Sunday, April 20, 2008

NH Writers' Day

Yesterday, I spent the day at New Hampshire Writers' Project's annual "Writers' Day." I love seeing the increasing number of writers, most who live in NH, that turn up each year. Writing is sometimes a lonely occupation or avocation, and it is nice to commune with like-minded individuals.

The keynote speaker was the award-winning poet, Wesley McNair. I enjoyed his keynote, which included slides. After listening to his description of his childhood where his mother was a single parent who raised three boys, I was once again reminded that poetry often springs from hardship and adversity.

One thing that McNair commented on was the idea that people get ideas while driving. He went on to say, "that's what checkbooks are for!" He showed a slide of poems crisscrossing a checkbook. I can relate since I keep an Altoids tin with a post-it pad, and a stub of a pencil, in my car door pocket! Fortunately, I write haiku! My friend, Marnie Brooks keeps a notebook, and she referred to her being struck with the muse, while in the car, as "poem driving." Disclaimer: please, please, please, give all your attention to the road and your driving! Pull over when the pesky muse whispers in your ear! You don't want to be known as, as Marnie says, an "accidental poet." Here's a senryu inspired by the topic of poem driving:

poem on
a post-it note
--evening commute

One of the Write Sisters, Muriel, and her business partner, Lisa Greenleaf, gave a workshop called It’s Not Vanity: The Decision to Self-Publish. Here's the description:
When Muriel Dubois couldn’t find a home for a biography she believed in, she teamed up with book designer/illustrator Lisa Greenleaf to self-publish To My Countrywomen: The Life of Sarah Josepha Hale. Technology has made self-publishing a viable option for today’s writers, yet it is not a decision to be made lightly. Dubois and Greenleaf will take participants through the process of self-publishing a book and present examples of self-published books, as well as the reasons for and against going this route. Recommended for intermediate to advanced writers.
I'll leave it to Mur to talk about the workshop if she wishes. Both she and Lisa told me, though, that they were pleased with the participants' questions and discussion.

I attended a workshop a little out of my comfort range, The Art of Evocation in the Single-Image Poem. The workshop was led by poet and editor, Maggie Dietz. Dietz is currently assistant poetry editor for the online magazine Slate, and for several years directed the national Favorite Poem Project, so she knows her stuff. From the workshop description:
Some of the most vivid and memorable short lyrics—from Dickinson’s "There’s a Certain Slant of Light" to Stevens’s "A Jar in Tennessee"-—are built upon the description of a single powerful image. We’ll begin this workshop by looking at a few poems in this tradition; then, through a guided exercise, we’ll write short, evocative poems and share them with the group.
I felt totally at sea. The writing exercises were fun, but I have problems thinking metaphorically. I'm a literal type of girl! I also found that I need some instruction on line breaks and enjambment! One thing Dietz showed us may hold out some hope for me regarding line breaks--she took a William Carlos Williams poem and rewrote it using the exact same words and punctuation, but laid out on the page differently from the way Williams did. We discussed the differences. It was an "aha" moment for me. I thought, if I can get someone to type up a poem in paragraph form without any breaks, other than normal punctuation, I could then retype it myself with breaks where I think they should be, and then compare it to the poet's original and see where I differed. It might work...Anyone feel like typing up a poem and sending it to me?


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