Welcome and Notes

I'm so very pleased to welcome you to our workshop! 

    We're going to write new poems this week, and also (closely) read and discuss the poems you have brought with you. You may post the new poems  hereas you complete them. I will post assignments for each of the new poems as a "page" on the right of the blog, and you may post your poems as posts. Each poem will have a thread of comments. I will also publish supplementary materials as "pages," and these are for your inspiration and enjoyment. If you'd like to post something about these readings, please do so, and for each one, we can begin a thread of comments. You are all authors on this blog!
     We're about to form an instant community, and the more we respond to each other, the richer our experience will be.  I think you will benefit greatly from one another's expertise. 
     Each of the assignments will have options. Please choose one, but let it be a touchstone or springboard perhaps, rather than a strict set of instructions. You may modify your choice of option in any way that suits you, and the connection between the assignment and your ultimate poem might be a tenuous one indeed!
     This blog will be available to all of you throughout and beyond our week together. It is intended as an electronic resource and a supplement to the work we are doing in workshop. It is also a way for all of us to stay connected at the ACA and in beautiful New Smyrna Beach when we are not in workshop.     
Welcome and warmest wishes,
P.S. Materials posted here are to be shared only with members of this workshop and not beyond; this pertains also to the assignments. Please do not share with anyone. Our blog this week is private. Any poems you post or comments about them will also remain only on this blog, accessible only by these members. Posting to this blog does not constitute “publishing” because it is private. I hope you’ll all feel safe to write and share thoughts, including work you consider to be very new!


“The poet's I...is not the poet as he is formed in the world; it is the world as it is formed in the poet. Which means that if the poet is an exception, this exception is of no interest, what is of interest is in what way the exception conceives of the rule.”  Odysseas Elytis

“When we discover the secret relationships of meanings and traverse them deeply we'll emerge in another sort of clearing that is Poetry.  And Poetry is always single as the sky.  The question is from where one sees the sky.  I have seen it from midsea.”  (IV  Anoint The Ariston, from “The Little Mariner” by Odysseas Elytis, as translated by Olga Broumas)

“Born from the summons of becoming and from the anguish of retention, the poem, rising from its well of mud and of stars, will bear witness, almost silently, that it contained nothing which did not truly exist elsewhere, in this rebellious and solitary world of contradictions.”  (Rene Char, “Argument”)

Carolyn Forché's Practice Notes

The Reading Practice: Choose a poet whose work was completed prior to 1945 (Sappho, Homer, Blake, Dante, Dickinson, Whitman, Pound, etc.).  At the beginning of one of the four seasons of the year, decide to concentrate on the works of that poet: his/her collected poems, a critical biography, criticism, journals, letters, prose writings.  Keep this work on the bedside table.  Change this poet each season.
Choose a poet whose work was published after 1945 (Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Michael Palmer, Lyn Hejinian, etc.).  Place one book by such a poet in the bathroom.  Change this book weekly.
Xerox or copy by hand the poems from these readings, both seasonal and weekly, and keep them together in your own personal anthology.  This is the anthology you will take with you to the desert island.
The Writing Practice: Choose a place for your writing (desk, fruit crate in cellar, kitchen table, box in attic).  During your writing time, clear this of everything that hasn't to do with your writing.  Keep dictionaries, thesaurus, field guides, photographs, etc.  Choose a time of day during which it is usually possible for you to free yourself from other responsibilities/activities (midnight, dawn, lunch hour).  Go to your place and write or sit for thirty minutes. 

The Writing Process:  Make three boxes: one for good lines, one for good sections/stanzas/paragraphs, and one for loved words.  These boxes can be of wood, paper, tin, whatever material you like, and whatever size.  Keep these boxes in the vicinity of your writing place.  During the first fifteen minutes of your Writing Practice, empty your hands of the language that has coursed into them since your last Writing Practice.  Write freely, quickly and without regard to form.  Turn these pages over and save them for two weeks.  After two weeks, you will have about thirty pages if you have written daily.  Read through these pages, and re-copy by hand or into your computer whatever still pleases you or seems interesting (these two are not always the same).  Put the pages in an envelope, date it and seal it.  Put it away.  Keep the re-copied pages.  After two months, do the same thing with the re-copied pages.  Put these final "gleanings" into your Poet's Notebook (springboard, ring binder, whatever).  Along with these pages you will keep your drafts of poems, newsclippings, photographs, epigraphs, lists of loved words, lists of treasures of mind, lists of visual snapshots, lists of lists.  Work on your poems using this notebook.

The "Loved Words" List:  Keep lists of the words you most love—for their mnemonic power, their sound, whatever quality.  Read through these lists before you write.  Here are some of Odysseas Elytis' "loved words" (from The Little Mariner, by Odysseas Elytis, translated by Olga Bourmas, Copper Canyon Press, out of print): agape, Alexandra, All Soul's Day, anchor, anemone, Anna, ant, arch, arm in arm, armoir, aspen, astringent, August, bait, barbette, barrel, basil, basket, bay leaf, beach, beam-reach, beeswax, bell, bergamot, birdsong, bitter sea, blanket, blueing, bluefish, bluefly, boat, bolt, bougainvillea, boulder, braided rug, bride, brine, butterfly.

The "Visual Photographs":  Make lists of visual snapshots: quick verbal photographs of places/times/people.  A shorthand memory.  Here are some of Elytis':  (he names them after the islands where he saw them—some might enter poems, some become poems in themselves)

Spring night in a distant quarry graveyard.  That luminous cloud of fireflies that lightly shifts from grave to grave.
Just as the small boat meets the sea-cave, and suddenly, from the awesome light, you are enclosed in frozen blue-green mint.
Eleven o’clock, wind on the uphill to Old Chora.  Not a soul.
Who lets her nightgown drop, picks it up, discards it finally and sits facing the balcony, her bra unfastened in the back.
The "Treasures": keep a list in your notebook of the works of art, passages of music, the paintings, lines of poetry, etc. which have been made by others, and which you have taken into yourself for safe keeping. Here are some of Elytis':

dusky water
brightly burnished interiors
then an ineffable ether was cleft from the sky
many-eyed night
Left view of the “Coronation of the Virgin”  (Louvre Museum)
Sonata for violin and pinao no. 2 in A major, opus 12.
Sontata for violoncello and piano no.5 in D major,
            opus 102, 1.

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