In the classical meaning, an “essay” wasn’t some assignment teachers doled out like tic-tacs, but a simple attempt to prove something. It translates into English as “to test” or “to try.” The simple distinction across eras being that essays were meant as thought experiments written down, not just a thesis and three body paragraphs on a theme in The Great Gatsby.
I consider myself an essayist in the classical terms, pretentious as it may be. It is here that the reader might begin to ask my place in a poetry workshop. I, too, have asked that of myself. Having looked at everyone’s poetry now—even in the context of a whirlwind—I belong (in the pedagogical terms) in the turkey class of poets. Certainly not the mighty Eagles, not even the fair-minded Bluebirds, no, the turkeys. With their foolish gobbles and strangely formed bodies. But even turkeys have some merit, we eat them at Thanksgiving, their feathers were useful for fletching, and they’re rather fun to blast out the sky with a shotgun—plow!
And yet in some convoluted way, it seems to me perfectly reasonable that a poem could be an essay (though an essay not so much a poem). An attempted articulation of self on page, a testing of verbal invention in lieu of logical consistency could certainly fulfill the tenets of “trying” while chasing away solipsism in a way a traditional essay simply cant. Poetry allows us to sort of leap over the wall of self, essaying demands it stay within the boundary of it. It is that ability that hope to gain from a poetry workshop, so that my essaying might become stronger.