poetry MFA summer residency, days 6 & 7

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ashland university: home of creative writing MFA
sun through the clouds near andrews hall, ashland university, ashland, ohio (edited with instagram)

the workshops
days 6 & 7 represented the final days of our week one workshops. i continued to feel lucky to be with a group of writers who were generous and insightful with their feedback.

one of the really fun parts of working with faculty mentors is the favorite poems of theirs they share. mark shared this one, for example, from w.s. merwin: “how we are spared.” it’s short and brilliant and a marvel how the title works with the poem, which is why i think mark shared it. (i am notoriously bad with titles.) and he also shared it as an example of how “great poetry marvels at the world.” it occurs to me i’ve spent a lot of time lamenting this or that relationship, this or that loss, in my poems. there’s still room for that, certainly, but i’m interested in opening them up a bit more.

here’s more advice that came out of the final days of our week one workshops:

  • be more subconscious and less conscious.
  • follow the music of the world; follow your words (not your ideas).
  • be permissive!
  • freeze something in the right moment.
  • violate borders between things.
  • complicate the poems; put things in them that don’t seem like they belong.

the craft seminars
in addition to having visiting writers for readings, we’re also lucky enough to have them for craft seminars. thursday’s afternoon time slot belonged to alicia ostriker, and she spoke about “eros & metaphor, or why metaphor makes a poem hotter.” now, you all know i’m interested in spice and love in my poems! so the seminar seemed designed for me.  ostriker called metaphor “erotic” and  a “sign of love” and reminded us that the “world is full of hidden connections.” it puts a really fun spin on writing metaphor, doesn’t it? she also says,

  • “you can’t make metaphor without loving it enough to see… but most of us are afraid to fall in love.”
  • in contrast to professional language, which requires one meaning per word and precision, metaphor is “a locus of perpetually renewable pleasure that relies on ambiguity.”
  • metaphor is “like a relationship that exists already in the world and is just discovered” and that it “desired to be discovered.”

friday’s craft seminar was great, as well. delivered by faculty bob cowser and angie estes, it was called “cities of the interior: travel writing.” both talked about the value of being a tourist in the world: not only what’s going on around you, but what happens inside us. i think this is a reason i’ve always value my portland, oregon, adventures: be curious, find strangeness, experience wonder. the craft lessons from the seminar are valuable even when we’re not traveling, of course.  we’re hungry for images when we travel. we hunt and gather. and since we are often, now, documenting these experiences with our iPhones (stills & video), those captured visuals/sounds are great for piecing together poems.

the readings
i wasn’t able to go to friday’s reading, but thursday’s faculty readings were wonderful. we heard work from jill christman, mark irwin and ruth schwartz. the poetry was wonderful, and if i ever decide to explore creative non-fiction writing seriously, jill christman will be one of my models. she read an essay none of us could stop talking about: “the avocado pit.”


past posts on the summer residency:
MFA summer residency days 1 & 2 (july 27 & 28)
MFA summer residency days 3, 4 & 5 (july 29-31)


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