Everyone knows that the United States has a Poet Laureate and that many of the states do as well.
However, more and more cities and towns across the country are getting into the act now as well.
And, why not? As the NY Times has reported, "interest in poetry has gone up, experts say, thanks to efforts by local libraries and arts councils, as well as wider programs like National Poetry Month, Poetry in Motion and Poem in Your Pocket Day."
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah...Cities and Poets Laureate.
Last night I attended the first day of her August poetry workshops, at the central library downtown.
A dozen hearty Houstonians bravely ventured forth to attend day 1.
Two guys surrounded by a collection of wonderful ladies, teenage to senior.
For two hours Gwendolyn put us through the paces of several exercises designed to generate ideas meant to answer this question: What should I write?
There was a "random topic" exercise where 5 topics were put out there for us to do a timed writing for each (2 Minutes each): write about a place that frightened me, write about something that made me sad, write about a person I once had a crush on in the past, write about something shocking I once saw, write about a time I was ecstatically happy.
We then ranked them and read the one we liked best to the group. This was the one I read:
My bedroom, when I was about 8 years old on Blanchard St., in Claremont, Ca.. It was dark and the door was closed, as were the windows. I awoke from a deep sleep and all I remember was seeing the door opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing, in rapid succession. My eyes widened, I screamed for mom and the door slammed shut!
We did a timed exercise about imagery and symbolism; each of us were given a topic and told to come up with a number of ways to regard the subject.
7 ways to look at grocery stores
1. A grocery store is like a city; with streets, avenues and blvds., deadends and traffic circles.
2. A grocery store is like a maze with no exit; the larger the store, the easier it is to get lost in.
3. A grocery store is like a torture chamber of the mind for those not used to going to them; especially for a guy sent by his wife, or girlfriend, to buy feminine hygiene products.
4. A grocery store is heaven on earth for anyone who really, really, enjoys cooking.
5. A grocery store can be hell if you are visiting a particular one for the first time and don't know your way around.
6. A grocery store is a great place for people watching.
7. A grocery store can be a great place for a writer to pick up inspiration.
We also did a timed "scrambled word" exercise where Gwen had taken a poem she found online and cut up all the words, individually, putting them in plastic bags for us to set before us and either pasted the words into a poem, or wrote a poem in our notebook.
We could only use the words provided, as many or as few as we chose; then we read our piece to the group.
The poem she chose and read to us after we read our poems? Brad Pitt by Aaron Smith
This creative writing exercise has become popularized by the famous Magnetic Poetry sets (magnets that reveal the poet within).
Everyone came from different backgrounds and experiences, bringing that to how they wrote what they wrote and there was even one young lady, at first too shy to read her work out loud herself who, by the end of our two hours together, was finally persuaded to do so.
I say, good for you, young lady!
We were all in your shoes once; the first time I read my poems to an audience, in Encino Ca. in 2009, it was one 6 times larger than our group! The positive response was very encouraging and rewarding.
All in all a wonderful, educational, evening. I look forward to next week!
Thank you Gwendolyn!