Friday, July 22, 2011
Complacency Is a Slow Death - Last Part (for now...)
Our workshop met for the last time yesterday, a 6-week cycle of sessions that I hope directed the writers to new ways of thinking about their work and, for a few, created fuel for new poems and directions.
They took the assignment seriously. Each brought a revision of my poem or a complete rewrite as they would envision it, as I had instructed. Several were still reticent to mess with my poem, others were quite comfortable taking it apart and making it something different and new.
I learned a lot about what the poem may be able to accomplish and why. I also recognized how completely buried I had become in the clever language that enamored me in the first place. It has been more than 2 years since the first draft and at least 18 months since the last so now I have a remarkably clear vision to rely upon in bringing the poem to its potential. I appreciate the efforts of each of the participants and I trust that the activity gave them something to consider as writers and editors.
I spoke last Saturday to my dear friend, Phil Alexander. We make a habit of sharing a weekend morning of puttering in our respective homes, his condo apartment in Brooklyn, my Victorian home in Syracuse, our headsets in our ears or phones on speaker, coffee cups probably in hand, and the little chores that need to be met.
We were talking about process and writing. I was discussing the purpose of being a poet and suggested that it is simply to make art, to investigate and experiment with language. Phil added that it was to use language to share a thought, feeling, or inspiration. I countered that I considered that the goal, but that to make a poem is about the discovery of the possibilities of language as a painter discovers the possibilities of paint in the experimentation. To me, in this stage of my life as a writing artist, the goal is secondary to the making; the product is secondary to process.
Then Phil suggested that the poem communicates to another the essence of the artist and the artist's beliefs and understanding. I suggested that, to me, that is the mission. The process is for the purity of making art. The goal is to make art that another responds to, and the mission is to make art that translates meaning and experience to others in a valuable and conscious way. In speaking with my dear friend, once again, I clarified my own mission statement. Thanks Phil!
Thanks to those members of my poetry workshop too. Not only did they share process and craft with each other while they created new work, they also supported my efforts to continue to be a teaching artist. I am blessed with abundance in this life because I have such people to share it with me, who believe in me, who see me through, and show me the way to all things, including the potential of my own work.