Writing in Advanced Poetry Workshop I vs. Advanced Poetry Workshop II

Just the other day in workshop, Ariana brought up a point that I completely agree with. Last semester, when she and I were both taking our first poetry workshop, we stuck very closely to the prompts or exercises offered in the reader which Lytton provided. This semester, though, in our second workshop, we both have noticed that we’ve been straying from the reader. I know that I personally have been straying a lot from the suggested exercises. I recently began to think about why this is, and what this says about my development as a poet.

I think one major difference between this semester’s class and last semester’s class is the focus: poetic address vs. sound. I know for me personally, it is easier to experiment with poetic address than it is with sound, probably because I just don’t know as much about sound. I can recognize things like assonance and alliteration, repetition of sounds, vowel quality, hardness and softness of consonants, and I can even try to make inferences about how these things affect my reading of the poem. However, when it comes to things like meter, or the article we read on extreme Welsh meter, I feel like there is so much I just don’t know about sound, and thus can’t utilize (intentionally and craftily) in my own experimentation with poems. So this is probably one reason I end up straying so much from the exercises which ask us to really try to consider sound in ways that I’m just not comfortable with yet.

Another difference, I think, which is possibly more indicative of my own growth as a poet (as opposed to my own limitations), is that I am actually more comfortable allowing my poems to go where they need to. I don’t think that I am diverging from the prompts out of purely laziness or unwillingness to try to work with things like meter, but more so out of my ability to recognize when the poem needs to break from the prompt, or may be better off doing so. I am more aware of my own poetry, and of my own poetics. What about others for whom this is there second poetry workshop? Do you feel that having to write a poetic statement at the end of last semester helped you to develop as a poet? Do you find yourselves straying from the exercises a lot? And for those in Poetry I right now? Do you find yourselves sticking more rigidly to the prompts? Disclaimer: I don’t mean to imply that those for whom this is their second workshop are more “developed” as poets, because I’m sure this is not the case. I’m just interested in how having previously taken a workshop with Lytton affects my willingness/unwillingness to write within the exercises.

2 Replies to “Writing in Advanced Poetry Workshop I vs. Advanced Poetry Workshop II”

  1. Hi Chloe!

    I certainly am straying away from the prompts! It’s not that I don’t like them, I actually love having prompts, I think that because my poetic voice is more developed I’m more able to write on my own without relying on the prompt.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about the two different topics of these workshops. In my opinion, I find this “sound” theme to be extremely interesting and exciting. Focusing on poetic address was great–informative and helpful for my writing–I just think that sound has really helped me craft my language. I’m also really enjoying “From the Fishhouse” whereas last years “Postmodernisms” was not necessarily my favorite read. Although I didn’t love that anthology, I have to say it certainly introduced me to new ways of thinking about writing and poetry.

    I guess this comment is more of a love-note to workshop. I’ve definitely seen myself grow over the course of these classes.


  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your post Chloe. Having been in Poetry I with both you and Arianna, I can say that I have definitely been straying away from the prompts. Even though I love sound in poetry I do find it very hard to do, which is why I have been straying away from the prompts.

    I do feel that having to write a poetic statement at the end of last semester helped me developed as a poet because before that I didn’t really consider myself a poet. But now I do. And it also helped me understand my poetry because I rarely do understand my poetry. It also helped me realize the techniques that work and don’t work for me.

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