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”
Tomorrow, I’m teaching a one-day course called “Walk the Line: The Tension Between Line & Syntax” at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York. We will consider the relationship between poetry’s vehicles of meaning: the line and the sentence. In doing so, we’ll investigate the ways in which these structures support, nuance, and deny one another to achieve resonance, depth, and subtext within a poem. This course will be generative, with exercises that rely on close reading and formal manipulation of texts, as well as the drafting of new pieces. Whether you want to learn more about what your favorite poets are doing with their poems or discover how to break lines in your own, this course will insist that poetry is a craft, honed by exercises and study.
With a subscription to Poetry magazine as one of the required texts for my Poetry Workshop class, students will have read “Violins” by Rowan Ricardo Phillips prior to completing this exercise, “Of Violins and Violence,” based around the tension between similar sounding words.
Ask that the students bring in one of their favorite poems. (My students brought in “Meditation at Lagunitas” by Robert Hass, “Fever 103°” by Sylvia Plath, and “[Carrion Comfort]” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.) Have each student read the selection to the class and lead a discussion on the poem’s features, movement, and form.
Consider some of the ways one can write imitations:
Imitate all or many of the strategies of that specific poem.
Imitate general features of the poet’s style.
Write a poem in the persona of the poet. (His/her general voice, not just the voice on the page.)
Do a loose imitation using one element of the original poem. This could even include response poems, poems with lines of that poet, etcetera.
Then have them do the following exercise:
Write an imitation of the poem you brought in. (15 min.)
Write an imitation of one of the other poems. (15 min.)
Discuss. What imitation strategy did you choose? Why? Did you find yourself more able to imitate your selection or another’s? Why? Which imitation was hardest? Can you more easily discern some of your own fundamental orientation to language, ticks, go-to strategies, etcetera through the imitation process?