Friday, January 25, 2008

where we visit the beach and i put my feet in the ocean

It was our last day of class, a very sad day indeed. One of the things I loved most about workshop is that we spun through a poem a day per participant, three poems each, and on the last day, we workshopped a revised version of one of those poems. I had been on the precipice of understanding the process of revision, of taking the training wheels off, of managing to work through drafts of a poem before presenting it to anyone else. My knee jerk reaction had been to thrust a first draft into the unwilling hands of poetry friends, poor souls, who would have to suffer through the basics, like sense of time and verb consistency. Working with Jude, I was able to see new things, but this intense week, the shift finally occurred. My friend Karen loves to tinker with poems; she loves the process of revision, even more than the original drafting. I spoke with some of the friends I'd made in the workshop, and we talked about the joy of the first draft, but I also spoke of the joy of creating a more perfect poem.

Tonight, I discovered a poet I want to study in more depth: Claudia Emerson. She read with Campbell McGrath, who'd given an excellent craft talk on specificity earlier in the week, and I absolutely adored the way she'd tell stories, the details she'd give before the poems (I love, love hearing the stories behind the poems), and the poems themselves were little jewels, gorgeous images and precise language. She won the Pulitzer (as did CK Williams, another reader--tomorrow night); I also think I met her the first day of the festival when I was too early and lost, and asked me if I wanted to grab a slice of pizza. Curses for not saying yes, if this is so.

I did speak to her afterward, told her the audience was clearly enamored with her, as was I, and I'm glad I was brave enough to have said it. I'm beginning to feel less tongue tied around the poets and writers; before, years ago when I was an undergraduate, I had trouble remembering my name, what I did, where I abandoned the car. My stomach would tie in knots, and it did still, but I managed to small talk while they scrawled a bit in the front of their books, gave them to me, managed to say what I felt, which was that I was in awe, only I said, "Lovely reading," making myself not seem like the tongue panting addict to poets and poetry that I am.

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