I think you all should know that I’ve been plundering your poems

As you all know, our class shares a folder via Google Drive, and cached within are our writing exercises, all neatly tucked away in folders labeled with each poet’s name. Of course the point of all this is to share our work, so on some level it’s obvious – any one of you is free to see what I’ve been writing, and vice versa.

Yet I can’t help but feel like I’m snooping when I click on someone else’s folder. I feel weird even saying this, like I’m admitting to leafing through your diaries, even though I’m fairly certain that it’s allowed, and that I’m not the only one (please say I’m not the only one!) doing it.

So yes, I scroll through your weekly poems, see the different ways we interpret the prompts, notice who has more consistent style and whose one-off experiments are vastly different from what they submitted to workshop. At times I want to ask – why didn’t you bring this poem to the class? Did you ever come back to this piece? I want to know if you like the poems I like, or if you just wrote them to write them, to have something to turn in on time. There have been instances when a poem catches my eye, and I like it so much I want to grab the person responsible, and tell them – but many of you I don’t know so well, and we don’t really talk outside of class, so I lose my nerve. I wonder who will mind that I’ve been sticking my nose in things.

I think you all should know that sometimes, if I don’t know what to do with the week’s exercise, I check to see if any of you have done it in a timelier manner than I have, for inspiration. And, in my private poems (more private than those in a digital folder, the kind that live in a red notebook in my bag) I take your line breaks, your themes, images, the occasional, meaty two-or-three word phrase – and I try them on for size, like we do with the poems from the reader.

I don’t post them. But I do wonder how you feel about that.


4 Replies to “I think you all should know that I’ve been plundering your poems”

  1. Olivia,
    You are not alone in the “Let’s see what everyone else is writing about” club. I love reading other people’s poetry, especially my peers (Geneseo students are so talented!) While I sometimes stop myself from clicking on other people’s folders, I wish we were more open about the exercises in class.
    Permission granted to go into my folder and comment up a storm, I am always seeking feedback!

  2. I love the “Post-Secret” quality of this. I hope the community we’ve built feels safe enough for everyone to enjoy readership. And sometimes we achieve more in an exercise because we allow ourselves more freedom than in a poem we know is being workshopped…

    Also, it’s very much what developing one’s poetry needs to be: trying out others modes and methods in order to discover what works best for you. Keep doing it!

  3. After reading this post I couldn’t help but to cmd+t and go through everyone’s writing exercises myself… As I did, I found myself wishing for a way to easily comment, but of course I don’t know how easy that is..

    I would love it if we were able to leave one another short notes on these online submitted exercises, even just to the effect of “Please workshop this!” Maybe that could be a useful tool for future workshops, I think it’d definitely push us as writers toward going above and beyond to critique one another.

  4. I like this idea, and I don’t feel as if this is an attack on privacy at all. I actually LOL’ed in the middle of Starbucks when I read this. I also think that sometimes we have to borrow things from others, and if you feel inspired by what someone else wrote, then go for it! Half of the responsibility of being a writer is finding something that inspires you enough to write. Plunder away!

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