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WORKSHOP: Don’t Write Poetry (Write Better Poems!) with Mark Callanan

April 27, 2024

The title of American poet and critic Stephanie Burt’s 2019 book, Don’t Read Poetry, seems to argue against prevailing wisdom: isn’t it good to read poetry? Isn’t poetry a kind of balm for the mind and soul?

“Don’t assume poetry ever means only one thing,” Burt writes in her introduction, “other than maybe a set of tools for making things with words, as music means a set of tools […] for making things with sounds.”

We tend to think of poetry as a monolithic art form, when in fact, poems are written in many different modes speaking many different messages to many different minds. What might appeal to one person might be of little value to another. Thankfully, there are at least as many kinds of poems as people on this planet!

Workshop facilitator Mark Callanan would argue that most of the mistakes that aspiring poets make (or let’s call them “things that are holding their poems back”) come about because they have a single, fixed notion of what poetry “should” look or sound like, and little appreciation for the particularity of their own experience, the richness of their own voice.

So, often, they employ archaic words and syntactic formulations that they associate with poetry, or straight up parrot the style of a poet they know and like, or use intentionally vague language so that their poems seem “more accessible” to others…

What they might not realize is that what makes any poem interesting is the degree to which it is able to convey the idiosyncrasies of a single mind: your mind. So, don’t write poetry. Don’t even write a poem; write your poem!

· Welcome and introduction
· Short talk on (in)Authentic Speech in Poetry
· Pitfalls of the “Poetic” Mode (screen-shared samples)
· Exemplars of plain, authentic speech (screen-shared samples)
· Short talk on Poetry as Opportunity for a Do-over
· 10-ish minute free-writing (prose) “Do-over” prompt
· Participants share their free-writing with the group (workshop size-allowing)

NOTE: Sharing + feedback may be conducted via email correspondence after the workshop, depending on the number of workshop attendees.

In this scenario, attendees would email their free-writing piece to the workshop facilitator, and receive a response with suggestions and constructive criticism to complete their works.

Please note: This workshop is open to WritersNL Members only.

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Youth ages 18 and under can join WritersNL for free:

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Times and Locations

April 27, 2024

11:00 am