“A few weeks ago, I received an email from an eighth-grade student in Evanston, Illinois. He said he was writing a paper on the Kent State shootings of May 4th, 1970. Online, he came across my poem, ‘The Commons,’ knew that I had been there on that bloody day, and asked me to answer some questions for his research, which I did.
But what most impressed me was that this eighth grader was actually writing a paper! It made me smile because I successfully and shamefully avoided writing of any kind until I miraculously got to college, where I finally grew up and became addicted to paper and ink. But I’ve never had a creative writing course. When I was in college, there were none, so I had to teach myself, which is the slowest way to learn anything. After years of rejections, I had my first poem accepted by The Southern Review when I was in the middle of my doctoral dissertation on William Faulkner. After that, publication got easier, and last year, four decades of my work appeared in Long Lens: New & Selected Poems. Editing Tar River Poetry for nearly 30 years was also an invaluable learning experience for me. I had a good opportunity to see the clichés and mistakes other writers were guilty of, and try to avoid them.
One of the questions about free verse poetry that puzzled me for a long time was how to visually shape a poem and break a line. In a sonnet, we know where the line ends, but with open form, there are lots of possibilities. In the upcoming workshop, we will talk about some of these possibilities, with reference both to work submitted and examples I’ll distribute. We’ll also consider different kinds of poems: how-to, object, litany, elegy, letter, prayer, painting, etc. At some point, I want to talk about the process of revision, and will distribute a checklist of questions poets should ask about poems they think are ready to submit for publication. We will closely read and comment on at least one of the three poems workshop members have submitted. More, if time permits.
My goal is to have writers leave the workshop with the beginnings of at least one new poem. It is hard to say what participants will learn, but I feel certain that the roundtable discussions will lead them to think about certain aspects of poetry in a new and useful ways.”
If you have not already done so, please register for this year’s Squire Summer Writing Residency at www.ncwriters.org. The registration deadline is July 1.
We look forward to seeing you in New Bern.