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« "A Woe of Ecstasy" [by David Lehman] | Main | The Comics of Lydia Conklin [introduced by Alan Michael Parker] »

September 20, 2016


Thank you for this courageous, witty, inspiring post. You offer challenging, disruptive, uncomfortable ideas in the most delightful, exuberant prose. Your love of language, your generosity and compassion for your students, and your fierce and unflinching willingness to question yourself all come through marvelously, but you are, of course, most fully realized in the cunning cartoons by F.V.B.

Thank you, Alan, for this inspiring and inspired discussion of workshop pedagogy and practice. Your injunction to "make it new" applies equally to poem-making and to workshopping. And the key, no doubt, to your wisdom is the joy you share with students and fellow poets in the process. We should all be "surprised by joy." Best, Berwyn

I found this section to be inspiring as well as practical. Thank you. Stephanie Brown

Ask the poet at the outset what she or he wants from readers, and from the workshop. Ask the poet to identify what she or he was trying to work on, what couldn’t be fixed, or what feels right. Yes, use the word “feels.” Ask the poet the “secret title” of the poem, that is, the title she or he uses when thinking about the poem. Ask the poet to identify the moment in the poem of greatest invention—and don’t define “invention,” so that the term can be treated formally or semantically. Ask the poet to identify who in her or his life should not read the poem, using initials if need be.

In other words, before the critique begins, acknowledge the living artist’s role in the production of the work of art. Turn the subsequent conversation to include these ambitions.

When validation of the living writer-in-the-room becomes part of the workshop, the opportunity arises to shift focus from the autobiographical past to the artistic present, while keeping an eye on the changeable future.

Before I started my recent poetry class, I informed all that I was not a poet. I followed my class instructions and did a bit of writing poetry for class. Now that the class is finished, I am convinced that I am not a poet. Yet, a stronger urge has hit me since taking that poetry class. I really feel as though I should not even read poetry anymore. I learned that poetry isn't just rhymes and movement. I also learned that I should put down my pen and stop my involvement in poetry.

To Kenneth Stone: please reconsider. There is so much great poetry that you will enjoy reading. Shakespeare's sonnets; Hamlet; Donne's love poems; Gray's elegy; Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats; Whitman and Dickinson, Frost and W. H. Auden: you will never regret reading these poets. They will nourish and sustain your imagination.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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