Yesterday, the boss gave me the morning off to go to a poetry workshop at the Sydney Writers’ Festival (she’s good like that ;-)).
It’s the first time I’ve attended a poetry class and, well, it was quite an experience. Run by a well-known Australian poet who’s received several poetry awards, both national and international, it had its good and bad moments.
The prep notes for the workshop suggested that we bring along a poem to share. I chose something brief because I hate reading my poems out loud – some poems are meant to be performed: others are not. And no poems are meant to be performed by me.
So the bad moment came when, against my better judgement, I read Ghosts of Christmas Past aloud, and it continued downhill from there: WKAP remarked, “You have a good poetic sensibility, but…” and then proceeded to kill not only all my darlings but the entire point of the poem with his feedback:
- “antiquated word – don’t use it” (but I chose it specifically for its Biblical flavour)
- “too many syllables in ‘ing’ verbs – needs something shorter” (but the ‘ing’ verb is meant to evoke the perpetuity of suffering)
- “I think you should get rid of ‘fickle’. The sentence is too long – it needs some backburning, haha.” (you’re a riot)
- “clichéd” (ouch)
- “overused” (ooof)
- “If Katy Perry’s done it, don’t do it.” (Ooooh, now that’s a low blow – who are you? Joan Rivers from ‘Poetry Police’?!)
- “Why did you use ‘ashen’? Isn’t that every tree’s fate” (Oh, don’t be stupid!)
And so on…
I guess he didn’t care for it much. 😀
Of course, the bottom line is that if you don’t want honest feedback from experts, you shouldn’t subject yourself to their scrutiny. But taste in poetry is like taste in food, music, wine and lovers – subjective. And after he was done with his on-the-fly edits to mould my poem into something he thought might work better, it no longer worked for me.
I did, nevertheless, thoroughly enjoy most of the workshop and gained some very valuable insights into poetic structure and form and, particularly, the effective use of line breaks. WKAP is unquestionably a masterful poet and rather good at articulating what a poem is and isn’t, but by the end I felt a little like this:
However, the TKO effect didn’t last for long (us bees are made of stronger stuff ;-)), and the prospect of dinner and a movie (Wish You Were Here) with a good friend, as well as attending some neuroscience talks at the festival in the coming days lightened my mood somewhat.
Oh, and I’m attending another poetry workshop on Saturday – perhaps I should add a double-shot of Bundy to my early morning coffee. 😉