ENG 326 Writing Poetry: Intermediate
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Note: My intermediate poetry class is wrapping up their discussion of Erika L. Sánchez’s Lessons on Expulsion. All three of these poems appear in the final section of the book, and they model two approaches of the “function” of a poem. In the first exercise, students will list humiliations and embarrassments in a move toward candor and intimacy, and, in the second, they will think about the rhetoric of the imperative, its insistence and (sometimes) hesitance.
10/19 Writing Exercises: “Poem of My Humiliations” and “Admit It”
We will do two back-to-back writing exercises based on three poems by Erika L. Sánchez—“Poem of My Humiliations” for the first, and “Circles” and “Six Months after Contemplating Suicide” for the second—if time allows.
Writing Exercise #1: “Poem of My Humiliations”
- Re-read “Poem of My Humiliations” (62) by Erika L. Sánchez. Discuss.
- Craft a poem that is a list of things that humiliated or embarrassed you (only use things with which you’re comfortable sharing). You must create single-sentence stanzas with no line breaks.
Writing Exercise #2: “Admit It”
- Re-read “Circles” (64) and “Six Months after Contemplating Suicide” (72). Discuss.
- Write a poem in which you use the imperative mode (an insistent instruction)— “Admit it”—to the self or (a real or imagined) beloved.
In “Step 1,” I’m asking students to develop their skills in the imperative and descriptive moods so that a character and/or narrator can demonstrate or walk through an concept or action. They will base their preliminary discussion on “The Unforgivable Curses” chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the semester’s icebreaker text, as well as read the opening pages of Lorrie Moore’s “How To Be an Other Woman.” In doing so, they will likewise refer to some of the terminology we’ve gone over in previous classes—diction, syntax, dialogue, concrete details, point of view—and demonstrate their understanding of that terminology by relying on those literary concepts to make an effective piece.
For the second day of class in ENG 2031: Craft of Prose, students will begin the day by reading an excerpt from Lorrie Moore’s piece “How to Become a Writer” and then write directions for themselves about becoming a writer in this “How to Become a Writer” Exercise on Google Drive.
Minerva by Elihu Vedder (1897)
Class: Beginning Poetry (Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop)
Readings: A tailored poetry packet
Time: 50+ minutes
Think about a poem that you’ve been wanting to write for a long time but haven’t been able to successfully accomplish. It works best if this is a personal memory or other narrative.
Discuss each of the following approaches and the read their respective suggested poems:
- Anecdotal: A simple story in one setting, usually in plain speech. See “Black” by Alan Shapiro.
- Imperative: A second person address with instructions, based on an extended metaphor or literal. See “How to Live in a Trap” by Eleanor Ross Taylor.
- Meta: A response to an event that takes into account writing’s inability to fully capture the event. See “Photograph of September 11th” by Wislawa Szymborska and “The streetlamp above me darkens” by Tarfia Faizullah.
- Figurative: A characterization of an event or action through metaphor. See “Boy Breaking Glass” by Gwendolyn Brooks.
- Collage: A poem that uses multiple of these approaches and usually isn’t afraid to associate away from and back again to the original motivation. See “My Story In a Late Style of Fire” by Larry Levis of “Across the Sea” by Dana Levin.
After discussing each approach, take ten minutes to write your narrative using only that approach. Move on to the next one and repeat.
At the end, ask yourself: How did the poem change? Did the poem become more or less imaginative? Which one do I like the most? Why? Share.