to try something new (some have wondered aloud about if there can be “happy” poems) and draft something they can develop into their workshop piece. I always allow my students to revise in-class writing into their workshop poems, as this gives the class (optional) scaffolding of their assignments and helps to alleviate pressure surrounding “writer’s block.” (Side note: I don’t believe in writer’s block, as it often boils down to students second guessing themselves before they even begin, but they believe in it, so I want to help them overcome that fear in whatever way I can.)
9/28 Writing Exercise: “Praise House”
- Read “Praise House: The New Economy” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi and “To a Fig Tree on 9th and Christian” by Ross Gay.
- Freewrite a poem in which you praise a moment or a whole lot of things that you love or for which you are grateful.
- Note: This exercise introduces you to a new form, the praise poem, while also giving you the option of continuing to cultivate your skills at using a poetic catalog (i.e., a list) in your poems.
In “In Medias Res,” students write and re-write a scene in the three different points of view from a YouTube video of a man texting and running into a wild bear. They likewise create a character profile for their point of view character to navigate Anne Lamott’s suggestion of an “emotional acre.” In doing so, they negotiate the scope, immediacy, and language of each point of view, and consider how “in the middle of things” each point of view feels.
My third manuscript, previously called Bluff, has a new title: Hollow Point. At 74 pages, it’s all ready except for a few revisions and the addition of some more poems in the person of Othello‘s Emilia.
After talking about Janet Burroway’s Image chapter in Imaginative Writing, my class took our discussion to the white board to consider problems with translating experience and ideas in language, the fundamentals of significant detail, and the precision of language.
I asked them to consider all of the possible meanings for each of these sentences:
“Joe had some water.”
—He drank some water; he has water to drink; he had water for watering his plants, etc.
“Joe had a glass of water.”
—He drank the glass of water; he had a glass of water to drink, etc.
“Joe had a glass of water on the table.”
—He had water to drink on the table and he hadn’t finished drinking it.
We explored the slippery nature of the word “had” in all of these cases, and then we thought about how context could change the sentences. We considered the difference between “a glass of water” versus a “water glass,” how the second doesn’t necessarily mean that the glass contains water, rather it could designated as a glass for water. Additionally, having the read come to “glass” before “water” would help form the image for the reader as it provides the container before what’s contained inside it.