Tonight I put my residency reviews through their final drafts (yes, I write them in drafts. Yes I know I'm crazy, Yes I know I overthink things. Thank you. Moving on) and wrote the essay to sum up the residency experience. I'm still not entirely satisfied with the group as a whole, but what else is new, right? Hopefully I'll get my brain in gear for the semester and write brilliant commentaries.
Here's the essay I wrote for my experience of the residency:
Residency Summary: Re-envisioning a Writer
I am constantly surprised by how everything in writing connects. Last residency, Marvin told us if we write far enough it doesn’t matter what images or ideas are in our poems, everything will coalesce regardless of how disparate it may seem to be. The various craft talks, workshops, and classes all seemed to come together this residency to encourage me toward distance, daring, and personal implication in my writing.
Over the course of the last semester I became very interested in the physical and metrical structure of a poem. I began to discover ways to use the form of the poem to enhance the content. This residency, Frank Gaspar’s talk on narrative point of view, Vivian Gornick’s reminder of the necessity of self-implication, and Leslie Miller’s consideration of the positive and negative uses of shame have made me more aware of the importance of narrative structure in poetry. In my workshops, I found that I sometimes make narrative shifts, or add too much of an instructive voice, confusing or boring my readers.
I also became aware of my lack of depth, both as a reader and a writer. My previous workshops encouraged us to look at the story of a poem, but not to attempt to discern the meaning of a piece since meaning in poetry is subjective. Working with Leslie in workshop, I found that while meaning does vary by reader, we do need to look beyond the story of the poem to find what the poem is saying about that story. In a good poem, interpretation should not be necessary to discover what a writer wants to say about an experience. But, in a workshop, it is important to hear what each reader has taken away from the poem so that the poet may see what the poem actually says.
Workshopping with Peter, we looked almost exclusively at the poem’s structure. Editorial comments and interpretations could appear on the written comments to the poet, but in class we looked at the nuts and bolts of each poem’s construction to see what worked and what didn’t. I found his workshop style incredibly helpful for reading a poem with an eye for craft and learning the benefits or disadvantages to using certain techniques in certain situations.
Both of these workshops helped me with, and were made easier to understand through Ellen’s class on how to read a poem. All three experiences reminded me to slow down and appreciate each poem for what it had to offer, regardless of whether I liked the particular style or genre. Slowing down actually helped me enjoy some poems more thoroughly, since on my initial read I had not been able to understand either the style or the content of the piece. Walking through them with my instructors, I noticed several techniques and connections I had not been able to notice or appreciate before.
This residency seemed to be about being open and experimenting. I hope especially to keep Marvin’s advice to write with abandon in the forefront of my mind this semester. That admonition, along with the encouragement to explore in writing have reassured me that I can and should write about anything and everything I want to, whether or not it leads me to a discovery. Marvin’s statement that a poet should write a lot and throw away a lot was oddly encouraging as well. I often struggle with whether or not I should put something down on the page. This residency has answered with a yes! Absolutely! I am learning I need to view everything I write or want to write as having the potential to end up somewhere interesting or incredible, no matter how long it takes to get there. I also learned I need to add more personality and vulnerability to my poems, remove my editorial voice, and open myself to the possibilities of varied, mysterious, and inquisitive work.
I'm excited to see how my work changes and grows this semester. I'm already amazed by how far it has come. Especially with what I've learned about revision. I'm so grateful every day that I have this opportunity to study what I love. Thanks to everyone who continually encourages me and listens to me bawling on the phone at 10:30 at night when my homework is almost due and I think what I've written is a bunch of tripe (Daddy).
Thanks for reading,