The Environment and Poetry

Last class we had workshop outside. How could we not? It was sunny and warm, and the green just outside Welles looked so inviting. I was practically skipping outside, and desperate to find a good seat.

The moment I was brought back into reality was when my white shoes squished into the damp ground. I hopped around, trying to find a good spot to land. I settled for a good enough spot, hopped over, and found my seat.

I really liked workshopping outside. It was a welcome change of pace. Instead of confining our poetry to the (often-overheated) walls of Welles 216, we were able to talk about poetry in nature (as close as we can get on the Geneseo campus). Golden hour is my favorite time of day, and to be outside with my fellow poets in such gorgeous weather, and soak up as much of the sun as we could before it disappears for the next six months, was a pleasure.

However, as indicated by the white shoe altercation with mud, I was not dressed for the weather. I wore a knit sweater and ripped jeans that day, poor choices when sitting stationary for an extended period of time. As time went on, I slowly froze. The freeze was the equivalent of opening your fridge extremely slowly for a snack at 3 am without trying to wake your sleeping parents up. Towards the end of that half of workshop, I was extremely eager to go back inside.

The moment that I really wanted to write about took place in the middle of workshopping Daniel’s poem. I looked over my shoulder and saw a stinkbug crawling up my right arm. That freaked me out. I pondered my options, not noticing that Lytton had started to ask a question.

With all of the patience I could muster, I swiped the stinkbug off of my arm. It fell into the grass below and scurried away. I took a moment to catch my breath, and realized that the rest of the class looked deep in thought. They might have been freezing and trying to keep as warm as possible, but they at least looked deep in thought. It dawned upon me that I had no clue what just happened in the previous conversation. I asked Lytton if he could repeat the question since I was distracted, and he repeated the question.

The reason why I am telling this story is because I am curious about how the environment influences how we read, write, and critique poetry. When I am traveling, it seems either I write the most original pieces of my life or absolute drivel. No in-between. If I’m stuck on an idea, a helpful thing for me to do is go walking outside, ideally talking to somebody else, but the change in environment helps me engage a part of my brain that might have been hidden before. Maybe the warm class environment (temperature-wise here, not ambiance-wise) helps my thoughts come together faster than they would in even the crisp fall air.

How does the environment influence the way you read, write or critique poetry? What is the most conducive environment for you to do those things? What is the least conducive environment for you to do those things?

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