Poetry may be the best way to experience the imaginative vitality of language. One indication of this is the abundant range of poetic forms that represent verbal inventiveness in every era. This workshop examines a selection of poems from the historical to the contemporary, noticing differences in the way they work. A central question is how and why we choose the poetry we teach in our classrooms. This question poses the most difficulties in relation to modern and contemporary poetries and poetries from diverse cultures. The workshop leader will suggest a rich menu of poetic texts and reflect on the reasons for and means of making such a selection. Most important, the workshop explores a number of approaches and practices for working with the poems themselves—through writing, reading aloud, and collaborative performance. The aim is to enter the sometimes exotic territory of the poem in a way that is active, contemplative, exhilarating, and evocative.
FFW:What is poetry?
(in the form of a poem: "Poetry is...")
As a group make a list of definitions and ideas for use throughout the week.
Monday: Basic Elements
9:00 a.m.: The Range of Poetry: Robert Frost to Susan Howe: what makes a poem a poem?
what are the "requirements" of a poem?
Focused Free Writing: "A Good Experience with Poetry", "A Bad Experience with Poetry". Read together in class: Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and Susan Howe's excerpt from "Thorow"
Believing and doubting exercise for both poems: "I believe this is a poem" "This is not a poem".
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What is the vocabulary we use to talk about poetry with students?
Shakespeare/Howe Exercise: Take the content (meaning) of the Shakespeare sonnet and turn it into the form of a Susan Howe poem. Take the content of the Howe poem and transform it into a Shakespearian sonnet.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
by Arthur Rimbaud
A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue : vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins :
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
Which buzz around cruel smells,
Gulfs of shadow ; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley ;
I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
In anger or in the raptures of penitence;
U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
The peace of pastures dotted with animals,
the peace of the furrows
Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads ;
O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels :
O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes !
Translated by Oliver Bernard : Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)
Synaesthesia Exercise: assign a color for each letter of the alphabet based on your "intuition" of its appropriate color.
Go back to the Howe poem and the Shakespeare sonnet. Using colored pencils or crayons, color in the letters according to the key you created.
Process writing: What do you notice about the sounds in the poems now that you have color coded them? Is there more structure to the poem than was evident on the surface? Read online: Trends in Synaesthesia
9:00 a.m.: FW
Techniques for Understanding: Performing the poem:
Connoisseur of Chaos
A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)
If all the green of spring was blue, and it is;
If all the flowers of South Africa were bright
On the tables of Connecticut, and they are;
If Englishmen lived without tea in Ceylon, and they do;
And if it all went on in an orderly way,
And it does; a law of inherent opposites,
Of essential unity, is as pleasant as port,
As pleasant as the brush-strokes of a bough,
An upper, particular bough in, say, Marchand.
After all the pretty contrast of life and death
Proves that these opposite things partake of one,
At least that was the theory, when bishops' books
Resolved the world. We cannot go back to that.
The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so . And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.
A. Well, an old order is a violent one.
This proves nothing. Just one more truth, one more
Element in the immense disorder of truths.
B. It is April as I write. The wind
Is blowing after days of constant rain.
All this, of course, will come to summer soon.
But suppose the disorder of truths should ever come
To an order, most Plantagenet, most fixed. . . .
A great disorder is an order. Now, A
And B are not like statuary, posed
For a vista in the Louvre. They are things chalked
On the sidewalk so that the pensive man may see.
The pensive man . . . He sees the eagle float
For which the intricate Alps are a single nest.
Writing: First thoughts on the poem.
Make a two-column list: abstract/philosophical ideas in the poem and concrete/particulars in the poem.
Create a play using the abstractions as the plot/theme and the particulars as the set.
Process writing: Second thoughts on the Wallace Stevens poem: how did your ideas about the poem change through the activity of performing it?
Taking the haiku you wrote this morning, do some research about the words you used. "Translate" the poem by replacing each word with an earlier (or earliest) version of the word you can find. "Translate" the poem again by replacing the original words with their dictionary definitions. Get familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary in its print form and online (www.oed.com).
Homophonic Translations. Frank O'Hara The Day Lady Died
"Translate" this poem by Frank O'Hara into English based on the sounds you hear while reading it.
O'Hara in English
Focused Free Writing: a List Poem: "I Remember"
"Cranston Near the City Line" by Ted Berrigan
One clear glass slipper; a slender blue single-rose vase;
one chipped glass Scottie; an eggshell teacup & saucer, tiny,
fragile, but with sturdy handle; a gazelle? the lightest pink flowers
on the teacup, a gold circle, a line really on the saucer; gold
line curving down the handle; glass doors on the cabinet which sat
on the floor & was not too much taller than I; lace doilies? on
the shelves; me serious on the floor, no brother, shiny floor or
shining floor between the flat maroon rug & the glass doors of the cabinet:
I never told anyone what I knew. Which was that it wasn't
for anyone else what it was for me.
The piano was black. My eyes were brown. I had rose
cheeks, every sonofabitch in the world said. I never saw them.
My father came cutting around the corner of the A&P
& diagonally across the lot in a beeline toward our front sidewalk
& the front porch (& the downstairs door); and I could see him, his
long legs, quick steps, nervous, purposeful, coming & passing, combing
his hair, one two three quick wrist flicks that meant "worrying" & "quickly!"
There were lilacs in the back yard, & dandelions in the lot.
There was a fence.
Pat Dugan used to swing through that lot, on Saturdays, not too tall,
in his brown suit or blue one, white shirt, no tie, soft brown men's
slippers on his feet, & Grampa! I'd yell & run to meet him &
"Hi Grampa," I'd say & he'd swing my arm and be
singing his funny song:
"She told me that she loved me, but
that was yesterday. She told me
that she loved me, & then
she went away!"
I didn't know it must have been a sad song, for somebody!
He was so jaunty, light in his eyes and laugh lines around
them, it was his happy song, happy with me, it was 1942 or 4,
and he was 53.
Activity: Write an autobiographical poem including the following particulars: a flower, song lyrics, a secret, and an early memory.
Process writing: what particulars/things/concrete images appear in the poem that evoke emotions? How are objects and feelings linked in poems?
Cut-up poem: Tristian Tzara's Dada Self-Portrait
Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are--an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
Robert Hayden. "Those Winter Sundays"
Bernadette Mayer. "Carleton Fiske is my Ideal"
Rilke. "Archaic Torso of Apollo"
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
He wears a beautiful necklace
next to the beautiful skin of his neck
unlike the Worthington butcher
Bradford T. Fisk (butchers always
have a crush on me), who cannot even order veal
except in whole legs of it.
Oh the legs of a catcher!
Catchers squat in a posture
that is of course inward denying orgasm
but Carlton Fisk, I could
model a whole attitude to spring
on him. And he is a leaper!
Like Walt Frazier or, better,
like the only white leaper,
I forget his name, in the ABA's
All-Star game half-time slam-dunk contest
this year. I think about Carlton Fisk in his
modest home in New Hampshire
all the time, I love the sound of his name
denying orgasm. Carlton & I
look out the window at spring's first
northeaster. He carries a big hero
across the porch of his home to me.
(He has no year-round Xmas tree
like Clifford Ray who handles the ball
like a banana). We eat & watch the storm
batter the buds balking on the trees
& cover the green of the grass
that my sister thinks is new grass.
It's last year's grass still!
And still there is no spring training
as I write this, March 16, 1976,
the year of the blizzard that sealed our love
up in a great mound of orgasmic earth.
The pitcher's mound is the lightning mound.
Pudge will see fastballs in the wind,
his mescaline arm extends to the field.
He wears his necklace.
He catches the balls in his teeth!
Balls fall with a neat thunk
in the upholstery of the leather glove he puts on
to caress me, as told to, in the off-season.
All of a sudden he leaps from the couch,
a real ball has come thru the window
& is heading for the penguins on his sweater,
one of whom has lost his balloon
which is floating up into the sky!
Homework: Write a portrait poem using one or more of the techniques you identified in Mayer, Hayden, and Rilke.
Cross-genre "poetry": View Poetry in Motion [videorecording] / a film by Ron Mann
view Stan Brakhage's painted films
Homework: write a "historical" poem.
9:00a.m. Presentation of anthologies, course plans.
Juliana Spahr's instructions for making chapbooks
2:00 p.m. Summing up.
Poetry Project Website: the Lower East Side of NYC's poetry center.
Teachers & Writers Collaborative: for tips on teaching writing.
Small Press Distribution: a great place to order poetry books.
UBU Web sound archive: download sound files of poets reading their work here.
The Electronic Poetry Center at the University of Buffalo: A great site for information about contemporary poets and poetry magazines and websites.
Bernadette Mayer's poetry experiments list: a good place to start when you're not sure what to write about.