Poetical Sharings from my Prof


I took a week long class on Poetry from a Professor at University of Iowa, in Iowa City. Besides enjoying the food, and the ambiance of the city, I learned quite a lot, that I wanted to share. So here, I offer just a nibble, of what I overall learned.

When I came home I wrote this:

Poetry as need

Is journalistic

Poetry as a job

A calling

Is metaphorical

And uses those

5 tools Danny talked about

How can I reconcile my journalistic needy tendencies with my laziness in not wanting to work so much for the “Line”???

And now for the explanation of those five tools, along with other remonstrations from my ever so talented Prof of that week.

  • Read your work aloud, ya?
  • Sound of poetry is what drives the poet.
  • Try new ways to write: give a constraint
  • As John Berryman struggled with this, KNOW that what you write isn’t “YOU”. It is the work created.
  • Pear down the words: the gristle is there: keep the point and be direct.
  • Be careful of capitalization.
  • The form can give the meaning as well as the words.
  • Make the reader believe you story / poem is possible. If it seems unlikely—make it likely
  • Avoid cliché
  • You can OVERDO it.
  • If poetry is economy of language, you must ask if each Line works.
  • Always “feed the bears” in your poetry; if you don’t, you’ll be mauled.
  • Line break is KEY! Remember the hinge: the first Line starts the reader in one direction, the next Line follows and totally startles the reader into another meaning (James Wright: I’m Dying/ For a scoop of ice cream)
  • There is scaffolding in poetry. The poet does not need a lot of the set up, the beginnings, the fledgling attempts into the poem…. And GET RID OF THE BUILD UP!
  • Do not let yourself get in the way of your work. This is your moment on stage. You have chosen to step onto the sacred ground of expression. Do not obfuscate. Be beautiful. Look outward.

Simple in sum of remonstrations: [ THE FIVE TOOLS!]

Tricks as a poet to use: imagery, figurative language, sound, repetition, meter, rhyme, form, Line. The stanza is a little room, and you are building a house.

My response to simple in sum:

  • I think I may see the prime need for revision.
  • Line by line, focus by audience, economy of words…. Make an image. Know it so well you can say it a million different ways. Then say it in the way that WORKS.

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