Friday, May 08, 2009

Some More Bad News

I missed the opportunity to take this workshop with a poet I admire:


Workshop leader: Mary di Michele

How admirable!
to see lightning and not think
life is fleeting.
- Basho

Whether it’s a wildly imaginative simile, Roo Borson comparing the sunset to an armful of dying flamingoes or a plain yet penetrating image like Issa’s farmer pulling radishes pointing the way with a radish, imagery is at the heart of poetry. It is the single aspect of poetry that can easily be translated. It is the music of the senses. All our perceptions are communicated, indeed filtered, through language. But we stop seeing the particularity of things in all their colours and textures when words become overly familiar; we accept the grey carton without tasting the eggs. Poetry seeks to revitalize language and our senses by stripping away familiar associations with words and the things they point to. Basho, a 17th century Japanese poet said that a poem works through plainness and oddness; Russian theorists in the 20th century called it defamiliarization, making the commonplace seem strange or new; poets of disparate ages and cultures seem to agree that this essential tension between what we think we know and what is suddenly revealed is poetry’s way of illuminating existence, of seeing the world in new ways.

Imagery is what makes writing ‘vivid;’ it is cultivated by poets but serves prose writers too so a study of how it works, or a refresher course, is useful for all writers and at all levels. In this class we will examine how images work in poetry and in your poems. By closely reading the poems of great image-makers among classic and contemporary poets we will learn to identify what makes an image vivid and memorable. We will learn to spot and weed out common errors in writing like clichés and mixed or muddled images.

In our sessions participants will: 1) share and respond to each other’s work each week, 2) on occasion try some writing exercises, and 3) discuss poetics regularly. Questions about publication will be addressed at the last class. For the first meeting participants are asked to bring 12 copies of either a poem of their own or a poem by someone else with images that they would like to discuss.

For the sheer pleasure of reading it and because it also provides a useful anthology at the back, Kenneth Koch: "Making Your Own Days" is recommended reading.

Mary di Michele was born in Italy and raised in Canada. She is the author of two novels and eight books of poetry, including Luminous Emergencies, short-listed for the Trillium Prize and Debriefing the Rose, short-listed for the QWF's A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She teaches in the creative writing program at Concordia. Her latest book, Tenor of Love (2005), a novel, was published in Canada and the U.S. and translated into Serbian and Italian.

This would have fit the bill nicely for this poet gone AWOL!

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