Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This is my writing notebook. It is one of the most visually appealing and well traveled little books I've had in a while: it has journeyed with me to Green Bay, to Charlotte and Charleston, to the Twin Cities, and will go to Alaska (besides its regular residence here in town). It's square, a little beat on the edges, but in those pages, I have begun to feel like a poet again--that blissful, etching, scribbling, wonderful feeling I had when I was taking MFA classes as an undergraduate.

And Carolyn Forche continues to be brilliant, lovely, and has had us all laughing with her stories. Here are the little nuggets from today's workshop:

- when we write about [the Holocaust] [or anything big, like 9/11 or Civil Rights], we are writing not just about the event but in the aftermath of the event
- write about something by narrowing the focus instead of trying to take in something so huge (she then spoke of how CD Wright used to make them write five hundred words about one word, like an onion or a brick)
- Length of lines: How much weight does each line bear? What is truncated, left out?
- Compact poems as "hand grenades"
- keep a folder for each poem and its drafts, keep a folder for all the most recent poems in a manuscript
- David Abrams - The Spell of the Sensuous
- trust that what you've already said has done its job (don't overdo it)
- boning the chicken, lift the comb skeleton from the flesh of the fish
- Joseph Brodsky taught that there is a word for which the sake of the poem was written (to which she told an entertaining story, complete with accent, of how Brodsky would machine gun fire questions at his students after memorizing poems, complete with punctuation and line breaks)
- gesture of a poem: how it opens up or closes down at the end, how it yearns or meditates, how poems can be juxtaposed, argue with one another, how they move toward preservation and memory
- Larry Levis - Sensationalism

- Nothing to do with writing, but this is something that has been on my mind, especially after visiting my Midwestern transplanted friend in Charlotte and having a conversation about racism in the South and in the Midwest: the North is more covert about its racism, though isn't any less so racist

I will leave you with this: not a poem, but a little note about a venture my friend Eireann and her lovely friends Zach and Brian (who is making our programs and made our beautiful invitations for the wedding) are beginning: Yes Press has just released its first broadside postcard, and you can purchase them individually or by subscription (which is what I did--so you should do it too--since it's what all the cool kids are doing!).

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