Tag Archives: workshop

What am I Doing Here?


i’m currently at a weekend-long poetry workshop and retreat, in Breckenridge, about an hour and a half from where I live. Mucho months ago, Wendy Videlock invited me. I’ve known Wendy for about two years, and although we’ve actually met just once before, we’ve kinda kept up via Facebook and the poets’ grapevine.

I arrived here, yesterday early-evening. Just a handful of folks had arrived already. Many (most?) of us are staying at a lodge that’s a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Wendy and Laurie James (who lives roughly just a mile from me) greeted and hugged me when I stepped outta the van. As more folks started arriving, I began wondering what I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to this workshop with who knows how many other people, and being jammed-in with twentysome strangers in a suddenly-not-really-all-that-huge lodge. I feared I was about to enter introvert overload.

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This first morning has been quiet and calm. Seems the majority of folks are night owls, whereas I’m an early riser. Fortunately, there was enough dawning light coming through the window that I was to be quietly active without (I hope) waking anybody. It’s being an overcast day, and we’ve had a bit of drizzle. On paper, the day’s schedule is packed. However, in practice, it’s being relaxed and open. My introversion is being nurtured, rather than assailed.

But, there’s this, and it isn’t something new: I’m looking around wondering, in a different sense, what I’m doing here. Because I’ve placed so much crap onto the notion, I’ve pretty much forbidden myself from using “belonging” in reference to myself and my place in things. But nonetheless, I’m at it again. With the likes of (what seems to me, correctly or not) the majority of folks here being published poets, and many with award-winning, or at least nearly-so, books, what am I, unpublished poet, and scarcely-so writer, doing here, hobnobbing with the likes of say, Valerie Szarek, whose most recent work is a Finalist for this year’s Colorado Authors’ League, Book of the Year; Rachel Kellum, whose, ah, is highly-regarded; and also Wendy Videlock, who’ll be in this year’s Best American Poetry, and Laurie James who is considered an Elder in the tribe?

One of the many reasons I’ve placed myself on hiatus in using, “belonging,” is because I’ve placed something of an unattainable extremism upon it—likely coming from my dad only being happy with me if, “you’ve done your best.” (What is, “best,” anyway? Couldn’t you have always done a little more, a little better?) What was my best was, itself, an unattainable extreme. But it’s still somewhat the ruler I measure myself by. So, amid such successful poets, such _actual_ ones, what the hell am I doing, thinking I’m worthy of hanging out with ’em, thinking I’m anywhere in the same league?

Well, one reason just might be because they’ve accepted me as, “one of us.” And one them, Wendy, did make a point of inviting, after all. If I hold these people as being higher than myself, then doesn’t it also hold that their perceptions might hold more weight than mine? Maybe. But, rather, I think it’s moreso the case that what they think and perceive simply, intrinsically, matters—period, never mind whether they’re “higher” poets/people than I. What they say matters too. I don’t have the sole and final word regarding who and what I am.

So, what am I doing here? I’m honoring an endeared one, Wendy, who asked me to come. I’m following through with what I wish my life to become: more writing-centered. I’m rubbing elbows with others of my tribe, some of whom, like Rachel Kellum and Valerie Szarek, make my jaw drop in humbleness when they act as though I’m their equal. And perhaps the biggest thing I’m doing here is stretching my comfort zone of my own perception(s) of who I am, and whom I can become.


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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Sorting It Out

How Did This Happen?

Not so many mornings ago, I put pen to page and began “poeming” an image that had come into my head. Three-quarters an hour later, I realized what I was doing, what I, in fact, had been doing for some months: turning to poetry, first, as my means of expressing the images and ideas that come to me.

Used to be, not so long ago at all, I had harsh issues with my writings being frequently referred to as, poetry; with my being called a poet. It wasn’t that I held poetry/poets with low regard. Rather, it was because I thought so highly of them that I snarled at any implication my writings and I might be among their numbers. Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, WS Merwin, William Stafford, and Jane Hirshfield—I know poetry and poets; and what I write isn’t poetry, and not just because I’m not a poet.

This was the story I was stuck to.

Then came a recent writing workshop in a Colorado Western Slope town. Nearly in passing, the leader called one of my written responses, poetry; later adding, “I see ten poems in what you wrote.”

Does anyone ever know why one specific comment finds fertile ground, when previous ones have not? Maybe because she was referring to a freewriting I’d done during the workshop, rather than something I’d worked on and polished, it was still malleable, hadn’t solidified, and because I therefore still held it at some distance, its being called poetry sunk where it landed and began gestating.

As these things happened, as I was able to see why that freewriting was being called poetry, I also, therefore, saw why so much of my previously written stuff had been called likewise across the years. Of course, since I was now seeing that I had, indeed, been crafting poetry, even if unawares, it became obvious: I write poetry; ergo, I’m a poet.

This brings us back to the morning in question, which I opened with. As I said, it’s been quite awhile, since shortly after that workshop, back in July, that I’ve been habitually going first to poetry (rather than say, fiction or essays) to put onto the page the images/ideas that come to me. I reckon it’s an indication of my comfort with being a poet that it seemed so natural to me, so matter-of-fact that I was writing poetry, that it didn’t seem odd until I realized how muchso my doing so would have been, mere months ago.

In an bewondered by grace sorta way, I asked myself, How did this happen?

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Pondering the Last Minute

Mucho months ago I signed up for a six-hour/one-day poetry workshop. A year ago I’d signed up for an earlier version of the same workshop, which had fortysome participants. But this time, it would be more intimate, with far fewer attendants; so I made it a point to sign up early, lest I lose my chance of getting in.

But here’s the thing: The workshop takes place in less than a week, and as of one or two days ago, I was the only one who’d signed up. And in an ironic twist to my feeling that I needed to get in early in order to get a spot, there’s a possible chance not enough people will register in order to make the workshop a “go.” However, the woman who’s conducting the workshop says this sorta thing happens pretty much all the time: folks waiting until after the two-minute warning to commit themselves to attending.

This tendency has me pondering what sorta writing career I wanna pursue. Workshops and conferences and the like are a way to help replenish the coffers in-between writing gigs. And while my finding out a mere week before this current workshop that I was the only one who’d signed up was a bit unsettling, it had to be even moreso for Rosemerry—she has had to put in the time and energy and effort for a workshop that might not take place. And to hear from her that this is somewhat par for the course… Well, grrrr. I’m wanting my vocation to be _less_ stressful than my current paying-job. I tend to do badly and poorly, being held in suspension while waiting for a, Good To Go. There are other writerly avenues that can be followed, but still…

However, workshops and such are also a way to build an audience, to promote yourself as “the real deal,” and to escape the solipsistic vortex of crafting and to engage yourself in the writing community. (And, too, sometimes workshops do have participants, do happen.) And surely, being a writer, I’ve dealt before with ideas not panning out. Yet I keep returning the pages, even without any guarantees. It’s to be expected. It’s par for the course.

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