A Day in a Writer’s Workshop

I went to a poetry school again today– that’s what I’m calling it now. A writer’s workshop, focused on poetry.

I missed it last week. I wasn’t feeling good, and I didn’t have my homework done either. I regret that.

Today was an entirely different group of people. I got there much faster, without any problems navigating.

After a few minutes, one of the women from my first week joined us. I was glad to see her again.

Oh, how I miss school.

Today we really dug into the poems. The class was taught by Maya, a poet who also works in the facility.

Maya wrote on the white board, and really challenged us. She had us read some poems that are not easy by a long stretch, and deeply analyzed the themes, the rhyme, the meter. She fired quickly and it was exhilerating to keep up with her. I had my hearing-aids in and I had to listen with all my attention, which I adored. We were spread out in pairs, at tables.

It felt like being in a high school science class.

A woman at my table gave me directions about how to arrive there by train or bus, and wrote down details. I always drive. But I told her I’d give her idea a try, for the experience.

There were two women in the back who were friends– they played off each other well. Both are deeply religious, and also read the Bible often. One of the poems we read discussed a Bible verse– both these women had wonderful insight. But the one I found most riveting was seated directly behind me, at a table alone. She was boiling over with so much knowledge, and loved expounding about it. A few times, her friend had to cut her off! The class laughed about it. It just felt good to be around someone who loves learning so much. It made me hungry as well, by proxy.

After class, I told her how much I enjoyed her comments. In this class session, a man was a guest speaker. He’s a poet too. He talked at length about one poem, and then recited one of his own poems for us.

“You were really seeing that poem with your EYES,” she said. “Not just your minds’ eyes.”

The man teaches writing to freshmen college students. He said they all HATE writing! I can’t imagine it. Then I realized that most people are paralyzed by insecurity. They feel they have nothing important to say. They feel their experiences aren’t worthy– or that they must be kept secret. Maybe they don’t understand grammar or spelling and are insecure about that.

There was a time when blank pages terrified me. I understand.

But I’ve always scribbled. E-mails, notes, letters, journal entries, poems, anything.

We had to do a short intro about who we are, how we ended up in the class, and why we’re here. I told them that when I was in school, all I ever did was write poems and notes and what was going on in my own head. Sometimes I paid attention, but a lot of the time I was enraptured by my imagination– observing the students around me. Recording people and scenes– not facts.

The class nodded– they understood. I heard some laughs, relating.

It was so wonderful– people LISTENED to me. The man visiting, he asked me my opinion once. I didn’t have much to say– but he had a look in his eyes like he BELIEVED I did have something important to say.

I get down on myself because I don’t have a big important job. I don’t have a “professional” job anymore– not like when I was a newspaper reporter or a pre-school teacher or a child care worker. Right now, I sell dog food. But I meet so many people. And because it’s a relatively simple job, it leaves me plenty of brainpower for my writing– which is important.

But I have to remember that my job does not define me, and it does not give the full reflection of my intelligence.

My true intelligence is reflected in my writing. When I read things out loud, and don’t stumble over any words. I can read quickly, concisely, and with conviction. Volume is never a problem for me– my voice carries. My intelligence–and my passion– is alight when I talk about WRITING. When I analyze and consider literature.

I got an A in every English class I took in college, and C’s in a lot of my journalism classes. What does that tell you? I, too, was obsessed with “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story woke me up. I didn’t care much about the news. I cared about Edgar Allan Poe. About Nathaniel Hawthorne. About Diane Wakoski. About Audre Lorde.

As Maya talked about going to spelling bees for fun, “because I’m a nerd,” I felt like I belonged.

Writers and readers are my tribe.

In this work shop I want to work on the confidence to PERFORM. To memorize. To become a spoken word poet.

This week, I’ll do my homework. I will make sure I return next week.

And the woman in the back? She told me the most incredible thing.

That she can’t wait to hear MY work, because, “I like the way you speak.”

I shan’t disappoint her.


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