Now we are a few weeks into Spring semester, I wanted to share with you my experience of studying poetry at uni. Back in September, after having my modules confirmed, I wrote apprehensively about the thought of having to write poetry. My third creative writing workshop is tomorrow, and I’ve now completed two poetry exercises, so how am I getting on?
The task in the first week was to write a poem, with no more rules than it had to include imagery. I think it is always hard to know where to pitch yourself in the first week of anything, so I was secretly quite relieved when my poem was not put up for discussion. This was based on the fact that the first five to be emailed were picked, so I quietly thanked my tentativeness earlier in the week.
It isn’t really the writing of poetry that makes me cringe, but the interpretation of it. People innately expect more from a poem, because when faced with what is often less than a page of carefully chosen words, it is so much easier to pass snap aesthetic judgements than when faced with a whole novel. My parents proof all of my university work, as they are fantastically pedantic when it comes to things like punctuation and prepositions which I can often neglect when I have a case of verbal diarrhea: I’m not usually shy when it comes to showing them my work. But there is something that I find more daunting regarding poetry. This week’s task involved writing twelve end-stopped lines of discrete poetry which didn’t build a poem, and I wrote somewhere near 30 and asked my parents to highlight their favourites. I told my Mum my favourite line was one she hadn’t chosen, and when she replied ‘I didn’t really understand it, so that’s why I didn’t pick it’, I wasn’t overly enthralled at the prospect of filling her in. There is just something that is so much more personal with poetry, even though the line didn’t reveal anything about myself or my own inner feelings.
I have been struck by the sheer talent of not necessarily the published poets we have studied (though they are of course inspiring in themselves), but the poets surrounding me in the room: my fellow students. I have been encouraged by my tutor Matthew Welton to remove the prefix of ‘aspiring’ before my creative labels, and to just allow myself to be that, and even if I don’t necessarily think I’m worthy of that label, a lot of my peers definitely are. The playfulness and poignancy of some of the poetry we have seen in just two workshops have provided me with more creative envy than I care to carry around with me. I’ll keep you updated!
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