Yesterday I drafted a poem titled “Why I Write Poems About My Body.” As an undergrad professor, I’ve been thinking a lot about what writing I was exposed to when I was an undergraduate, what that offered me, and how it limited me. One part ars poetica, one part invective, the poem needed me to write it, even if only for myself.
—Pierluigi Cappello, “Staying” (trans. Portnowitz) in new Poetry
Class: Intro to Creative Writing
Readings: A poetry packet featuring the poems listed below
Time: 30 minutes
Group 1: “Wherever My Dead Go When I’m Not Remembering Them” (Shapiro) and “In the Waiting Room” (Bishop)
Group 2: “Perpetually Attempting to Soar” (Ruefle) and “The Lovers of the Poor” (Brooks)
Group 3: “Your Wild Domesticated Inner Life” (Banias) and “Dorothy’s Trash:” (Johnson)
Group 4: “My Story in a Late Style of Fire” (Levis) and “The Day Lady Died” (O’Hara)
Group 5: “The Mare of Money” (Reeves) and “In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes” (Corral)
Group 6: “Scrabble with Matthews” (Wojahn) and “Ode to Browsing the Web” (Wicker)
Group 7: “The streetlamp above me darkens” (Faizullah) and “A Pornography” (Rekdal)
Group 8: “To a Fig Tree on 9th and Christian” (Gay) and “Animals Are Passing From Our Lives” (Levine)
Read each poem assigned to your group. Answer these questions:
- What’s the dramatic situation of the poem? Meaning, what’s going on? What’s the scene or the conflict? (Ex. For Matthew Olzmann’s “Notes Regarding Happiness,” the speaker is attempting to post a happy birthday message on a friend’s Facebook wall.)
- How does each poem get from its beginning to its end? Is it narrative (a story) and therefore moves in a linear fashion? Are there associative connections between images? Examine the relationship between images in these poems.
- Describe the tone. Is the poet sincere?
- Describe the style of this poem. Is the language conversational or esoteric? What does the poem sound like?
- Describe the form of this poem. Is it in couplets? A single stanza? Etcetera? How long are the lines? Why do you think the poet chose this form?
- Do these two poets have anything in common in terms of their style, strategies, or motivation for writing?
- If you were going to write an imitation of one of these poets, who would you pick? How would you begin? Start drafting a few lines using the strategies you described above.