I taught a Concrete Poetry class last weekend at Book Passage. It was a lot of fun. I have to admit that I’ve never actually taken a poetry class myself, either in college or post-college, although I’ve read a lot of books by poets about poetry. My favorite is Steve Kowit’s In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop. Someday I’d like to teach a class where we use his book. His writing exercises are amazing, and really get you into that poetic space where poems flow. A lot of books about creative writing are written from a “heady” place…they’re about techniques and concepts. They’ll give you a subject and tell you to write about it.
From my experience, creative writing comes naturally when we put ourselves into a rich place where images, metaphors, and feelings emerge naturally. My classes are all about being in that place where the making of the poem is natural, inevitable–there’s nothing else we can do but put the words and images we are receiving down on the page. That’s the space I want to live in in my everyday life, as well. When I get too busy, I have to remember that that’s the place I need to go back to–that place where art (my creative process) is happening naturally.
What I do in my classes is create a space and then see what wants to emerge…and something always wants to emerge. Life is naturally generative. It’s a fertile field. I sometimes call it third space or metaphoric space, and it’s available to us all the time. A piece of writing or art can always be tweaked or modified later, but nothing can bring richness to your words and images, except being in that rich, fertile place. The creative space from which the urge to write happens, can’t be forced.
BTW, I’ll be speaking about my book, Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination, at Pegasus Bookstore in downtown Berkeley on Thursday November 12th at 7:30. See you there!