friday roundup: writing groups, the church of poetry, and melancholia

pie for breakfast! photo from wikimedia

Reader, it’s Friday again. Somehow I slept in until 8am. I haven’t done this since the early 90s! The kids slept in, too; one is still sleeping, two are watching Scooby Doo. I hereby declare this to be a Lazy Day, and I’m planning to serve leftover cherry pie for breakfast. Now, on to the roundup.

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writing groups The cherry pie is left over from my writing group which met here at the Wee, Small House last night. I’m quite proud of myself for hosting writing group with three kids in the house. Husband was actually in town, so that made it easier. Everything went fine until a particular Blankie was nowhere to be found at the critical moment known as Bedtime. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was a fevered search for said Blankie. Do you wonder how a Blankie can get lost in an 1100 square foot house? Me, too. Blankie was eventually found hiding in a basket where she (yes, Blankie is gendered) doesn’t belong. Enormous sigh of relief, then sleep.

But what I want to talk about is writing groups. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some really wonderful writing groups over the last several years. When we left St. Paul, I despaired of finding a new group. One of the first things I did after we moved was start googling things like “peninsula + poetry.” By sending an e-mail blind to someone, I connected with a great group of poets. Desperation is the mother of bravery.

One of the members of the group has just returned from a writing conference where she was in a workshop with a Very Famous Poet. This VFP said she hates writing groups. They’re too supportive, she says. That environment of support is abhorrent. Ha! easy for a VFP to say, don’t you think?

The thing I love most about writing groups is the chance to talk about poetry with other people who care about it. Workshopping poems is also helpful, but the danger of Groupthink is real, and in the end it’s the individual poet who must make decisions for her poems. The real gift of writing groups for me is just to be in a room of other people who love poetry as much as I do, who know what I’m talking about when I say “syntax,” who’ve heard of D. A. Powell, who care about linebreaks. If the VFP wants to call that “support” I’m cool with it.

Do you have a writing group, or for non-writers, a group of people who share a passion? Do you agree with the VFP? Is there such a thing as too much support?

the church of poetry  Last week at being poetry, Erin wrote this:

“This is my church, my sermon, my sustenance. In a culture marred by violence and fear, I choose this prayer – poetry and the world and my body moving through it.

We must share our gifts and bind ourselves together to what will save us –we are connected. That is our work as artists.”

Then she quoted Richard Hoffman, who said:

“Another way of putting it is to think of the poet’s work as peeling people one at a time from the mob, steering them by the elbow to a table where, just the two of you, you find the radical quiet to honor that desire to be understood, that yearning to communicate one’s experience of being alive to another, which is the antidote to the massive, poisonous, ongoing objectification sweeping the planet today.” ~ Richard Hoffman

I absolutely love the idea of an artist gently steering one person to a quiet corner of the “room” where the two can talk about the ‘experience of being alive.’ As I’ve worked on poems this week, I’ve kept this idea in mind — this intimacy of the artistic act, this goal of communing with one person at a time through art.

melancholia This week I’ve been reading Kristina Marie Darling’s Melancholia (An Essay). !Fantastico! It is a beautiful, small book put out by Ravenna Press. Darling tells a love story through fragments, definitions, glossaries, and footnotes. She uses these elements to bring forth the absence of the “essay” — whatever (imagined) primary text told this tale of heartache to begin with. I absolutely love this method of presence-via-absence.

I’m also very intrigued by Darling’s use of certain objects and repeated syntactical patterns to unify the various scraps of story. Objects recur: a silver button, a necklace, its clasp, a stairway. A nightingale sings from time to time in the background. Phrases recur: “magnificently white throat,” “the most ___(adj.)___ music,” “tiny silver ___object___.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular strategy (repeated syntactical patterns) for bringing unity to a group of poems. I predict much begging, borrowing, and stealing! Buy this book here.

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Well, Reader, now that it’s halfway to lunch time, I think I should go serve up some leftover cherry pie for breakfast. If my mom were here, she’d put a scoop of ice cream on the side, look at me all innocent-like, and say “Well, they must have their dairy!” Wishing you all a very happy Friday and a relaxing weekend. Thank you, as always, for reading.

10 thoughts on “friday roundup: writing groups, the church of poetry, and melancholia

  1. Molly thanks for being part of the “two person” conversation on my blog! I also belong to a local writing group. After living in a very small and remote (no roads in our out) town with no in-person writing support, I can’t express how absolutely committed I am to the wonderful folks I now share my work with. And yes, it’s not so much the critique but the camaraderie with like-minded folks that renews me each month.

    Even though I long to hear what VFPs have to say, I remind myself that they are just people like the rest of us. (Though with perhaps better book sales.)

    • Erin, you’re welcome. That word “renew” feels just right to me. After writing group I always feel a fresh sense of excitement for and commitment to my work and the writing life.

      Somehow it’s easy to forget that VFPs are just people — thanks for the reminder.

  2. I love your breakfast choice. And all your poetry words hit the spot. Spots. I’ve experienced good and bad poetry groups. Right now I enjoy the moral support and stimulation of an ongoing poetry workshop I teach, and one-on-one sessions (sporadic) with a poet who lives in another town. And all the good online interaction.

    • That sounds like a great mix — the teaching, the workshop, and the one on one work. Interestingly, the VFP did say that, while she hates writing groups, she does believe in the value of writing pairs.

      P.S. Thank you for approving the breakfast choice. In the words of a very wise stuffed bear: “One must sustain oneself.” (that’s Pooh bear)

  3. I think that maybe VFP has missed the point. For some writers, it might be the only source of support. And for others, it maybe simply a place to breathe comfortably with that identity – the “real gift” you mention; it becomes a place where everyone speaks the same language–a consulate in a foreign land. VFP probably doesn’t realize that she’s surrounded by those people all the time or she delights in being the only one who’s literate in poetry in her environment. Who knows? To each their own.

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