This term I’m taking two classes, exactly as I have for the past however many terms I’ve been going to college (seems like 50 most days). As usual, the classes seem to complement each other; like there might be someone coordinating these things so the learning can flow more naturally. My literature class is “The Nature Writers” and my English class is a poetry writing workshop.
Writing poetry was a nearly daily occurrence in my life between my 14th and 18th year. Needless to say, that was awhile ago. In the past ten years, I may have written 10 poems. Four of those were for my introductory creative writing class last summer.
I’m a fan of rhyme and rhythm in poetry. This loosey-goosey free form poetry generally drives me batty. It just seems like a bunch of disconnected sentence fragments without punctuation or capitalization. Meter lends precision to a poem and rhyme tickles the ear’s expectation.
Today I wrote a poem with no rhyme or rhythm, 23 lines of free-style. In defense of my previous stance, it had form, though. It had a two-syllable word at the beginning, every sixth line and at the end. There was alliteration within each five-line stanza. It flowed like melted butter from the end of my pencil onto the notebook paper.
One thing I know, I will be able to write some of the more difficult forms by the end of the class. We have to write a villanelle, sonnet and sestina (feel free to Google these, I did). I’ve already seen a triolet and tanka (yes, I used Goggle to define these, as well) in the first week’s “Poet’s Notebook.” Oh, there were two haikus, but everyone knows what those are! I submitted the pantoum I had written last summer for that other class.
The instructor posted the guidelines for constructive criticism as part of the class documents. After all, every week (starting next week), we will be expected to critique the two poems posted by the members of our group. That means I will read eight poems and have to give constructive criticism on them.
What do I know about poetry? I know if I like it or not. That’s really irrelevant, I think. After all, an enormous body of poetry has been published and lauded which I find droll or distasteful or downright dull. Some of it makes no sense. Some of it seems like meaningless drivel. Obviously, my opinion doesn’t line up with popular opinion.
Of course, this means that I will have four people reading my poems and constructively criticizing them. Will I be able to weather these continual barrages? Some of the responses might be trite, “Very well-written” comments, but the instructor is grading us on our responses and I’m pretty sure such bland remarks will not merit full points.
Does this course offer valuable experience for me? I believe it does. The ability to read any written work and offer a critical explanation of it seems important. Reading between the lines of poetry to determine symbolism and metaphor and deeper meaning will enable me to read all literature in a more evaluative light (I hope).
Week after week of commentary on my poetry (some of which I spent 15 minutes writing and two minutes polishing) should thicken my skin to criticism. Not in a way that means I can’t glean the worthwhile portions and apply them to improve my writing, but in a way that won’t make me curl into a fetal position and weep when I open another rejection letter from a publisher or agent. After all, maybe they just didn’t “get me” and the next person I mail my manuscript out to will.
One thing I’ve already noticed: going to sleep after thinking about crafting poetry isn’t very easy. I guess this means I need to write my poems early in the day or save them for weekends. I wrote two today! I’ve got my villanelle ready to go for next week. I’ve got a couple sketchy starts on sonnets.
Oh, and I’ve read Whitman and Snyder poems for the first week of my literature class and Hardy and Frost are on the docket for the second week. Needless to say, many of my poems may be nature poems.