Beginning poets and intermediate poets: a meditation

First of all, I’m updating this blog because a beautiful poet, Angela Brommel, remembered that I sometimes post here and shared this with others. In honor of people actually reading my musings, here’s one I’ve been thinking of lately.


I’m lucky enough to teach both the beginning level poetry workshop here at USF and the intermediate level. One issue I notice coming up in the intermediate workshop is the question of what’s at stake in a poem. I end up asking the student poets why this poem matters? Why was it urgent for the student to write? As an old colleague of mine used to write on composition papers, “So what?”

But that issue comes up much less frequently in the beginning level. And I’m thinking it’s just part of the process. Beginning poets come in to class thinking of poetry as an outpouring of emotion. We spend much of our time then showing them that a poem is a crafted thing. They are introduced to techniques and to the very idea that choosing one word over another might have a different effect on the reader.

Intermediate poets come in to class thinking of the poem as a crafted thing–that’s what they learned in their beginning classes, after all. And then we need to remind them that poetry is also an outpouring of emotion. You should be writing the poems in your intermediate class for the same reasons you wrote them in the beginning class: because you had something to work out on the page, to ponder, to turn in your hands and examine, to try to understand.

This isn’t an either/or issue. This is a matter of knowing that poetry is many things. It is a body that we stitch together, a body that requires a heart to make it move.

January 25, 2012. Uncategorized.

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